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December 21, 2004
Fall Prevention Training Helps Assure A Soft Landing

Falls are a leading cause of work-related deaths-and are almost completely preventable. While most falls occur in the construction industry, the problem is by no means limited to construction work. General industry experiences thousands of serious accidents each year from employees falling from or through roofs, platforms, ladders, scaffolds, and openings in floors or walls. OSHA believes that almost all such accidents could be prevented through the use of basic safeguards such as guard rails, safety harnesses, and other fall arrest equipment.

Develop your own training program for fall protection. OSHA regulations for general industry provide very little guidance for such training. Yet it's clear that in any workplace where falls could occur, employers should address this issue through employee training as well as by providing the physical safeguards that are required in the standards. A basic training outline might include:

  • Recognize the hazards-Identify the locations, conditions, and situations in your workplace where falls might happen.
  • Understand the need for safety equipment-Employees probably don't need to know the detailed OSHA specifications for guardrails and other fall protection devices, but they definitely should understand that such equipment is required on or around platforms, catwalks, openings, or wherever there is a fall hazard.
  • Know how to use PPE-Personal fall arrest equipment, such as safety harnesses, is considered to be a type of PPE that requires thorough training in how to use it properly, in compliance
    Why It Matters...
    • OSHA estimates that there are about 68,000 fall-related injuries in the workplace each year.
    • Falls of all types in North America account for an estimated 800,000 injuries per year, including 13,000 deaths.
    • OSHA's General Industry standard for guarding floor and wall openings had more than 1,400 citations in FY 2003, with penalties of more than $1.2 million.
    with OSHA regs (29 CFR 1910.132).
  • Use common sense-Falls often occur when employees are careless or foolish; for example, there have been several instances of deaths from workers standing or leaning on skylights.
  • Take action to prevent tragedies-Encourage employees to develop a strong "safety sense" about possible fall hazards, to take all possible precautions in potentially hazardous situations, and to report any unsafe conditions (such as missing guardrails or other safety equipment) immediately.

Employees should know when a harness or other fall arrest equipment is required. It's helpful to have specific rules, or at least clear guidelines, especially if these go beyond OSHA requirements. As an example, several companies have adopted a rule that all work that takes place 6 feet or more off the ground requires employees to wear complete fall protection equipmenta--rule that has saved lives more than once.

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