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The Hierarchy of Fall Protection and Avoiding 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. Utilizing the data gathered from the fall hazard assessments, solutions in the hierarchy can be implemented on the hazards.

1. Hazard Elimination

The favored solution to any 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. Stipulating HVAC (Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning) equipment be set up on the ground, or in an enclosed room and not by the edge of the roof, is a case of hazard elimination.

2. Passive Fall Protection

Physical barriers – guardrails, hole covers, etc. – are forms 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 initial costs of passive protection, although potentially high, are usually more reasonable than the long-term price of PPE. Passive protection may however not be guaranteed if fall hazard exposure is limited in terms of frequency and duration. An complete hazard assessment supplies the information vital to making these types of decisions to increase cost-effectiveness.

3. Fall Restraint Systems

Fall restraint systems are intended to prevent a fall from happening. Fall restraint systems rely on PPE to control the worker’s range of movement to keep them from physically moving towards the fall hazard. Even as fall restraint systems are generally underutilized since they have no specific mentions in several regulations, they are still prioritized 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 installed so that a fall can take place but is arrested within safe force and clearance limits. Fall arrest systems have more risks that come with them, because the falling worker must be stopped within an acceptable degree of force and prevented from getting in contact with the surrounding structure or with the ground. Adequate training for fall restraint as well as fall arrest systems is a must.

5. Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are preventive steps taken to lower the possibility of a fall. Such include warning horns, control lines, safety monitors, and more. It should be noted too that OSHA supervises the use of various administrative controls, and it is the responsibility of the fall protection program administrator to know the applicable jurisdictions and regulations.

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