Exposures to fall hazards pose a significant risk of death or serious physical harm in the workplace. According to the National Safety Council’s 2017 Injury Facts®, falls to a lower level were the second leading unintentional fatal workplace event and the fifth leading event resulting in cases with days away from work in 2014. Employers faced with these fall hazards tend to ignore the three lines of defense and go straight to personal protective equipment (PPE) to solve their fall issues. What is needed is an understanding of the revised OSHA rule on walking and working surfaces and related fall protection consensus standards. This will not only help ensure that correct fall equipment is purchased but also ensure that all aspects of a fall protection program are addressed.
Key to helping control the risk of falling is OSHA’s “three lines of defense.” The first line of OSHA fall protection defense is to eliminate and/or engineer out the fall hazard. Engineering/elimination controls can be as simple as moving the work to ground level and eliminating the work height. Or they can be the addition of platforms, railings and toe boards to provide permanent, secure access to high maintenance areas and devices. The number of engineering controls is extensive; contact your plant engineering or maintenance department for further assistance.