Falls are one of the number one injuries within the workforce. Falls can occur for a variety of reasons including slipping, tripping, being struck by an object and falling, and falling from a higher level to lower level. Falls may lead to serious injuries such as fractures, head trauma, or severe lacerations. Falls can also be fatal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2009-2010 data, falls from ladders and roofs led to the highest number of fatalities followed by falls from staging scaffolding and falling on the same level.
Of course, it is always best to prepare ahead to prevent falls before they occur. Any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more according to General Industry or six feet or more in Construction, the worker is at risk of falling and needs to be protected. However, regardless of the fall distance, fall protection must be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery.
Many different systems are in place to help protect people from falling. When traveling up and down stairs, handrails are available to assist and steady a person. Guardrails and toe boards may be found on equipment but also on landings from one level to the next. Holes are covered to prevent falling through or stepping in. Safety net systems are installed to catch items that might fall from above. Cages are installed on ladders, and climbing safety devices are installed to prevent falls. All of these are effective fall prevention strategies. Eliminating the hazard or substitution may also be effective (e.g. using an extension pole for changing light bulbs as opposed to climbing a ladder or standing on a ledge of a building). Guardrails may be installed to provide protection as long as workers stay within the rails.
To keep a person from reaching a fall point a fall restraint system may be worn. A fall restraint system maintains a distance that the employee can travel but will not reach the potential fall hazard. They are sometimes called, “dog on a leash” or “travel restrict systems”. A personal fall arrest system is designed for the employee to free fall some distance before coming to a complete stop. Fall arrest systems consist of a place to be securely connected, a personal body harness, lanyard, and a shock absorber.
Training is required for any employee exposed to fall hazards. Retraining is necessary when there is a change in procedures; when an employee does not follow procedures or does not have an understanding of the fall systems and hazards; or when new equipment or a new fall hazard is introduced.
Training is available through Environmental Health and Safety, contact Cynthia George at 270-745-2163 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.