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Fall Protection & Safety Strategies
Here are guidelines to help facility managers maximize fall protection, which annually tops OSHA’s list of common violations.
For the 10th straight year, fall protection was the most-cited violation in 2020, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Considering these statistics, maintenance and engineering managers need to make training a top priority for front-line technicians who operate mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) and climb scaffolding or ladders to complete tasks in and around institutional and commercial facilities.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2020 shows a decrease of non-fatal injuries from 244,000 in 2019 to 211,640 in 2020. But the decrease in the injury rate can largely be attributed to the pandemic, which is why managers should not be too encouraged about the 2020 numbers.
When compared to the injury data from 2017-2019, we see an unfortunate increase from 227,760 to 244,000 injuries due to falls. This is a disturbing trend. The fatality data related to falls in 2020 has not been updated as of yet. However, we do have some prior year data from which we can draw conclusions. From 2014 through 2019, a troubling trend is emerging in which, on average, 838 workers fall to their deaths.
Serious injuries and fatalities continue to occur despite fall-protection violations making up 30 percent of OSHA’s top 10 violations for 2020, which is another continued historical trend.
Ramping up training
In order to stem the tide, facility managers need to do more to train frontline workers on ways to identify hazards related to falls and the methods they can use to protect themselves. This effort includes the proper use of MEWPs and ladders, and the practice of effectively wearing personal fall arrest systems (PFAS)
Poorly trained workers or those that are not trained to competently work at heights using work platforms, ladders, and scaffolding are subject to making critical mistakes that unfortunately can turn deadly. OSHA regulations require comprehensive training and until we as an industry recognize the relationship between lack of training and serious injuries and fatalities, these types of incidents will continue to occur.
Knowledge is the most important safety device on any site, says Kristen Panella, principal trainer and OSHA authorized trainer with Summit Safety & Efficiency Solutions. “PPE, fall equipment or any safety device is useless unless you have a well-trained, well-informed worker,” Panella says.
Training provides the necessary knowledge that workers need to not only know what to wear but how to wear it, when to wear it, when not to wear it and, most importantly, its limitations.Training is vital for protecting employees who are exposed to fall hazards.
It’s so important that OSHA has numerous requirements for employers to provide fall-protection training, These training requirements are based on the task and the industry the task is being completed in. Unfortunately, employers often fail to enforce safety regulations by looking the other way when employees disregard company fall-protection requirements.
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