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Fall hazards in unusual places — what you don’t know CAN hurt you

01-12-2011

This post was written by Rigid Lifelines, a leading provider of fall protection solution and OSHA fall protection information. They provide anything from a simple fall arrest harness, to a more comprehensive system.

Many fall hazards are obvious to even the untrained eye. Unenclosed elevated walkways, curved or slippery footways, and movable platforms all present clear fall hazards in the workplace. While Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations require fall protection to be provided for any worker who performs tasks at a height greater than 4 feet in general industry, sometimes fall hazards are present in unusual or unusual places.

A workplace risk assessment is one way to identify hidden fall hazards and can also aid in developing a comprehensive fall protection plan. Such risk assessments can reduce delays and down time at a facility by focusing on the specific tools and systems that can be applied to an identified fall hazard. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z359.4 indicates that an assessment of risk should be performed anywhere workers are likely to encounter a fall hazard.

Here we’ll review a few unusual fall hazards which present significant risks to workers if not addressed.

Example 1

Imagine a manhole or skylight that is typically sealed must remain open temporarily during a maintenance or repair procedure. Because the manhole or skylight is usually closed, no permanent fall protection system is in place. In such cases, a passive fall protection system like a portable guardrail may be sufficient. For workers who must climb into or out of the opening, however, an active fall protection system, such as a portable jib crane utilizing a self-retracting lanyard (SRL) and full-body harness, may be required.

Example 2

Cleaning of exhaust stacks, silos, oil or chemical tanks, food processing tanks, or other similar structures may not be required often, but when it is, it presents a clear fall risk.  Fall protection in such cases is usually multi-faceted. A combination of a crane, scaffolding, and personal fall protection equipment may be required to provide adequate fall safety.

Example 3

Unexpected or harsh weather conditions may pose additional risks to routine tasks. Harsh weather can reduce visibility, compromise footways, conceal anchor points, and make handholds difficult to grasp. Special fall protection measures may be required under such conditions. A portable gantry crane with enclosed tracks can supply a moveable overhead anchor point that is protected from ice, dirt, or chemicals.

These are only a few examples of unusual or atypical fall hazards. A fall hazard analysis and risk assessment can reveal such hazards and can help you select the most appropriate and cost-effective fall protection solutions.

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