Those that own a construction business or are heavily involved in the management of construction sites know that there’s a never-ending list of responsibilities. Maintaining efficiency of the project while ensuring profitability are important, however there’s nothing more important that protecting your workers from dangerous and potentially lethal falls.
It may shock you to know that an average of 40 workers are killed each year as a result of falls from residential roofs alone, according to data from the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced new fall protection requirements for Residential Construction.
Here what you need to know about essential fall protection equipment for the construction industry.
ABCD’s of Fall Protection Safety
When it comes to fall protection safety, you need to provide your employees with the resources and knowledge they need to protect themselves from deadly falls. When your construction workers are at risk of falling, make sure they understand that ABCD’s of fall protection.
As the secure point of attachment for a fall arrest system, the anchorage point secures the worker to a firm base. All anchorage points must support adequate loads, and require different regulations depending upon the type of active personal fall protection system your worker is using:
A personal fall arrest system must have an anchorage point that supports at least 5,000 lbs.
A personal fall restraint system must have an anchorage point that supports four times the intended load.
A positioning device must have an anchorage point that supports two times the intended load or 3,000 lbs., whichever is greater.
As you can see, the type of anchorage point regulations you need to follow are dependent upon the job being done, the structure being worked on, and they type of industry you’re serving. The anchorage structure to which the connector is attached must be capable of supporting a load of 5,000 pounds per person or shall be designed, installed and used as part of a complete system that maintains a safety factor of at least two, under the supervision of a qualified person.
Full-body fall protection harnesses provide the needed body support via straps that fasten around the worker, while distributing fall arrest forces over the chest, shoulders, upper thighs and groin. A full-body harness is the easiest way to feel protected when working at heights, supplying a connecting point between the worker and the structure’s anchorage point.
It’s important to provide complete protection to your construction workers. According to OSHA, “There is a growing body of evidence which points to hazards related to the use of body supports other than an appropriate fully body harness. Studies performed in Europe and by the U.S. Air Force indicate high risks associated with the body belt in both fall arrest and suspension modes. Further, the possibility of falling out of a body belt and chest-waist harness is significant and has appeared in accident reports.”
An adequate full-body harness should be comfortable enough for the worker to wear all day, providing adjustable, form fitting straps. These days, many harnesses come with ergonomical options, more padding and lighter materials, all provided to keep the worker more comfortable for longer hours, increasing productivity when working in dangerous situations. Find a harness that isn’t confusing to get on and off, or to adjust. This only decreases safety and productivity.
Connectors are what links the worker’s harness to the anchorage point. Whether it’s a shock-absorbing lanyard, an adjustable positioning lanyard, or a self-retracting lifeline, the connector will help keep your worker from hitting the ground. When used in conjunction to a fall restraint system, the connector must be short enough so that the user doesn’t reach a fall hazard.
Self-retracting lifelines give your construction workers ample space within the work area, utilizing extendable and retractable mechanisms to let the user move freely. If the worker falls, the lifeline will stop the fall by sensing the sudden acceleration.
A shock-absorbing lanyard, on the other hand, is designed to take the strain out of a fall. Offering a flexible line, a connector at either end is used to connect the anchorage to the body support of a harness. The lanyard is connected via the back of a D-ring in between the workers shoulder blades and anchored to a structure that is above the worker to minimize fall distance.
The descent/rescue equipment is an essential part of fall protection for the construction industry. Should an accident happen, descent devices are utilized to rescue a fallen worker. Choosing the best descent and rescue equipment, whether it’s a winch, tripod, ladder, net, or davit arms, will depend on your construction site and the type of job being done.
Remember, the anchorage, body support and connectors aren’t the only elements of an all-encompassing fall protection system. Should the worst happen and a worker falls, you need to have a backup plan in place. This is where a comprehensive rescue system will come in use. As an owner or manager of a construction site, it’s your duty to supply all workers with the best fall protection equipment available to ensure safety throughout the project.
While it may seem expensive to invest in fall protection equipment, it will be detrimental to your project and possibly company should an accident happen and you’re not following OSHA’s regulations. The fallout from injuries or deaths sustained in falls cost construction companies millions of dollars annually in the form of lost work, increased insurance claims and messy liability troubles. Knowing the ABCD’s of fall protection and investing in the best equipment, while educating workers on proper protocol and response plans will save both money and lives.