In the U.S. construction industry, falls are the leading cause of worker fatalities. Each year, on average, between 150 and 200 workers are killed and more than 100,000 are injured as a result of falls during construction-related activities. For the 2013 fiscal year, fall protection was the No. 1 violation cited by OSHA (1926.501) totaling 8,241 violations.
Fall protection is a broad concept that includes training, procedures, rules, systems and methods intended to protect workers from fall hazards. Precasters need to stay on top of the latest OSHA fall protection regulations to ensure compliance.
Many precasters understand fall protection presents an ongoing challenge in the plant, but they also see it as an excellent opportunity to review or renew company safety procedures. NPCA Safety, Health & Environmental Committee members provided examples of successful fall prevention methods used in their own plants that can be implemented by other NPCA members.
Here is a look at a few:
- Include fall protection as a regular discussion item in company safety meetings. Discuss proper equipment and training needed when a new project involves working on elevated surfaces or when a new employee begins work.
- Use visual aids to illustrate proper fall protection practices. Reviewing statistics on injuries can help keep information fresh and encourage employees to ask questions regarding personal protective equipment.
- Document all safety training sessions and ask employees to sign and date afterward. If questions still remain, call the state safety authority for answers on rules and ideas on how to comply with OSHA regulations.
- Plan ahead if there are plant space concerns. Split the height of some structures into more manageable sections.
- Provide the right equipment. As an example, construct an enclosed cage onto the side of some forms. Allow a ladder to lead up into the cage and offer a way for the employee to connect a body belt or harness to prevent a fall.
Safety committee members stress the top prevention method to address any safety concern in the plant is allowing employees to freely discuss them. Regular verbal discussion and questions brought forward often help management discover whether a safety procedure requires a second look or an update.
To see if your fall protection procedure is OSHA compliant, test yourself and see if you can answer the following list of questions:
- How does your plant address fall protection with employees?
- How often do you address fall protection and what have you found to be the most effective methods?
- How is your plan implemented? What types of fall protection safety measures do you use?
- How do you handle a situation in which an employee is caught working at heights greater than 4 feet without using appropriate fall protection?
- Who in your plant helps identify situations in which workers need fall protection and ensures the appropriate measures are taken on a day-to-day basis?
- How do you proactively identify the times your employees will need to consider fall protection in the workplace?
- Have you modified your framework or casting to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations while working at heights over 4 feet?