Addressing fall protection failure risks

Despite all their benefits, guards, harnesses, and other safety devices are only the last line of defense against fall hazards. To lower fall protection failure risks, you need additional control measures in place. Implementing a preventative strategy, after all, is the best way to reduce incident rates and protect workers.

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Types of fall protection measures

Falls from heights can happen in a variety of different environments. So, it’s important to pick the protection measures that best suit your processes and worksite. Here are the top three types of protection measures companies use to anticipate falls.

Personal fall arrest systems (PFAS)

Per OSHA, a personal fall arrest system is a “a system used to arrest an employee in a fall from a working level. It consists of an anchorage, connectors, a body belt or body harness and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or suitable combinations of these.”

Guardrail systems

Install barriers and guardrails along open-edged platforms and work areas to prevent workers from falling off. You can also use guardrails around floor openings, skylights, and other areas where workers are at risk of falling.

Fall safety nets

Safety nets and crash pads are the absolute last line of reactive defense you can put in place. Their sole purpose is to reduce the severity of an injury due to a fall. So, you should only use them as a failsafe after implementing every single other system possible.

Fall protection failure modes

The term “fall protection failure” refers to any situation where your control measures do not work properly, resulting in higher accident rates. Understanding the different fall protection failure modes is critical for controlling them.

Safety equipment malfunctions

When equipment like harnesses or lanyards don’t work properly, this increases injury risks for workers. Equipment malfunctions can happen due to excessive wear and tear, product defects, or incorrect application. External variables like worksite conditions and weather can also impact the effectiveness of equipment.

Human failure

Workers are human, and they make mistakes. Sometimes, employees don’t have sufficient training to use fall protection equipment. Maybe they put their harnesses on incorrectly or forget to attach the lanyard to the anchor point. Sometimes, workers just completely ignore safety protocols. Like all areas of safety performance, the human factor is real, and you must account for it.

Entire system failures

Improper installation, inspection, and maintenance are just three sources of entire system failures. Without preventative checks in place, a chain reaction of failures can happen. To prevent these major issues, it’s important to look past your equipment and implement additional fall protection failure measures.

Focus on prevention

In safety, the focus should always be on incident prevention, not incident management. When it comes to fall protection failures, there are many controls you can put in place to avoid future incidents, including:

  • Schedule fall protection training refreshers throughout the year.
  • Require daily fall protection equipment inspections.
  • Document all maintenance activities, inspections, etc., with EHS software.
  • Take a weekly inventory of all equipment.
  • Implement a red tag system to decommission defective or unsafe equipment.
  • Invest more money in high-quality safety gear.
  • Implement a user-friendly hazard reporting process.
  • Track preventative maintenance on nets, guards, barriers, anchor points, etc.

Fall protection failure prevention comes down to two key strategies:

  1. Ensure that physical fall protection safety measures (guards, PFAS, etc.) are in place and working properly.
  2. Empower employees to recognize, report, and remove fall safety hazards wherever possible.

If you do these two things, then you should be able to drastically reduce the likelihood of fall incidents at your worksite.