According to standard safety rules, “working at heights” refers to any job done at or around a location where there is a risk of a person falling. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that fall protection must be provided to workers at a minimum height of 4 feet in general industry, 6 feet in construction, 5 feet in shipyards, and 8 feet in long shoring activities for industrial and commercial enterprises operating in the US.
If your employees are required to undertake work at elevated heights on a regular basis or on an as-needed basis, you must always consider their safety and how they are operating at these heights. It just takes one slip to turn a routine operation into a catastrophic event; therefore, it’s critical that your company has a fall prevention strategy in place to avoid any unfortunate incidents.
Here are a few of the top safety rules to follow when working at heights:
Fully understand what safety solutions best fit your operations.
When it comes to employee safety and fall protection, there is no one-size-fits-all option for harnesses, safety systems, or other fall protection equipment. As a result, it’s important to know what equipment is best suited for the job at hand, understanding your work environment and operational processes is imperative.
Invest in employee safety by choosing the right equipment for working at heights.
Employees need to know how their protective equipment works, what constitutes appropriate safety practices, and what actions to take in case something does go wrong. Consider these factors while making your final decision on your fall protection solutions.
Ensure you have the best and correct personal protective solutions available to your employees.
Determine what protective equipment your operators require before they ever begin working. Add, adjust, or upgrade things such as harnesses, railing, and other necessary protective equipment, to ensure your employees are comfortable and can effectively complete their jobs while maintaining the upmost safety. Employees should be safe without any interference in their productivity.
Be aware of the fall distances and heights around your facility.
Unfortunately, there is not one fall protection solution that works for every height, you must evaluate your facility and the heights your operators are working from to determine which system will help protect your employees best. Before implementing any system, be sure you determine the minimum fall clearance distance accurately. This goes back to understanding your workplace and operational procedures.
Be mindful of when and what form of fall protection is needed.
OSHA considers three factors when determining what type of personal safety solution is required:
- Infrequent: work that is completed no more than once a month at most.
- Temporary: Tasks that can be completed in less than two hours.
- Make sure there aren’t any potential dangers in the area where you’re working.
It’s always best to make use of handrails.
Whenever possible, utilize handrails throughout your facility. Safety railing is one of the simplest and most popular methods of protecting workers from harm. Railing paired with industrial safety gates provides awareness and passive protection, this method helps guard employees by making them aware of potentially dangerous areas. Remember, per OSHA the height of stair railings must meet certain requirements!
Train, coach, prepare your workers.
It’s always a great idea to offer training programs on all your equipment, regardless of size.
If employees will be working from heights, it’s critical they be given an initial orientation and ongoing refresher courses. Lack of training increases the risk of mistakes and errors. Complying with regulations is only a small part of the picture; to truly succeed and remain safe, one must have adequate training.
From larger fall protection systems to smaller equipment, it always helps to coach your team.
For example, you should always evaluate and determine anchor points. Note that a properly designed and certified anchor point, or one capable of supporting a weight of at least 5,001 pounds, should always be used in industrial settings.
Another example is with ladders. Before beginning any project, determine if a ladder is needed. While it might seem silly, you’ll want to provide proper ladder training to all your employees.
So even the most common tools require training when working from heights, and it’s always best to plan and conduct programs that educate and remind your workers how to manage their equipment and surroundings.
Find out how you can decrease workplace injuries by scheduling a free consultation with our team.
To learn more visit OSHA’s fall protection page at https://www.osha.gov/fall-protection.
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