Qualifying Fall Solutions Providers – What to Look For
Both employers and employees agree: Fall solutions providers save lives.
However, not all fall protection systems are equal. There are a broad range of technologies available for fall prevention, and significant variation between the quality of different providers’ solutions.
Industrial and manufacturing companies have a clear incentive to invest in the most reliable systems they can find, and typically spend a great deal of energy looking for the right provider to meet their needs. In an environment where fall protection standards violations are OSHA’s most frequently cited and falls are responsible for almost 39 percent of construction deaths, it pays to choose your fall protection provider well.
In order to reliably qualify a fall solution provider, you must pay careful attention to the individual elements that make up a comprehensive fall protection system, and the team needed to build it.
Ask About Quality Control
Quality is one of the most important things to check for when hiring fall solutions providers. Unlike other industries there is no independent testing requirement, such as Underwriters Laboratories for consumer electronics, for fall protection equipment. Fall Protection systems and equipment are only as good as the quality control and processes the supplier has in place. Consider requiring you fall protection provider to have an ISO 9001 or equivalent certified quality control program.
As the OSHA website shows, there are separate reference materials for general industry than for construction, and additional situational rules regarding things like skylights and other roof openings.
An ISO 9001 certification ensures that your supplier’s quality management system meets recognized industry standards, as well as statutory and regulatory requirements. In 2015, ISO revised these standards, so look for a provider with ISO 9001:2015 certification.
Also, fall protection systems should comply with ANSI Z359 standards. These standards offer the most complete descriptions for fall safety systems and their installation. Beyond describing the equipment employers should use, they also strictly define important concepts such as qualified persons, and the means by which qualified persons can reliably design, test and certify a system.
Ensure that any fall solutions providers you interview for a project maintain compliance with the latest version of the ANSI Z359 code.
Ask About Team Qualifications
Once you know that a particular provider has compliant equipment and uses standardized procedures to install fall safety solutions, you need to ask about their personnel.
Any industrial fall protection project includes project managers, coordinators, engineers, drafters, technicians, welders, and fitters. As an employer compelled to implement the most rigorous fall safety solution possible, you have a clear interest in determining how qualified all of these individuals are.
ANSI Z359’s qualified person definition gives you an easily communicable standard to assess your fall solutions providers’ employee qualifications:
“A person with a recognized degree or professional certificate and with extensive knowledge, training, and experience in the fall protection and rescue field who is capable of designing, analyzing, evaluating, and specifying Fall Protection and Rescue systems to the extent required by these standards.”
Specifically, you must find out which team members qualify, who doesn’t qualify, and what tasks these respective employees perform on your worksite. If you get this information in writing, you will have a powerful resource for addressing liability concerns in case something goes wrong during or after fall protection installation.
Additionally, lead engineers should have some degree of advanced licensure and qualification. The Principles of Practice of Engineering certification from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES) represents the highest standard of competence in the fall protection industry. However, even a licensed professional engineer may not be “qualified” to design a fall protection solution. They must also demonstrate extensive knowledge and experience specifically related to fall protection and rescue systems.