In an article from OSHA’s “Quicktakes” December newsletter, here’s an interesting report regarding fall protection.  OSHA Compliance Safety and Health Officer, Tony Nozzi, was doing a November inspection of an Illinois worksite as part of a Local Emphasis Program on Falls, when he noticed a roofing contractor’s employees and a building restoration employee working on a church roof without any fall protection.  Before leaving the worksite, Nozzi made sure that all employees put on harnesses and lanyards and secured themselves with rope grabs before he left the worksite. 

Shortly after he was gone, an employee who worked for the building restoration company was assigned to power wash the church steeple.  Soon after he started his work, he slipped and slid down the church’s pitched roof.  Thankfully, the lifeline became tight on the lanyard, stopping him right before the edge of the roof.  The fall protection equipment prevented serious and potentially fatal injuries, and the employee was then able to walk back up the roof  toward the steeple and safely complete his work. 

This is a classic example of why those who work at heights should always use fall protection.  Companies should have a good fall protection plan in place.  If we knew we were going to fall, we would be sure to wear the proper equipment at the time, but because we don’t know, we should be inclined to do all we can to keep from getting hurt.  There are three elements included in fall protection that are equally important, and if one of these elements fails or are neglected, the system will fail, and serious injury or death can happen.  The three elements include: safety harness, lanyard and the anchor point. 

Years ago, a positioning belt, fitting around a person’s waist, was thought to be adequate fall protection; however, now, a full body harness is required.  The harness should be worn snugly against the body without slack in any part.  A person could fall out of the harness if worn too loosely.  Safety leaders should ensure that the proper length lanyard is used with the harness.  Height and height of the work platform should be considered when calculating lanyard length.  A three-foot safety margin should be figured in the selection of the lanyard.  

Foremost, rapid rescue should be a major portion of the fall protection system.  If rescue does not begin within 7 or 8 minutes of the fall, consequences could be deadly.  If a person is suspended in an upright position after a fall, it is very dangerous.  The restrictions of the safety harness can alter blood flow.  A person could pass out in as little as 5 minutes and the situation could become grave in as few as 15 minutes. 

The U.S. Department of Labor reports that falls at work are one of the leading causes of death caused by trauma.  OSHA requires fall protection for anyone in industrial environments working four feet above ground, and in maritime occupations, the requirement is 5 feet.  Construction workers must use fall protection if they are working at least 6 feet off the ground.  Last, but not least, the harness, D-rings, snaps, should be inspected regularly and replaced when necessary.  The equipment should meet OSHA standards.  So, save lives by providing the right equipment, and ensuring that it is used. 

Source: OSHA, DOL, ehow.com