When on the job, if a worker is at the risk of falling within three meters and above, it will be of importance to incorporate a fall protection system into your occupational health and safety practices and procedures. Understanding how a fall protection system works and taking advantage of the benefits it provides can improve the safety of employees, the aesthetics of the building and the strength of the building. Whether your industry is involved with construction works, bridge work tasks, shipping or warehouse labour, you should become familiar with fall protection courses and equipment. 

Fall protection equipment can include a broad range of various types of devices such as scaffold brackets, rooftop anchors, body belts, climbing harnesses and rope. They are also divided into temporary or permanent. Temporary fall protection systems in NZ include cranes and mobile platforms. It is mandatory by law for employees who are exposed to heights from six feet and above to use the right fall protection equipment. In order to implement the appropriate form of protection, read on to get a better breakdown on the main categories of a fall protection system.

FALL PREVENTION

Fall prevention is the first line of defence used to prevent workplace accidents from happening in the first place. If working at a height is required, this form of fall protection ensures that employees are protected from unnecessary risks. It’s highly important for employees who work from rooftops or platforms, where equipment like guardrails, rooftop parapets, handrails and safety gates are mounted to prevent any injury or fatality. One popular and effective form of fall prevention is railings, it provides an additional benefit of protecting employees without encumbering them with harnesses and other equipment which require adjustment or active inspection. This form of fall prevention is considered passive because a fall does not have to occur for them to protect the employee, though it’s still an option that’s mostly overlooked. Fall prevention equipment are very cost-effective and when implemented the proper way, it can present employees with a higher level of safety than any other fall protection system.

FALL RESTRAINT

This fall protection system is designed to prevent employees from reaching a fall hazard by tethering them to a fixed point, the tether is made very short to prevent falling. In this context, the employee wears a harness and attaches its D rings to a fixed length strap and an anchor point. When implemented the right way, they prevent the body’s centre of gravity from falling. 

In this case, preventing a fall translates to the fact that no arrest is necessary at the same time making it possible to avoid any potential injury. This form of fall protection system is best for construction projects that require employees to work at high elevations where  guardrails cannot be used and falling at such a height would be harmful. A main disadvantage would be a restriction in the worker’s range of motion which is as a result of the tether and harness. But that doesn’t cancel out the fact that the worker is still kept in the best place of safety. 

FALL ARREST

Fall arrest is a form of fall protection used to arrest a fall incase one occurs.  Fall arrest system is a vital tool that serves as an alternative when fall prevention isn’t a viable option. Though it’s much less preventive than a fall restraint system because it does not prevent the fall from actually taking place. It does help to prevent any form of accident or fatality, but its main function is to intervene during an actual fall. Its custom fitted equipment provides the employee with the ability to move freely while on the job. This can enable the employee to scale a height where a fall could likely take place. 

If a fall should take place, the fall arrest equipment will stop it in action enabling the employee to attain a proper stance. Arresting a fall is not as effective as a fall prevention but in a situation whereby a fall prevention is not feasible, utilising a fall arrest equipment is the best option that can protect employees from any form of accident. Some examples of fall arrest equipment include: self retracting lifelines, shock absorbing lanyards to absorb the forces that take place during a fall arrest, connectors/karabiners, and a full body harness.

IMPLEMENT ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROLS

Implementing strict administrative control is one of the best ways to improve safety within the workplace. It can be described as changes that lessen the threat of a hazard to an individual. They extend a direct correlation with workplace policies, rules, schedules, and procedures. Administrative controls generally involve proper training, education and safety regulations to be implemented by employees who work at height. 

Other forms of administrative control like safety monitors, control lines and warning lines also contribute to improving employee safety and reduce the risks of experiencing a fall hazard. Implementing these administrative controls is very achievable, one way you can begin is by hiring experienced safety professionals to  train your employees on how to implement lifesaving techniques. Properly educating your employees will enable them become cognisant of potential fall hazards, and various ways to use fall protection equipment effectively.

MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE

Fall protection equipment are not optional. It’s important to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of your employees and business. Having so much to evaluate, it can be difficult to determine the form of fall protection system that will meet your business’ needs. It all depends on evaluating the factors – the type of work to be carried out, the duration it takes work to be completed in the tall area, the flexibility required to complete the work, wind load calculations, roof type, and matching a solution to each need. In an ideal world, its normal to see guardrails mounted around every tall platforms, full body harnesses worn around every employee, which are usually implemented without proper evaluation of each form of fall protection system and could lead to unnecessary fall hazards

Make it a priority to analyse every form of fall protection system in order to make the most informed decision for your employees safety.