Preventing Falls

Falls continue to be the second leading cause of death to workers. To help reduce fall-related injuries and fatalities, OSHA advises employers to “plan, provide, and train” their workers who work at heights of 6 feet or more (bucket truck, water tower, utility vault, etc.)  These situations require a plan for safety and emergency retrieval and the proper equipment for performing work tasks at height. Workers need to be properly trained to understand the hazards, and how to control them through administrative controls, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Plan – When planning a job that requires working from height, the employer is responsible for ensuring the work can and will be done safely. When planning for the budget, employers must include the cost involved for purchasing the proper safety equipment to perform elevated tasks. They must plan to have the necessary equipment available and used at the job site.

Provide – Employers must provide fall protection and related equipment (ladders, scaffolds, safety harnesses, etc.) for employees working 6 feet or more above a lower level. If workers use personal fall arrest systems for work in trees or bucket trucks, a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to an anchor must be provided. Each system must properly fit the worker and be inspected regularly. Purchase equipment from reputable vendors that provide hands-on training on their equipment.

Train – Every worker must be trained on the proper set up and safe use of their fall protection system and they must be deemed proficient by their supervisor before doing hazardous work at height.

When working with ladders, workers should know to maintain 3 points of contact (2 hands and 1 foot or 2 feet and 1 hand) on the ladder at all times. Keep ladders on a level surface, secure ladders by locking their metal braces, and avoid over-reaching when performing tasks outside the ladder edges. As for working on scaffolds, a worker must know how to safely set up the scaffold including how to set up guardrails and ensure stable footing can be maintained. The scaffold must be set up level. The scaffolding should be inspected by a supervisor before workers are allowed to use it.

For off or below ground work, the workers need to make sure their harness fits properly, straps are sufficiently backed up, and they are securely tied off or belayed at all times. Workers should be able to check that their anchor points are secure and make sure any openings are protected or covered.

Working at heights is a very serious situation - don’t under estimate the danger. Falls from heights are low in frequency but high in severity. This kind of accident could be catastrophic for a worker and your municipality.

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