Protecting employees from injuries that occur due to falls is an essential part of a holistic workplace safety program. According to the National Safety Council (NCS), “in 2019, 880 workers died in falls, and 244,000 were injured badly enough to require days off of work.”
Most people probably equate injuries from falls with employees who work in high-risk situations such as construction workers, loading dock personnel, and other jobs that require a large amount of physical labor. However, the same NCS report goes on to say that “a worker doesn't have to fall from a high level to suffer fatal injuries; 146 workers were killed in falls on the same level in 2019.”
Potentially dangerous falls occur not only from high heights, ladders, or stairways, but can also happen due to a recently mopped floor, improper footwear, and other unexceptional events.
To protect your employees and avoid potentially costly workers’ compensation payments, developing a fall protection work plan should be a priority for every business owner.
In this article, we take a look at the necessary fall protection equipment that every business should have on hand. We also look at some of the regulations and suggestions put forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) related to fall protection work plans.
What Are The OSHA Guidelines On Fall Protection?
Since 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been ensuring safe working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance. Since workplace falls are the most common causes of serious worker injury, OSHA has several guidelines and regulations specifying how businesses need to protect their workers from falls.
Because falls from heights obviously pose more of a safety risk, all employers must include fall protections for elevated platforms, raised workstations, or anywhere a hole could lead to a dangerous fall.
The fall protection required height depends on the type of workplace environment.
For general industry workplaces, fall protections need to be provided anytime there is at least four feet of drop. In shipyards, that raises to five feet of height, while the construction industry requires fall protection for any height six feet or greater. Lastly, longshoring operations are more lenient, with fall protection required at eight feet and higher.
Furthermore, fall protection structures or gear also need to be provided wherever employees work above dangerous equipment and machinery.
What Types of Fall Protection Do You Need?
Besides putting up a “wet floor” sign on a recently mopped area, what other strategies can business owners use to protect their workers from falls? Firstly, any hole or cavity in the flooring needs to be protected via a railing, toe board, and/or sturdy floor hole cover - the same goes for elevated platforms in the area of work - and every effort should be made to permanently cover any hole in the timeliest manner. Secondly, guardrails and toe boards need to be employed in any situation where workers could potentially fall into dangerous equipment such as hot vats or moving belts.
For construction workers and others who work in precarious situations at high heights, safety harnesses, safety nets, and sturdy railing are also obligatory following OSHA guidelines.
In all situations where your employees are at risk of potential falls, you must keep floors and the rest of the workstation dry, install guard rails and indicate potential dangers with signage, provide personal protective equipment (PPE) if the situation compels, and train all workers about potential job hazards.
You can read a more complete summary of the OSHA requirements regarding fall protection at work here.
Prevent Workplace Falls With Work-Fit
For companies whose work environments pose an increased risk of worker falls, hiring specialists with experience in workplace injury management might be a way to drastically reduce the frequency and severity of fall-related injuries. Work-Fit is a nationwide leading provider of onsite injury prevention and management for your workforce.
We have years of experience in helping businesses from all different industries create and implement custom onsite and virtual holistic injury prevention programs. Our trained professionals can work with any type of business to help you design a personalized strategy to avoid worker falls and thus lead to dramatic savings on employer healthcare costs.
Contact Work-Fit today to see how we can help you develop a fall protection work plan for your team!