COMMITTED TO SAFETY AND VALUE ENGINEERING - SINCE 1985
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June 2002

Do You Know Fall Protection?

By | Fall Protection, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources | No Comments

More than one article has been written concerning fall protection for walking/working surfaces, including open sided floors, roofs, and scaffolds. Many articles have discussed the various forms of fall protection, fall protection for roofers and scaffold erectors, fall protection regulations, and the most recent, contradictions in the applicability of the fall protection regulations. What else can be said? Obviously, any employee above the ground is exposed to the risk of a fall, meaning that the same individual is exposed to a risk of injury or death. Consequently, one would think that these exposed individuals would be familiar with proper fall protection equipment and procedures. Unfortunately, statistics indicate otherwise so here is a recap of some fall protection facts and thoughts.

 

 Subpart M, Federal Construction Industry Standards, specifies fall protection requirements for employees exposed to falls from walking/working surfaces, including open sided floors and roofs;

 Subpart M does not apply to scaffolds;

 Subpart L, Federal Construction Industry Standards, specifies fall protection requirements for scaffolds;

 Federal OSHA requires fall protection on all open walking/working surfaces, including roofs, more than six feet above the level below;

 Federal OSHA requires fall protection on all scaffold platforms more than ten feet above the level below;

 California OSHA requires fall protection on all scaffold platforms more than 7-1/2 feet above the level below;

 Federal OSHA requires fall protection for all open walking/working surfaces, other than scaffold platforms, more than six feet above the level below;

 Toprails are part of the guardrail system;

 Toprails must have a strength of at least 200 pounds when used on a supported scaffold;

 Typical 2×4 wood members which span more than eight feet are probably not strong enough to safely support 200 pounds;

 Toeboards are not part of the fall protection system;

 Toeboards are one form of falling object protection;

 Subpart M, OSHA, includes falling object protection requirements for walking/working surfaces;

 Subpart L, OSHA, includes falling object protection requirements for scaffolds;

 Midrails are part of the guardrail system;

 Midrails must have a strength of at least 150 pounds when used on a supported scaffold;

 Personal fall arrest equipment can be used as fall protection on frame scaffolds;

 Guardrail systems cannot be used on ladder jack scaffolds;

 An average person who falls will be moving at a speed of over 13 mph after six feet;

 The same average person will attain this speed in just over six tenths of one second;

 An average person will hit a concrete surface with a force of 2,400 pounds from a height of 6 feet;

 Bungee cords are not a form of fall arrest;

 Personal fall arrest systems must not allow you to hit the level below before you stop;

 The force on your body due to the arrest of a fall must never be more than 1800 pounds;

 A shock absorber connected to the lanyard, when used properly, will reduce the force on your body to approximately 900 pounds, give or take 200 pounds;

 Body belts can be used for restraint and positioning but never for fall arrest;

 A rescue plan is always part of proper fall arrest system usage;

 Forty percent of scaffold fatalities are due to a lack of fall protection;

 The toprail of a guardrail system on an open-sided floor or roof must be from 39 to 45 inches above the platform;

 The toprail of a guardrail system on a scaffold must be from 38 to 45 inches above the platform;

 The midrail is, you guessed it, midway between the deck and the toprail;

 The toprail of a single point or two point suspended scaffold must have a strength of at least 100 pounds;

 The midrail for the same scaffold must have a strength of 75 pounds;

 Except for outrigger scaffolds, any platform edge that is less than 14 inches from the face of work is not an open side or end of a platform;

 Six percent of scaffold fatalities are from a height of six feet or less;

 The primary form of fall protection on a scissors lift is the guardrail system;

 The primary form of fall protection on a boom lift is the guardrail system but you also need a fall restraint system;

 It is permissible to climb over or through the guardrail system to gain access to a scaffold work platform;

 A guardrail designed to support 200 pounds will not work as an anchor that must support 5,000 pounds;

 A designed fall protection anchor must have a safety factor of at least two;

 A designed anchor must be designed by a qualified person;

 One hundred percent tie off is not necessarily one hundred percent fall protection;

 One hundred percent tie off is easy to achieve;

 One hundred percent fall protection for scaffold users is achievable;

 One hundred percent fall protection for scaffold erectors can be very difficult to achieve;

 The competent person (someone who can identify hazards and has authority to resolve the issue) determines fall protection feasibility for scaffold erectors;

 All scaffolds must be inspected by a competent person before each work shift to verify that the fall protection system is in place;

 Guardrail systems are passive systems in that once installed, it requires nothing of the user;

 Personal fall arrest systems are active systems in that the user must perform some function to make it work;

 Passive systems, such as a guardrail system, should be the first choice of fall protection;

 OSHA requires training for all employees “who might be exposed to fall hazards;”

 OSHA requires training for all employees who use scaffolds;

 OSHA requires training for all employees who erect scaffolds;

 OSHA requires retraining for all employees who forget their training;

 Subpart M of the OSHA standards specify training requirements;

 Subpart L of the OSHA standards specify training requirements;

 Fall protection is the responsibility of everyone.

This list includes 57 facts about fall protection. Can you think of any others? Would more training help? Would stronger enforcement help? What else can be done? If this information is new to you, you need training. Nobody plans on falling; you are no exception!