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Understanding the Hierarchy of Fall Protection to Avoid Fall Protection Misuse

The Hierarchy of Fall Protection is the recommended order of control to eradicate or decrease fall hazards. This technique depicts usual safety practices for hazard reduction, from elimination to administrative controls. With the data gathered from the fall hazard assessments, every solution in the hierarchy may be employed on every hazard.

1. Hazard Elimination

The preferent solution to each fall hazard is elimination. The reason behind exposure to the fall hazard is tested to establish if changing the procedure, practice, location or equipment will block exposure to the fall hazard. Specifying HVAC (Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning) equipment be placed in a room or on the ground instead of the edge of the roof, is an illustration of hazard elimination.

2. Passive Fall Protection

Physical barriers – for example, guardrails for unprotected edges and covers on holes – are types of passive fall protection. Passive protection is mostly applied to heighten level of safety as the possibility of error is less compared to using personal protective equipment (PPE). The upfront costs of passive protection, though likely high, are typically more justified than long-term PPE costs. But passive protection may not be ensured with limited fall hazard exposure frequency and length of exposure. A comprehensive hazard assessment delivers the information necessary to make such types of decisions to enhance cost-effectiveness.

3. Fall Restraint Systems

Fall restraint systems are installed so that a fall cannot take place. Fall restraint systems depend on PPE to limit the worker’s range of movement so they cannot go anywhere near the fall hazard. Although fall restraint systems are usually underutilized for the reason they are not particularly mentioned in various regulations, they are still preferred over fall arrest systems. Free fall distance is a non-issue for fall restraint systems, which means force arrests, clearance requirements, secondary injuries, etc. are practically out of the picture.

4.Fall Arrest Systems

Fall restraint systems are intended to let a fall occur but be arrested within non-hazardous clearance and force margins. Fall arrest systems have a greater accompanying risk, since the falling worker has to be stopped with an acceptable amount of force and kept from touching the ground or surrounding structure. Adequate training for fall restraint as well as fall arrest systems is a must.

5. Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are preventive solutions applied to minimize the probability of a fall. They include but are not restricted to warning lines, control lines, designated areas and safety monitors. Also, it has to be noted that OSHA regulates the use of multiple administrative controls, and it is the job of the fall protection program administrator to know the jurisdictions and regulations that are applicable.

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