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Fall Protection in Construction
How many times have you done your job? How many times have you done that same task up on the deck, wall roof, barrier rail, etc.? The truth is you have probably done that job or task the same way “a million times”. No matter how safe you feel up there you never are. Have you been trained on using your fall protection equipment? In some cases some of you have not. Have you ever wondered if your employer gave you the proper fall protection equipment for that task? First American Safety is here to explain to you the hard working laborer the rights and wrongs of fall protection. Remember in the construction industry, if you are 6 feet from the ground you must be tied off!
Fall Protection Harness
We will start off with your fall arrest harness. Yes, we know they are uncomfortable, Yes, we know they get in the way, and may even slow you down when you are working. Let’s face it; the faster you get the job done the better you look right? Wrong! This is the biggest problem in the construction industry. Your fall arrest harness must fit you and be as comfortable as possible for the person wearing it. If your harness is not comfortable for you then it is most likely not fitted for you properly. The back D-ring must be in the center of your shoulder blades. You must be able to reach behind you and touch the D-ring. The front D-ring must set in the middle of your chest. Your harness must be tight. If your leg straps are sagging to your knees you are not cool. Those straps must tight up in your crotch area. The rest of the harness must be adjusted so that the D-rings are where they are supposed to be as stated above. Keep in mind when you hook up your lanyard it is never to be hooked on the front D-ring.
Fall Protection Harness Inspection
Your harness must be inspected before every use. DO NOT TAKE YOUR HARNESS FROM YOUR FOREMAN AND JUST THROW IT ON. INSPECT THE HARNESS YOURSELF BEFORE EVERY USE! If any stitching is damaged, let your foreman know and throw the harness away. If you see any fraying, throw the harness away. If there is any damage what so ever, let your foreman know and throw away the harness immediately. Your supervisor, foreman, or manager is supposed to inspect the harnesses and document it on the harnesses tag monthly. Let them know if they have not done their job.
Fall Protection Lanyard
Moving on to your lanyard, this device keeps you from splattering all over the floor if you fall. One critical fact about fall protection systems that many people are unaware of is that, with a shock absorbing lanyard, you will hit the ground if you are less than 17 feet above a lower level. Now I can hear you saying, “well, we use 6 foot lanyards, and I am not always 17 feet from the ground.” The solution to that is your employer must supply you the correct fall protection for the job at hand. If you will not be more than 17 feet from the ground, your employer must supply SRL (Self-Retracting Lifeline) fall arrest systems that only allow a maximum of 2 feet of free fall. These devices are commonly known as YOYO’s. YOYOs must also be used when working an area with a leading edge. A leading edge could be the edge of a bridge deck, the edge of a building, a house roof top as well. Do not use a regular lanyard in these situations as the edge could sheer the lanyard in half.
Back to your lanyard. When hooking up, the anchor point must be positioned so that it will minimize your free-fall distance. Put that hook as far up as possible on the wall, pole or whatever you are on. You never want to hook to an anchor point that is below you. The lower the anchor point, the further you will free-fall. This means you might have to climb up a little higher than you are working then climb back down. A huge thing you must keep in mind is whatever you hook up to must be able to support 5000 pounds of force. This applies per employee that is tied off to the same point as you. Also, when using 100% fall protection YOUR POSITIONING HOOK IS NOT A MEANS OF FALL PROTECTION. You must use a double lanyard system to move around. IF YOU FALL WITH YOUR POSITIONING HOOK THOSE LITTLE CHAINS ARE LIABLE TO SNAP AND YOU WILL FALL. Remember, this lanyard is as important if not more important than your harness. The same inspection processes must be followed as with the harness. Follow the procedures above in the harness section.
Fall Protection Anchor Points
Have you ever wondered, “Ok, I am up here working and I am tied off. If I fall how are my co-workers going to get me down?” Your employer must have a fall arrest rescue plan. The plan must include the processes and procedures for fall arrest rescue. The plan must be adapted to each job. Every situation is different and must have a site specific plan. You, the employee, must be informed of the plan before you perform your work from heights. The plan must have a way to get you down in less than 10 minutes. When you fall, blood flow is restricted in the legs. This can cause severe damage to your legs if you hang there for an extended period. It can also cause severe blood clots in your legs. When the harness is removed, those blood clots can rush back to your heart and lungs, causing fatal complications.
Working from heights is a unavoidable task on the jobsite. Remember; always tie off when working from heights. If you feel unsafe with your task, speak up. If you see unsafe conditions in the area of where you are about to perform your task, speak up. Let someone know immediately. Do not do it just because your boss said so. Your life is at risk any time you are working at heights. Properly using your fall protection systems will save your life.
Learn Fed-OSHA’s requirements for fall protection here.