Personal and Collective Fall Protection
Per OSHA Fall Protection regulations, “Employers are required to assess the workplace to determine if the walking/working surfaces on which employees are to work have the strength and structural integrity to safely support workers.”
In order to prevent accidents at high altitudes the utilization of personal fall protection is often employed as a precautionary measure to protect people. Implementation of blocking devices helps to mitigate accidental falls from dangerous elevations, from an access point, or leading edge, on a roof, building, walkway, or other potentially hazardous location.
Fall protection in all workplaces and traffic routes need to be higher than 1m above the ground or a sufficient level. This also applies to hatches, skylights and openings of any kind. Locations specifically include, but are not limited to:
- Controlled Access Zones
- Evacuation Areas
- Leading Edges
- Holes (Including Skylights)
Fall Protection Hierarchy
1. Eliminate the Risk. Can working at height be avoided completely? Can roof mounted equipment be moved to an area of safety or could other options such as extendable equipment on the ground be used instead?
2. If working at heights cannot be avoided, the first consideration should be to install collective fall prevention (link to further down the page) measures e.g. guard rail around the perimeter of the roof in order to provide protection for everyone who has to work at heights.
3. Finally, if collective solutions are not viable personal protection systems (link to further down the page) e.g. work restraints, fall arrest, rope access should be available to all workers to minimize the distance and consequence of a fall should one occur.
Where regular planned maintenance is carried out collective protection provides the best solution for protecting workers at height.
Dependant on the suitability of the roof or structure a permanently installed system offers a passive solution for multiple workers by providing a physical barrier to the fall hazard, allowing them to concentrate on the job in hand rather than the safety system.
Although permanently installed, counter weighted systems allow installation to roofs without the need to penetrate the roof so not affecting water-proofing and allowing the system to be installed without affecting the use of the building.
Other options include fixing guardrails to metal roof sheets or to structurally suitable parapet walls and folding systems which can be left out of view when not in use. Other fall hazards such as roof access hatches or skylights can also be protected.
As a minimum Guard rail systems are required to be tested and certified to OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard 1926.502.
For one off tasks, e.g. roof or gutter repairs, scaffolding, access platforms or mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPS) can be used, what should considered when these options are selected is the fact that they require specialist contractors or in the case of MEWP’s user training and certification and require suitable hard standing and space next to the building or structure they are accessing.
As these options are not typically available immediately, this leads to workers taking risks where they consider a task to be too short to warrant a time consuming set up time for the safety equipment, this would be avoided if a permanent solution was in place.
Personal Fall Arrest Systems
Personal Fall Arrest Systems typically consist of some form of anchorage, connectors, and a body belt, or body harness, and may include a deceleration device, lifeline, or suitable combinations. Under certain circumstances, safety nets may also be a viable safety solution option.
Whatever the safety application need, an OSHA compliant solution can be found within the Kee Safety categories of personal fall protection products.