Incorrect EquipmentIncorrect equipment takes on several fronts. It could involve equipment that is inappropriate for certain tasks. Body belts, for example, can help you get into proper position and prevent falls. However, they offer no protection if one occurs.
If the potential for a fall exists, it is imperative to use a full body harness. If you work at heights of six feet or greater, you’ll need a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS). It consists of a full body harness, lanyard/lifeline, and secure anchor points.
All components are necessary to protect you from the risk of a fall as well as its impact if one occurs. When used properly, it could save your life or that of a co-worker. Likewise, certain jobs require equipment that can handle the particular hazards of some tasks.
Workers who use welding equipment should opt for a body harness that has webbing which is burn resistant and arc-flash protective. A worker who needs to reach sites by climbing should use a harness with a frontal attachment point.
While you’ll find different types of harnesses, connecting devices, and anchor points, that doesn’t mean that these parts are interchangeable. So the mistake of using incorrect equipment also includes not using the right parts in the PFAS. These systems are designed to work in concert with the other components.
Failure to Inspect EquipmentBefore using a PFAS, you should inspect all components including the harness, connection, and anchor point. The harness is of particular importance since it will help distribute the force of a fall to reduce the risk of injury that can occur even if you don’t fall.
The impact of a sudden stop can cause serious bodily harm. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recommends bending 6-inch increments of the belt of the harness and examining it for signs of damage like wear, frays, or cuts. You should also make sure that the rivets are intact and lie flat against the material.
This inspection is essential prior to using a body harness. It may seem unnecessary especially for something that gets frequent use. However, a small tear is much easier to repair than one that has gone undetected. In the meantime, everyone using the same equipment is at risk for a fall because of this avoidable mistake.
Damaged EquipmentUsing damaged equipment puts you at a greater risk for a fall. A PFAS can only protect you as well as the integrity of your gear remains intact. Damage from whatever cause represents a weak point that can give way in a critical situation.
Equipment with tears or any other sign of deterioration should be repaired by an authorized service center or destroyed. It’s essential that damaged safety gear is not placed back into general use. That is what makes an inspection of the equipment critical whether it’s before a single use or as part of an annual inspection of safety equipment.
This measure also applies for harnesses that show signs of impact from a damaged fall indicator. These harnesses should never be reused. Store safety equipment in a clean, dry space out of direct sunlight to prevent damage caused by environmental factors.
Along with regular inspections, these simple measures can ensure a safe workplace and prolong the life of a PFAS by keeping it in proper working order and repair.
Improper UseThe best safety equipment does little good to prevent falls if you don’t use it correctly. That means ensuring that a body harness fits properly before going on the job. Your body harness should fit snug, but not too tight to avoid creating pressure points.
You should also adjust your chest strap so that it doesn’t sit too high on your sternum to avoid injury in case of a fall. You should position your back strap so that you don’t sit too far forward or too far back in the harness. Failure to do so could result in you falling out of the harness.
The proper fit will ensure that the force of a fall goes from the D-ring down the back strap to the sub-pelvic straps where your body can best handle the impact of an arrested fall.
Lack of TrainingMost accidents can be avoided with proper instruction about the use and care of safety equipment. Your supervisor should instruct all workers how to use the equipment as well as how to recognize the damage that could lead to failure. No one should use a PFAS without training by a competent person. Lack of training also applies if a work site has changed in some way that can affect current fall protection procedures.
If changes are made to the site or your plan, retraining by a component person with proper experience and authority is essential no matter how long everyone has been on the job. However, the training doesn’t stop with equipment use. It should also include a plan for rescue in the event of a fall that has been arrested. While a PFAS will prevent a free fall, a rescue plan is necessary to reduce the risk of suspension trauma caused by an incapacitated worker left in an upright position for too long.
Often, falls on the job can be prevented by simply using the proper equipment in the right way. That means ensuring it is in good shape without damage that could cause it to fail. It is both the responsibility of the employer to provide training and for the employee to learn all that it entails. Only then can you prevent falls caused by common mistakes.