Break your fall

25 April 2008

The US Department of Labor lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for 8% of all occupational fatalities from trauma. The 2004 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries revealed that fatal falls had increased during the year by 17% to a new high, led by increases in the number of fatal falls from ladders and from roofs.

SC&RA is committed to reducing fatal falls in the construction industry. The following text was excerpted from Supervisor Hints on Personal Fall Arrest Systems that accompanied SC&RA's Safety First: A Team Effort video:

• In places where other fall protection systems cannot be used or have been removed, workers should use fall arrest systems.

• Fall protection applies to open holes, or heights, and activities in which employees are engaged. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration stipulates fall protection must be used at 4 feet (1.2 m) in general industry, 6 feet (1.8 m) in Construction (Subpart M), 10 feet (3 m) with scaffolding (Subpart L) and 15 or 30 feet (4.6 or 9.1 m) in steel erection (subpart R). Check the guidelines that apply to your federal, state, local and project locations.

• Unless it is not feasible, 100% fall protection is best practice.

• A personal fall arrest system includes full body harness, a lanyard and an anchor point.

• A personal fall arrest system is necessary when working on open sided floors, elevated platforms, roofing work, and during crane assembly, disassembly and maintenance.

• Visually inspect your fall arrest systems daily before you use the equipment and periodically during your work task.

• Check equipment for deterioration, frayed edges, broken fibres, pulled stitches, burns, chemical and ultraviolet damage.

• Damaged fall arrest system equipment must be removed from service. Contact your supervisor if you have questions about the condition of your equipment.

• Hold your harness by the D-ring and shake it so the straps fall in place. Slide the straps over your shoulders so the D-ring is in the middle of your back. Connect the leg straps. Ascertain that all straps are tight.

• A lanyard is a flexible line connecting a full-body harness to an anchorage, deceleration device or lifeline. Lanyards are made of rope, nylon strap or steel. Shock-absorbing types are best and should always be used with steel.

• Do not connect lanyards back to themselves unless authorised by the equipment manufacturer, nor to self-retracting lanyards.

• Never knot a lanyard or tie lanyards together or tie off around sharp edges.

• All lanyards must be attached to the D-ring by a locking snap-hook.

• Double-legged lanyards are often used to provide 100% fall protection at all times.

• As a general rule, all anchorage points should be directly above you within easy reach.

• If you fall, do not swing.

• Make sure the fall distance, including the lanyard or lanyard plus soft pack, cannot stretch beyond a distance of 6 feet (1.8 m).

• The anchorage point shall be identified by a competent person. A 5,000 pound anchorage support for each person or a designed anchorage system is required.

• If someone falls it is very important to rescue them as quickly as possible.

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