Published on: December 16, 2022
Many manufacturing and service industries require employees to work at heights, exposing them to the risk of falling. Businesses must take appropriate measures to prevent and protect their workers against fall hazards, including elevated workstations, overhead platforms, or holes in the floor and walls. It’s where fall protection systems enter the picture.
Read on to learn everything about fall protection!
What Is Fall Protection?
According to OSHA’s guidelines, employers must use a reliable fall protection system elevations of at least four feet in the general industry. For construction companies, fall protection systems become a must at elevations of six feet.
How to Protect Workers From Fall Hazards?
Fall protection systems can be divided into two broad categories: active and passive.
Passive fall protection systems are fixed, static, and unmoving; they don’t require any interaction from the employees once installed. On the other hand, active fall protection systems require the participation of the worker and the use of protective gearing.
Both active and passive fall protection systems can help you protect the workers from fall hazards in the following ways:
Fall Hazard Elimination
Eliminating The Fall Hazards From The Roots
You can eliminate the risk of falling for workers by finding alternative ways to perform a task at ground level instead of heights. Another way to eliminate fall hazards is to place scaffoldings against the edges. Elimination should be the first plan of action by employers to address fall hazards at their workplaces. However, removing all fall hazards from the work site is not usually that cost-effective or practical in most situations.
Fall Prevention or Passive Fall Restraint
Passively Preventing the Fall From Happening
Is it impossible to remove all fall hazards from your workplace? This is where fall prevention systems can help! These systems work as a collective remedy to prevent the workers from falling. They don’t require users to undergo any training and perform certain actions, like wearing a harness or anchoring to a point to save themselves. Some common examples of fall prevention systems are stairways, platform systems, and barricades.
Active Fall Restraint
Actively Restraining Workers to Prevent Them From Falling
Is your workplace not suitable for implementing the elimination or a fall prevention system? You can opt for an active fall restraint system where workers use personal fall restraint equipment, such as a harness or a restraint lanyard, to prevent themselves from reaching an edge or a drop-off. However, workers will require training to use an active fall restraint system.
Active Fall Arrest
By Actively Arresting Workers to Reduce the Impact of the Fall
A fall restraint system prevents the workers from reaching an edge, while a fall arrest system slows down the fall to bring the workers to a safe stop. There are two types of active fall arrest systems: personal (lifelines) and general (nets).
Lifeline fall protection is where a line is connected with anchorages at both points to stop a worker’s fall safely. The different kinds of lifelines include horizontal or vertical, rigid or flexible, and temporary or permanent.
A fall restraint system is often recommended as a last resort because it doesn’t stop the fall from occurring, giving rise to the chances of injury and equipment failure.
The Types of Fall Protection Systems
Access solutions refer to different methods designed to give workers safe access to elevated areas. These solutions are available in both permanent and portable formats. Check out the list of popular access solutions you can choose from.
- Portable and permanent walkways
- Walkways with guardrails
- Self-closing gates
- Rooftop crossover platforms
- Custom work platforms
- Permanent access platforms
- Industrial catwalks
Some vital points to consider while choosing an access solution for your site include your needs, versatility, and installation time.
You can attach permanent or portable guardrails to the roofs, stairwells, walkways, and open shafts on your site to protect your workers from falling off the edges.
With very few components and a welding, bending, or threading-free installation, guardrails are one of the simplest fall protection systems to exist. Moreover, their design can be adjusted to fit all kinds of flat roofs, including circular, rectangular, square, or multi-level.
Skylights and roof access hatches are common features of residential, commercial, and industrial rooftops. However, they pose a great risk to workers who can trip over them and fall off the edge.
Since skylights & rooftop hatches are so dangerous, OSHA treats them as ‘holes’ even when they are closed. You can use skylight screens, hatch kits, and skylight guardrails typically made from stainless steel to avoid accidental falls.
Rigid rails are horizontal lifeline fall arrest systems that involve tracks and trolleys to arrest a worker’s fall over short distances. This system is best used in industries like aircraft maintenance, where a worker falling from a wing must be arrested at a short distance. Rigid rail systems are usually available in multi-track versions that allow users to pass each other without disconnecting from the rail.
You can choose from different rigid rail designs depending on your need and application. Some effective designs include the bridge format, twin overhead, and the flat track.
Cable-based fall protection systems also fall under the category of lifelines. They consist of cables along with a series of terminals and intermediate anchor points. The workers have to wear a body harness or a lanyard to connect to a shuttle that moves them along the cable’s length.
While rigid rails provide better fall protection in short-fall distances, they are not quite practical to install in areas like roofs, overhead crane rails, and arena rigging grids.
Portable fall protection systems allow you to access elevated areas with the help of portable equipment like freestanding ladders and mobile stairways. Portable fall protection equipment can be customized to include optional railings, anchor structures, or cages. You can move them manually or through a tow bar or a service vehicle.
Choose the Best Fall Protection System
With so many options available, you may feel confused when choosing a fall protection system for your workplace. The factors that can help you in making a suitable choice include fall clearance, cost, budget, maintenance needs, functionality, and the size and nature of your site.
The experts at Flexible Lifeline Systems can assess and analyze your premises for fall hazards and design a fall protection system offering maximum safety coverage and compliance. They can also handle fabrication and installation to make your fall protection system functional within a short span of time. Call for a consultation right away.