FUNDAMENTALS OF FALL PROTECTION

It’s not the fall that hurts – it’s the sudden stop.

I read the preceding statement while performing a simulated OSHA inspection. Most fall-related injuries result from the lack of fall protection. Additional injuries occur from improper use of fall protection – utilizing a body belt instead of a full body harness, improper use of lanyards, or utilizing an inadequate anchorage point. Falls from heights of 10 feet or greater almost always result in serious injury or death. It is important to note, however, that serious injuries and fatalities also commonly occur from fall heights of ten feet or less.

After retiring as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry Shelton fell approximately 10 feet from a metal ladder while trimming an oak tree outside his house. Attending physicians were doubtful that Shelton would ever walk again. It’s ironic that a former paratrooper who made 400 jumps without incident, some from 20,000 feet at night, was nearly paralyzed from a fall off a ladder!

OSHA lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for eight percent of all occupational fatalities from trauma. An OSHA study involving 99 fall-related fatalities suggests that virtually all of those deaths could have been prevented by the use of guardrails, body harnesses, safety nets, covers, or other means which would have reduced employee exposure to the fall hazard.

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