Fall hazards are common in manufacturing and industrial facilities. In fact, there are potential dangers at every turn. It’s your duty to provide your workers with a safe workplace which includes installing fall prevention systems. But it’s not necessarily enough to make sure that you have all the proper OSHA fall protection devices and systems in place. You also need to cultivate a safety-first culture in your organization which begins with you leading by example and encouraging your workers to do the same.
WHAT IS FALL PREVENTION THINKING?
It’s vital that you have written safety policies and procedures in place so that your employees know what’s expected of them. But this is only the beginning. To cultivate the safety-first culture your company needs, you have to take things a step further. Fall prevention thinking begins at the top with mandates, rules, and expectations coming from ownership and management. A good leader doesn’t just tell workers what to do; they lead by example. You need to let your employees know that safety is your number one priority.
BENEFITS OF A SAFETY-FIRST CULTURE
Although a good salary and benefits will attract talent, they’re only part of the reason people will stay with your organization. When you promote a safe work environment and make that commitment clear, employees are much more likely to express job satisfaction and loyalty. Some other benefits your company will reap include:
- Fewer Workplace Injuries and Accidents
- Increased Productivity
- Improved Employee Engagement
- Lower Employee Turnover
A few of the characteristics of a company with a safety-first culture include:
- Leaders That Are Committed to Employee Safety
- Empowered Managers Who Strive to Positively Change the Work Environment
- Employees Are Encouraged to Take Action to Make Safety Improvements
- Team Members Feel an Obligation to Themselves and Others to Stay Safe
- Investing in Fall Prevention Systems, Equipment, and Training Is a Priority
HOW TO IMPLEMENT A FALL PREVENTION PLAN
The first step in creating a safe workplace is developing a plan that suits the needs of workers. That begins with an honest evaluation of the fall hazards workers face. This step should be done by a qualified individual who is a safety expert. Every potential fall hazard needs to be noted so that it can be mitigated or eliminated. To encourage workplace safety, it’s necessary to:
- Train employees to recognize and avoid fall hazards.
- Ask workers about their safety issues or concerns.
- Implement safety procedures based on input from your team.
- Encourage employees to be mindful of everyone’s safety.
- Reward safe behaviors.
- Change unsafe practices with additional training.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT FALL PREVENTION SYSTEMS
With a pervasive safety-first workplace mentality, your organization can avoid many of the pitfalls of an unsafe workplace. However, you can’t just make rules, monitor your workers, and talk about safety. You need to take concrete action to address and eliminate as many fall hazards as possible in your facility. OSHA fall protection guidelines don’t require a specific solution for a fall hazard; it’s up to you to make that choice. However, OSHA does require your fall safety devices and equipment to meet certain standards including:
Guardrails and Safety Railing
Rails are, by far, the most common passive fall protection used in industrial facilities. They’re suitable for a variety of applications including rooftops, on mezzanines and other elevated surfaces, around dangerous equipment and machinery, and even as traffic control. Any guardrail you use must meet the following criteria in order to comply with OSHA standards:
- The top rail has to be 42″ (+ or – 3″) above the walking/working surface.
- Guardrails must withstand 200 lbs. of force without failing or deflecting to less than 39″.
- Midrails are required to take a force of at 150 lbs. without failure.
- Rails have to be made of smooth material that won’t snag, scratch, or injure employees.
Safety Gates and Swing Gates
You can’t block off areas of your facility completely. Workers need to be able to get into and out of an area with as little hassle as possible. Entrances to elevated work surfaces, ladderways, restricted areas, and other dangerous areas of your facility can be protected and accessible with the right gate. Your safety gate or swing gates must meet OSHA’s safety gate standards including:
- Industrial gates must meet the same height and strength criteria as noted above for guardrails.
- A safety gate must swing or slide away from the hole or opening it’s protecting.
- Industrial swing gates must be self-closing per OSHA 1910.29 (b).
- There cannot be any opening of more than 19″ at its smallest diameter on the gate.
Fall Arrest and Fall Restraint Systems
In addition to guardrails and a safety gate, you may also need to provide workers with additional fall protection systems. Fall restraint systems like a harness and lanyard allow workers to access areas that are potentially dangerous without risk of falling. Fall arrest systems like a harness, anchor point, and self-retracting lifeline stop a fall that’s in progress, so the individual does not reach the level below.
- Lanyards and lifelines must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 lbs.
- D-rings, snap hooks, and carabiners must be proof tested to a minimum tensile load of 3,600 lbs.
- Anchorages must be able to handle at least 5,000 lbs. for each employee attached.
- Harnesses, lifelines, and other components must be inspected for damage or wear before each use.
OSHA FALL PROTECTION ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE
It’s your obligation to provide a safe workplace for your employees, and you can do that by concentrating on reducing potential fall hazards. But no matter how many guardrails, swing gates, and other fall prevention systems you install, without a safety-first culture, you’re missing the boat. Your employees need to see you as a leader who cares about their safety, and you can do that by setting a good example. Train your new employees and provide ongoing training to keep safety issues in the forefront. If you need some help with your fall safety protocols, equipment, or training, contact Fabenco and one of our safety experts will assist you. We have decades of experience with providing the highest quality protective equipment, as well as guidance in creating and maintaining safety-first work cultures in facilities across all industries. We look forward to discussing your needs, and what we can do to help.