What Every Workplace Should Know About Proper Fall-Protection Equipment
By Nicole Randall, Contributor
In November 2021, a worker in New York City1 fell while painting the Manhattan Bridge. In December 2021, a roofer in his early 20s fell while working on an apartment building in New Orleans2, and a 24-year-old man lost his life when he fell from an Arlington, Washington3 cell tower.
According to the latest Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in December 2021, a worker dies every 111 minutes from a work-related injury in the U.S. While total worker deaths fell more than 10% from 2019 to 2020 (5,333 to 4,764) roofers, helpers, and construction trade workers were high on the list of the types of workers who died — exceeded only by workers in fishing, hunting, and logging jobs.
The BLS census also showed that falls, slips, and trips were the second most common cause of workplace deaths, after transportation incidents. Similarly, the National Safety Council4 cited falls, slips, and trips as the second most common workplace injury involving days away from work.
In other words, being diligent about construction safety at heights can help save lives, as well as protect the bottom line from catastrophic delays and losses. That’s why the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) believes it’s vital that every workplace has access to proper fall-protection equipment.
Not all fall-protection equipment is created equal. As ISEA’s Personal Fall Protection Equipment Use and Selection Guide (PDF) explains, a complete fall protection system is comprised of three vital components: anchorage, body support, and means of connection — literally the ABCs of fall protection.
“Each one must be in place and properly used to provide maximum worker protection,” according to the guide. “While each of these components is vital to worker safety, the connecting device is the critical link in assembling a safe fall protection system since it bears the greatest force during a fall. Careful consideration must be given to the selection, materials, construction, and inspection/maintenance of fall protection equipment before, during, and after a connecting device has been selected.”
Another ISEA publication, Frequently Addressed Topics in Fall Protection (PDF), addresses 14 common topics that arise in the thousands of calls from employers, end-users, and others ISEA-member companies collectively receive asking about different aspects of fall protection, from anchorage issues to various fall protection applications.
Awareness & Training Needed
In addition to the proper equipment, awareness and training choices also play a critical role in fall protection. ISEA’s ongoing Safety at Heights campaign points out that fall protection encompasses a wide range of equipment and systems, including overhead anchorage and anchorage strength, horizontal lifeline systems, harness attachments, self-retracting line positioning, twin-leg lanyards, tie-back applications, post-fall suspension, and more.
The content of a free webinar ISEA produced in 2019 is still on-target for employers striving to prevent fatalities and injuries from falls. The webinar featured leading fall protection and dropped objects experts from ISEA and the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), who presented ways to implement a successful safety-at-heights program, outlined fall protection product innovations, and discussed the most recent ANSI/ISEA 121 standard to prevent dropped objects, to keep workers safer and their tools secured while working at heights.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), maintains an online resource center pertaining to workplace fall protection, with particular information focused on ladder safety, mast climbing work platforms, and aerial lifts.
Industry standards likewise are crucial to helping construction and other industries maintain safety at heights. ISEA is officially represented on ANSI-accredited standards committee Z359, Fall Protection Equipment. Additionally, a host of other ISEA standards help to advance workplace safety.
From a regulatory standpoint, OSHA’s Safety and Health Regulations for Construction includes standards that specifically address fall protection. Standard Number 1926.501 lays out requirements for employers to provide fall protection systems. And Standard Number 1926.503 requires employers to “provide a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program shall enable each employee to recognize the hazards of falling and shall train each employee in the procedures to be followed in order to minimize these hazards.” CS
Nicole Randall is the Director of Marketing and External Affairs for ISEA (International Safety Equipment Association). Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, ISEA is the trade association in the U.S. for personal protective equipment and technologies. Its member companies are world leaders in the design, manufacture, testing, and distribution of protective clothing and equipment used in factories, construction sites, hospitals and clinics, farms, schools, laboratories, emergency response, and in the home. Since 1933, ISEA has set the standard for the personal protective equipment industry, supporting member companies united in the goal of protecting the health and safety of people worldwide (https://safetyequipment.org).
- Top Work-Related Injury Causes – Injury Facts (nsc.org)
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