Sent to us by Maire Hunter:

Many workplaces—including factories, warehouses and construction sites—have work areas and conditions that expose employees to certain dangers. To minimize these risks and keep employees out of harm, safety measures must be in place. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration establishes workplace safety regulations and enforces them at various work sites.

In general, fall protection is needed whenever workers are exposed to a potential drop of more than a few feet. A variety of safety measures may be required in these situations, and workers and/or employers may also choose to take additional precautions in addition to those mandated by regulators. Read on to learn more about the various protective equipment that may be used in a work setting.

Protective Barrier

Any area where a drop to another level is present should be outfitted with a protective barrier, such as a guardrail. Depending on your local regulations and your work setting, a guardrail should at least be comprised of a toprail near waist height, as well as a midrail and toeboard to prevent slips and falls underneath the toprail. This applies to even temporary structures, such as supported scaffolding.

Harnesses and Other Supports

When working at heights, harnesses are the most common form of protection. Beam straps are common protective equipment at steel beam construction sites; the straps are anchored around overhead beams and can move along the beam as you walk up and down performing various tasks. These can also be used in combination with safety nets, which are set up around the perimeter of a structure to catch individuals and equipment that fall from a great height.

In other cases, harnesses will be worn to catch you in the event of a fall. In some cases, such as when painting and washing windows, you may be suspended from a height wearing a harness. By making sure the harness is designed for regular use in protecting falls, you can give yourself the greatest degree of safety possible.

Fall Protection Gear

Personal fall protection gear can provide a number of protections in any fall situation. Preventing a fall is always the primary goal, and there are a variety of items and tools that will help improve the safety and function of harnesses and other fall protection products. Body belts, carabiners, lanyards, rope grabs and other specialty anchors should be on hand at work sites so they can be brought in as replacements when other equipment wears down or breaks.

Insisting on Safety in the Workplace

While OSHA makes an effort to inspect various work sites to ensure regulations are being followed at all times, this doesn’t guarantee 100 percent compliance. Whether intentional or accidental, some work settings may fail to provide adequately safe working conditions. Employees may be hesitant to refuse to work in these unsafe conditions because they don’t want to ruffle feathers, but that’s a dangerous move for anyone. By demanding safe working conditions, you’re only asking that the law be followed. Don’t be afraid to speak up and request the necessary precautions.

The presence of protective gear can greatly reduce the risk of a fall or the damage resulting from such an incident. Employees should familiarize themselves with regulations so that they know what to expect and demand. There’s nothing to be gained by taking these risks, so don’t allow yourself to be put in a potentially dangerous situation.