Workplace safety is a major concern, particularly in fields like construction, shipbuilding, marine and the material handling industry where heavy loads must be moved and workers are required to operate at heights above the floor level. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has detailed guidelines to prevent slips and falls, which can be dangerous. Over time, these guidelines have made the workplace safer. With training and proper equipment like slings and fall protection systems, the number of workplace accidents has been reduced drastically.
Plan, provide and train
The three steps used by OSHA to prevent falls and slips are: plan, provide and train. This means that there should be fall protection for workers who work at heights of six feet or more from the floor should be protected with the necessary equipment. This may include ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear such as nets and slings.
OSHA defines the heights at which fall protection should be provided in different industries:
- General industry workplaces: 4 feet
- Shipyards: 5 feet
- Construction: 6 feet
- Longhorns operations: 8 feet
Fall arrest systems must be provided. These can be general fall arrest systems, such as nets, or personal such as individual lifelines. They should be regularly tested and workers must have proper fall arrest training in order to avoid injuries in case an actual fall does occur.
Fall protection equipment and systems
There are many different types of fall equipment. These should all be regularly tested and OSHA rules specify that during testing, the test weight should be 300 pounds (plus or minus 5 pounds). Safety nets provide general fall protection and should be used when the height of the working level exceeds 25 feet.
Slings provide individual fall protection and can be of different types such as: endless, single, two, three or four leg. When used for normal service, slings should be inspected every year. When they are subject to severe use and stress, inspections should be more frequent, either monthly or quarterly.
Specialized fall arrest training teaches workers how to handle falls to prevent injuries.
OSHA fall protection rules prevent accidents
The right training and equipment do make a difference and help to improve workplace safety in several crucial industries like construction, shipbuilding and the material handling industry. Over time, the number of workplace injuries has decreased from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.4 incidents per 100 workers in 2011.
Industries such as construction, long shoring and the material handling industry are crucial to our day to day living. Workplace safety in these as well as many other industries can be improved by following the three step process outlined by OSHA: plan, provide and train.