What are the typical shortcomings with fall protection programs on construction sites and in industry, and how can they be overcome?


Fall protection programs fail because building owners, facility managers and job foremen don’t insist on 100-percent compliance. Lip service is easy, but it’s the follow-through that takes discipline. Safety starts at the top and filters down. It must be an integral part of the corporate philosophy in order to permeate the entire company.

For a fall protection program to be successful, someone has to be in charge. That person needs to know OSHA regulations, they need funding to purchase equipment and train people, and they need to constantly monitor employees and subcontractors to make sure they’re using the equipment and using it properly.

Jim Sidla, Sales & Marketing, Garlock Equipment

Two important issues that are overlooked in many fall protection programs: documentation outlining a program and rescue plans for potential falls. OSHA requires that you have a written fall protection plan and regular documented meetings to discuss the plan with your workers. This plan should include potential fall hazards, implementation of fall protection equipment, and rescue procedures.

Mark C. Conover, National Sales Manager, Elk River, Inc.

Most fall protection programs adequately equip workers to survive an initial fall, but many then fail the worker by providing inadequate response once a fall has taken place. Fast recovery of a fallen worker is paramount, because the worker only has a relatively short period of time before suspension trauma becomes a factor. Within 20 to 30 minutes, constriction of the worker’s circulation will lead to venous pooling (concentration of blood in the lower half of the body). This can lead to eventual death. Harnesses with built-in straps or saddles that can be deployed by the worker and allow him to “stand up” in the harness (thus relieving the constriction) can buy the worker time, but are of no use to an unconscious or incapacitated worker.

Alex Marks, Director of Hand Protection, North Safety Products

A key shortcoming is inadequate product-use training. This includes product selection, inspection & maintenance, and wearing/using equipment properly. The most effective programs are those where employers work closely with their workers to identify hazards and either eliminate the hazard or provide appropriate protection and training to work around it.

Ron Cox, V.P. Strategic Marketing, Miller Fall Protection, Bacou-Dalloz

A common challenge faced when implementing fall protection programs is making the training convenient, versatile, mobile and accessible for workers and supervisors.

To learn the proper use of PPE and rescue methods, workers are trading in the traditional classroom lectures and are attending on-site demonstration and training sessions at the very location of the particular job.

Jim Hutter, Master Trainer, DBI/SALA and PROTECTA