The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly referred to as OSHA, is responsible for establishing and enforcing workplace safety regulations on the federal level. Many of these regulations are concerned with the weight limits, capacities and configurations of various types of fall protection equipment. However, the role of education and training is just as vital in ensuring workplace safety and providing protection for workers in elevated or hazardous areas. Fall protection training is integral to the safety process and should be a priority for building maintenance firms and other companies that perform work at higher elevations.
OSHA Fall Protection Requirements
OSHA fall protection regulations require that fall protection equipment or fall arrest harnesses and lifelines be used in all areas where a fall of six feet or more is possible. These safety measures may also be required in areas positioned over dangerous equipment or near openings. Along with the regulations regarding anchorages, guardrails and barriers, fall protection devices and fall arrest systems, also OSHA requires that staff members receive training in the proper use of these systems to ensure that they are protected against falls in the workplace.
Essential Fall Protection Training for Employees
According to OSHA, all employees who may be exposed to fall hazards must be provided with training in the following critical safety areas:
- Identifying and assessing risk factors and potential fall hazards
- Use of basic fall protection equipment, including barrier systems, safety nets, fall arrest devices and other safety components
- Best practices for safety in the workplace
- The specific roles assumed by various employees in the company’s overall fall protection and workplace safety plan
- Proper installation and maintenance standards for fall protection systems
- Correct procedures for controlled access zones and safety monitoring systems
- Initial certification and fall protection recertification procedures where applicable
Depending on the nature of the work and the environment in which that work is performed, OSHA regulations may require that all employees undergo this training before performing tasks in potentially dangerous areas. Employers must maintain written records of all employee training certifications to ensure full compliance with OSHA requirements.
Additional training and recertification may be required for employees in certain situations. Some of the most common reasons for recertification include the following:
- Changes or replacements to the fall protection systems currently in use in the working environment
- Failures on the part of staff members to demonstrate and practice safe working habits in hazardous areas
- Moves to new buildings, worksites or locations that present significantly different fall protection challenges
The training offered during the recertification process should be comparable in scope to that provided to employees during the initial safety certification training program.
Special Roles for Staff Members
For businesses that opt for safety monitoring systems as part of their comprehensive fall protection plan, a competent safety monitor must be assigned and trained to serve in this capacity. These options are usually only available in areas where other fall protection systems are impractical or cannot provide adequate protection. In most work areas, fall arrest systems that protect individual workers and fall protection equipment that blocks off specific areas are much more effective in ensuring worker safety in elevated areas.
Consulting a qualified fall protection expert can provide added support for companies in creating and implementing a comprehensive workplace safety and training plan that complies with all applicable OSHA fall protection regulations. By working with a professional in the field of fall protection, building maintenance firms and construction companies can ensure the greatest degree of protection for their workers and can reduce unplanned downtime due to accidents and falls in the working environment. This can improve employee morale and boost productivity for added profitability in the competitive marketplace.