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The Safety Pitfalls You Don’t Expect

By Erica Cole, Contributor

Harness fit is one of the most overlooked safety steps. If your harness is not properly donned and adjusted, it could cause injury or even death.

Typically, workers who use fall protection are focused on safety because it allows them to perform their duties without harm. Besides adhering to mandatory Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) protocols, workers often opt to use fall protection equipment with more stringent safety standards like American National Standards Institute (ANSI). However, it is the hidden dangers that provide the most peril. It’s often easiest for both inexperienced workers, as well as those with the most experience, to overlook safety hazards, leading to increased accidents and incidents. Newer workers are still learning while older workers have become desensitized to everyday dangers. Many workers begin their daily routine with a safety huddle. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a safety huddle is a routine meeting to increase safety awareness, identify safety issues and develop action plans for their resolution. Despite more methods of communication than ever via the internet, podcasts, social media and magazines, fatalities are up 2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. One fifth of OSHA fatalities occur in the construction segment. That’s over 1,400 deaths annually.

You have the right equipment, but what other safety pitfalls are you missing? Learn how to start your day by inspecting the jobsite for unknown dangers. Here are some not-so-commmon pitfalls and actions you can take to mitigate your risk.

  • Ensure each component of your Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) is compatible. Commonplace industry knowledge defines the PFAS components as A-B-C. As awareness increases consider expanding this acronym further into the alphabet A-B-C-D-E.
    • (A) – Anchorage: secure attachment point capable of safely supporting the system in a fall​
    • (B) – Body Support: equipment worn on the body to provide support and connection points​
    • (C) – Connecting Device: equipment used to connect the body support to the anchorage
    • (D) – Dropped Object Prevention: equipment used to connect tools to anchor points
    • (E) – Educate yourself! Have a rescue plan. How will you get to the ground safely if your PFAS system is already deployed?
  • Site Safety Walk Through – allow fall protection experts to look at your jobsite and setup to suggest the safest method of work. Many fall protection manufacturers offer this service gratis.
  • Ensure your connecting device is rated for the type of application required. It is especially dangerous when workers use non-leading-edge equipment on leading edges. A leading edge is defined as an edge with a radius of 0.005” or less (sharp edge).
  • Minimize the number of components in a system if possible.
  • Inspect your fall protection equipment prior to each use and annually or at the manufacturer recommended intervals.

    When you have 100% tie-off, for example a dual leg self-retracting lifeline or dual leg lanyard, it is imperative that your second leg is connected securely prior to you releasing the first connection.

  • Inspect your fall protection equipment prior to each use and annually, or at the manufacturer recommended intervals.
  • Ensure workers weight, including equipment and tools, is within the manufacturer specified limits. Often this weight range is 130 – 310lbs. but could vary. Sometimes with increased weight ranges, manufacturesr certify the equipment to OSHA only not ANSI standards.
  • Make certain the structure connected to the anchorage is capable of meeting the strength requirements in all loading directions. Frequently this is 5,000 or 10,000lbs.
  • Fall Clearance – when calculating fall clearance, don’t neglect the manufacturer specified safety factor.
  • Read the manufacturer instructions. If you have misplaced these, you can locate new copies online or request this directly from the manufacturer.
  • Cleaning solutions affecting safety equipment. Be certain chemicals from cleaning do not adversely damage equipment. Check the manufacturer’s guidelines for recommended products that are safe to use.
  • Installing a horizontal lifeline on an edge could put workers at unnecessary risk if the install height does not allow sufficient fall clearance. There could be a potential for the lifeline to contact the edge in the event of a fall. This scenario becomes even more dangerous if the edge is a sharp edge that could abrade the lifeline.
  • Harness fit is one of the most overlooked safety steps. If your harness is not properly donned and adjusted, it could cause injury or even death.
  • Anchorage may be used in a number of substrates, including wood, concrete, steel, tile and others. Ensure the substrate thickness meets the minimum specified in the manufacturer instructions.
  • Inspect the integrity of walking working surface for unforeseen hazards that could cause slip, trips and falls or unexpectedly cause fall protection equipment to fail. Examples include cracks, holes and weakened surfaces, amongst others.

All these tips could prevent an accident or fatality. Stay alert and aware of your surroundings and equipment. Stay safe! WMHS

Erica Cole is Product Manager, Mechanical Goods at Pure Safety Group (PSG). Cole has worked as a mechanical design engineer in the oil and gas industry before following her passion to save lives by joining Pure Safety Group in 2018 (www.puresafetygroup.com).

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