Fall Prevention Systems

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Fall protection encompasses a wide variety of means to protect workers from fall hazards on the job. Fall protection systems serve one of two basic functions:

  1. Prevent or restrain a worker from falling; and
  2. Safely stop (or arrest) a worker who falls.

There are many types of fall protection systems available to employers and employees to prevent falls.

Guardrail Systems and Toeboards
A guardrail is a vertical barrier normally consisting of an assembly of top rails, midrails, and posts erected to prevent employees from falling to lower levels. A toeboard is a barrier placed to prevent the fall of materials to a lower level.

Handrail and Stair Rail Systems
A handrail is used to assist employees going up or down stairways, ramps, or other walking/working surfaces by providing a handhold for support. A stair rail protects employees from falling over the edge of an open-sided stairway.

Designated Areas
This term refers to a space which has a perimeter barrier erected to warn employees when they approach an unprotected side or edge, and also designates an area where work may be performed without additional fall protection.

Hole Covers
Hole covers guard floor openings of at least two inches in size and must be capable of supporting the maximum intended load.

Safety Net Systems
Safety nets are designed to catch employees who have fallen off a work surface and bring them to a stop before contacting surfaces or structures below. Safety net systems typically consist of mesh nets, including panels, connectors, and other impact-absorbing components.

Ladder Cages

Ladder cages are barriers surrounding or nearly surrounding the climbing area of a ladder. They fasten to the ladder’s side rails, one side rail or other structures.

Ramps and Bridging Devices
A ramp is an inclined surface between different elevations for the passage of employees, vehicles, or both. A bridging device is a surface which spans a gap between a loading dock and a vehicle or between vehicles. It may be fixed, portable, adjustable, powered, or non-powered. It may also be called a dock board.

Slip-resistant Floors
Slip-resistant flooring material such as textured, serrated, or punched surfaces and steel grating may increase slip resistance. These types of floors are used in work areas that are generally slippery because of wet, oily, or dirty operations. Slip-resistant footwear may also be useful in reducing slip hazards.

Personal Fall Arrest System
A personal fall arrest system is used to stop an employee safely after a fall from a working level. It consists of an anchor, connectors, body harness, and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or some combination of these. Careless or improper use of equipment can result in serious injury or death. Both the employee and employer should know how to use personal fall arrest systems and follow manufacturer recommendations. Before you use equipment and after any component change, learn to use the system safely.

Anchor: A secure point of attachment for lifelines, lanyards, or deceleration devices that is independent of the means of support or suspension of an employee.

Connector: A device used to connect parts of the system together. It may be an independent component or an integral part of the system.

Harness: An arrangement of straps fastened such that the torso is supported during a fall. OSHA recommends that workers use full body harnesses instead of body belts to more evenly distribute the shock wave that occurs in a fall. OSHA also cautions against the use of non-locking type snap hooks.

Lanyard: A flexible line of rope, wire rope, or strap which generally has a connector at each end for connecting the harness to a deceleration device, lifeline, or anchorage. The lanyard may be a rope, shock-absorbing, or web lanyard no longer than six feet. The shock-absorbing lanyard will substantially reduce the force created from arresting a fall. Another type of lanyard is a self-retractable lanyard that allows freedom of movement but protects the worker should a fall occur. The webbing moves with the worker, pulling out when the person moves forward and retracting when the worker moves back. If the worker falls the unit locks, restricting the fall distance to two feet or less.

Deceleration Device: Any mechanism, such as rope grabs, ripstitch lanyards, specially-woven lanyards, tearing or deforming lanyards, automatic self-retracting lifelines/lanyards, etc., which serves to dissipate a substantial amount of energy during a fall arrest or otherwise limit the energy imposed on an employee during a fall arrest.

The lifeline may be vertical or horizontal. Vertical lifelines may only support one worker at a time. Horizontal lifelines may be subjected to greater loads than vertical lifelines and may be designed to support more than one worker. Self-retracting lifelines provide mobility as well as worker protection. The line retracts as the worker moves toward the unit and pulls out as the worker moves away. If the worker slips or falls, the sudden jerk on the cable activates the breaking mechanism, and the worker is brought to a stop within two feet.

Positioning Device Systems
A positioning device is a system of equipment or hardware, including work positioning and travel restricting systems, which when used with a body harness can support an employee in a work position, such as at a wall or windowsill, and allows work with both hands free. This equipment includes a lineman’s body belts and pole straps and a window cleaner’s belts as well as saddle belts, ladder belts, rebar belts, chain assemblies, restraint lines, and associated components.

KEMI does not assume liability for the content of information contained herein. Safety and health remain your responsibility. This information is to be used for informational purposes only and not intended to be exhaustive or a substitute for proper training, supervision or manufacturers’ instructions/recommendations. KEMI, by publication of this information, does not assume liability for damage or injury arising from reliance upon it. Compliance with this information is not a guarantee or warranty that you will be in conformity with any laws or regulations nor does it ensure the absolute safety of any person, place or object, including, but not limited to, you, your occupation, employees, customers or place of business.