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Construction Industry Promotes Fall Protection at Symposium

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | May 24, 2013 | Comments Off on Construction Industry Promotes Fall Protection at Symposium

fall protectionYou and your crew are the ones who get buildings off the ground.

It’s easy to forget that gravity is trying its best to put you and your crew back on the ground.

Falls result in more serious injuries than any other construction accidents. Broken bones, spinal injuries, paralysis and death are high prices to pay for one mistake. In our private lives, we take steps to stay safe. We use seat belts. We wear motorcycle helmets. Why should the job site be any different?

Fall prevention will be a hot topic when safety managers, engineers, standards advisors, workers and a few physics buffs gather for the International Society for Fall Protection Symposium June 24-27 in Las Vegas. Attendees will learn the most current methods for controlling and eliminating fall hazards. The theme for the event is “Don’t Play the Odds,” a Vegas-inspired slogan to remind everyone that complacency can lead to dangerous risks.

The symposium will feature presentations and panel discussions of topics such as fall arrest testing and personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). OSHA requires construction workers at risk of falling 6 feet or more to use a PFAS. The equipment available today is practical, doesn’t have to be expensive and can save lives.

The International Society of Fall Protection created this video, which illustrates critical force and edge protection in fall arrest conditions.

Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers, and workers are responsible for knowing the precautions they have to take to stay safe. Proper use of the PFAS means a worker will come to a complete stop in the case of a fall. OSHA’s requirements for how the fall is stopped are specific:

  • Arresting force must be limited to 1,800 pounds.
  • Maximum deceleration distance is limited to 3.5 feet.
  • The PFAS must be strong enough to withstand twice the impact energy of a body falling 6 feet or the free-fall distance permitted by the specific system (whichever is less).

Here are some additional facts about PFAS and how to correctly use them on the job site, courtesy of OSHA:

  • Body harnesses should allow freedom of movement, but the worker should not be able to move beyond the edge of the work area.
  • Body belts are no longer an acceptable part of a PFAS. OSHA has determined they can cause internal injuries when used to stop a fall.
  • The body harness must attach in the center of the worker’s back, near the shoulders or above the head.
  • Self-retracting vertical lifelines and lanyards that automatically limit free fall distance to 2 feet must be capable of sustaining a minimum tensile load of 3,000 pounds.
  • Webbing (the ropes and straps used in lifelines, lanyards and body harnesses) must be made from synthetic fibers.
  • Anchorages (which attach the PFAS to the structure) must be capable of supporting 5,000 pounds per employee attached.
  • On suspended scaffolds with horizontal lifelines that may become vertical lifelines (by shifting/tilting), the devices used to connect to a horizontal lifeline must lock in both directions on the lifeline.
  • A PFAS that has stopped a fall should not be used again until it can be inspected for wear or damage.

Knowing when and where a PFAS is needed means having a fall protection work plan, essentially a blueprint for safety. This plan recognizes the specific risks at your job site. For example, how much horizontal and vertical travel is required? What are the obstacles? Your site plan also provides for the appropriate fall protection methods to be used and provides for the training of workers who will use the system.

Your plan for fall safety is something you complete before the crew’s first day on the job. For more information about a fall safety work plan and the use of a PFAS, visit the International Society for Fall Protection site.

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