Falls are one of the biggest causes of injuries and deaths in the workplace, especially in the construction industry. A fall from any height, even a short one, can result in long-term debilitating or fatal injuries. Therefore it is vital to assess the risk of falls in workplaces and implement measures to protect workers from falls. Fall protection measures will be unique to each workplace. Careful considerations should be taken so that protections can be tailored to the specific tasks and hazards of the workplace. Furthermore, it is essential to get the participation and consultation of workers in the process of determining fall protection, so that they understand what equipment to use and how exactly it will prevent them from falls.
TYPES OF FALL PROTECTION
Signs and Barriers (Passive Fall Protection)
Increasing awareness of fall hazards by implementing clear visual communication that alerts workers to the presence of holes, platforms, and other areas that cause a fall. These include fall hazard sign boards and warning floor tapes highlighting the hazardous area. Furthermore, installing guardrails and other types of barriers around fall hazards which physically separates the worker from fall hazards.
Personal Fall Protection Equipment (Active Fall Protection)
Workers exposed to falling from height hazard, shall have the personal fall protection equipment (once decided to use), with no exception. This equipment should be used with supervisionbya competent person, who is able to clearly identify hazards, and has the authority to handle such hazards.
MAJOR COMPONENTS OF A PERSONAL FALL PROTECTION EQUIPMENT
The anchor point should be attached to a stable structure that can support twice the intended load, and if a worker falls, his/her anchor will suspend him/herand prevent him/her from hitting the ground. It is recommended to position the anchor point directly above the worker, as this prevents a pendulum effect, which often leads to injuries.
Each personal fall protection system requires a full body harness, which incorporates pads, webbing, and hardware. The padding of the harness should be comfortable and easy to adjust, so that workers can attend to tasks easily.
To link the full body harness and the anchor system together, a connecting device such as shock absorbing lanyard, or self-retracting lifelines with connectors is needed. Connectors may include snap hooks, carabineers, rope grabs, or D-rings.
TYPES OF LANYARDS
Shock Absorbing Lanyards
These are the most easy to use for fall protection. They have an expansion pack on one end, which expands in order to help slow a fall. One of the most important things to consider if you choose this type of lanyard is that the minimum clearance should be greater than the sum of the length of the lanyard once expanded and the height of the worker, in order for safe use.
This type of lanyards utilizes inertia to activate a braking mechanism that is part of a block unit housed inside the body of the lanyard. This mechanism is typically activated when a sudden tension applies (like car seatbelts), and arrests the fall.
These are the least flexible lanyards, and they are made to keep a worker in place rather than arrest a fall after a fall has occurred. They come in a fixed length and this limits the area of movement of the worker, hence, preventing the possibility of falling.
As the very first step, all precautions shall be taken to keep people safe from falling from heights. Then decide the type of personal fall protection equipment most suitable for the work and ensure all workers engaged are equipped with the same. Further, make sure all workers using the personal fall protection system are trained on how to use correctly the equipment, so that they are not injured if they do fall.
- Provide working conditions that are clean and free from known dangers (e.g. tripping/ slipping, strength and structural integrity of the walking and working surfaces, etc.)
- Display sign boards to communicate the hazard of falling from height.
- Guard any holes in the floor by erecting a railing around it, or providing floor hole covers.
- Erect toe boards and guardrails around any elevated floor or platform that is open sided.
- Practice the ‘Permit to Work’ System.
- Provide personal fall protection equipment.
- Train workers on how to use correctly the personal fall protection equipment.
- Inspect fall protection equipment before use at each instance. The inspection should also be carried out every six months by a competent person.
- Work shall be carried out only under supervision of a competent person.
- Ensure everyone uses the personal fall protection equipment in the correct manner.
- Conduct mock drills on rescuing workers suspended in a personal fall protection equipment, after a fall.
Content submitted by
Mr. Mohamed Fahim
Assistant Manager – Management Systems