Gear Tips for The Average Joe

April 1, 2019

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Understanding the Hierarchy of Fall Protection to Avoid Fall Protection Misuse

The Hierarchy of Fall Protection is the most effective order of control to neutralize or control fall hazards. This method reflects typical safety practices for hazard mitigation starting with elimination and ending with administrative controls. Employing the data obtained from the fall hazard assessments, solutions within the hierarchy can be used on the hazards.

1. Hazard Elimination

The popular solution to every fall hazard is elimination. The causes for exposure to the fall hazard is examined to see if altering the procedure, practice, location or equipment will remove exposure to the fall hazard. Indicating HVAC (Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning) equipment be installed on the ground, or in an equipment room instead of by the edge of the roof, is one demonstration of hazard elimination.

2. Passive Fall Protection

Physical barriers, such as guardrails and covers over holes, constitute passive fall protection. Passive protection is mostly applied to heighten level of safety as the possibility of error is less compared to using personal protective equipment (PPE). The initial costs of passive protection, while probably high, are generally more efficient than PPE’s long-term costs. But passive protection may not be ensured with limited fall hazard exposure frequency and length of exposure. A comprehensive hazard assessment delivers the information necessary to make such types of decisions to enhance cost-effectiveness.

3. Fall Restraint Systems

Fall restraint systems are intended to prevent a fall from happening. Fall restraint systems depend on PPE to limit the worker’s range of movement so they cannot go anywhere near the fall hazard. Even as fall restraint systems are generally underutilized since they have no specific mentions in several regulations, they are still prioritized over fall arrest systems. Free fall distance is a non-issue for fall restraint systems, which means force arrests, clearance requirements, secondary injuries, etc. are practically out of the picture.

4.Fall Arrest Systems

Fall restraint systems are set up so that falls are allowed by will be arrested within safe force and clearance limits. Fall arrest systems have more risks to them, as the falling worker needs to be stopped with a harmless amount of force and also prevented from hitting the ground or any surrounding structure. Proper fall restraint and fall arrest system training is critical.

5. Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are preventive actions taken to decrease the chances of a fall. They include but are not restricted to warning lines, control lines, designated areas and safety monitors. It must as well be noted that OSHA controls the use of several administrative controls, and it rests upon the fall protection program administrator to determine the regulations and jurisdictions relevant to them.

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