Fall protection vs prevention, what’s the difference?
Every year safety continues to be one of the most important issues and topics discussed within the industrial industry. The industrial industry has seen over 110 million onsite accidents with the most common of those accidents and injuries pertaining directly to falls. Companies continue to implement the necessary measures to avoid falls but when measures are overlooked, or simply don’t work properly, and injuries occur this can cause employees to take a leave of absences from the workplace for an extended period, others may lose their job all together, and in the worst-case scenario fatalities may occur. These situations are not to be taken lightly, this hurts and heavily impacts employees and their families, this can also seriously impair the business involved.
Fall protection tends to be at the forefront of safety discussions and businesses continually evaluate the processes that they put in place to protect their employees from ever having to encounter any issues surrounding falls. The outcome usually involves implementing a program utilizing fall protective equipment such has harnesses and lanyards, these devices are used as a reactive measure in the event a fall should occur. Is reactive fall protection planning enough, how do we avoid falls from ever occurring in the first place? This question brings us to another imperative key question; what is difference between fall protection and fall prevention?
Fall prevention is a plan that is consider proactive, this plan is focused on preventing the fall from ever happening to begin with. Fall protection doesn’t prevent a fall from occurring but rather provides a backup incase a fall does occur; again, we view fall protection as a more reactive approach. One must put in place a prevention plan because if a fall does occur, even with fall protection in place, the situation immediately becomes riskier. So by developing a fall prevention plan you are attacking the issue at its core by eliminating the possibilities of a falls existence.
Fall prevention plans include the installation of equipment like gangways, safety cages and loading racks which prevent trips, slips and the consequent falls. Gangways assist operators in accessing the tops of tanker trucks and railcars, these include slip resistant treaded walkways, handrails/crossbars so that the operator is fully secure on all sides while accessing hatches for loading and unloading. Safety cages are assembled on the ends of gangways and cover the perimeter around the truck or railcar hatches, this adds preventive measures while operators are working around the hatch atop of vehicles.
Loading racks should always include non-slip tread on all walking surfaces and be built with sturdy easily accessible handrails/crossbars on each side. Safety gates can be added to close off any openings throughout the perimeter of loading stations including the access points for gangways. In a perfect world, the proactive fall prevention would be addressed before the reactive fall protection plan. Each of these safe access systems avoid falls all together whereas using harnesses and cables are simply putting a backup plan in place in case to protect the employee if fall happens to occur.
At Hemco we insist that all safety measures are covered with both fall prevention and fall protection. Harnesses and cables are a critical aspect after a fall occurs and will catch the operator and stop their impact with the ground. But, why not have a preventive plan in place that closes off the opening from which the fall occurred to begin with? Fall prevention coupled with fall protection embodies an entire safety solution for your employees.