If your business offerings require employees to work at height, you are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to utilize fall protection systems to protect your employees. While protection requirements vary depending on your industry, in general, if a task exposes workers to falls of four or more feet, some form of protection system must be in place to reduce the risk of injury.
What is a fall protection system?
A fall protection system is a back up to a worker’s loss of balance. For many people, active fall protection equipment such as a harness is the first thing that comes to mind. There are multiple fall protection systems available. Passive systems protect people from fall hazards, restraint systems stop people from falling and arrest systems actually arrest people if they are subjected to a fall. When there is a fall hazard of 4 foot or more, the employer must ensure each employee is protected from falling by a guardrail system, safety net system, travel restraint system, or personal fall arrest system.
Types of fall protection systems
Every application is different and the selection of the correct fall protection system is crucial. Several common fall protection systems are as follows:
Guardrail systems: A guardrail system provides a continuous barrier that protects workers from fall hazards while providing the ability to move freely around the elevated area. Various guardrail systems are available to suit different surface types. Guardrails provide the optimum fall protection system as they are low maintenance, require minimal training and have no capacity restrictions.
Lifeline systems: A lifeline system provides users continuous attachment to a roof-mounted cable or rail, reducing the risk of falling from roofs due to slips or trips. These systems can provide both restraint and arrest fall protection. In restraint mode, the worker is restricted from falling. In arrest mode, should a user fall, the lifeline system will keep them from harm due to impacting the ground. These systems can be used in horizontal, vertical, and overhead applications thanks to multiple mounting options.
Anchor points: A permanent anchor point is ideal for maintenance at height and works in conjunction with a safety harness and lanyard system to keep workers safe. The anchor point is mounted on the roof and typically features an energy-absorbing swivel eye to distribute the force of a falling worker’s weight should a fall occur. Its anchor plate distributes weight evenly to the surrounding area, keeping the point safe and secure for maintenance use, even in lighter structures or constructions. Their low aesthetic profile limits the potential impact to your building’s visual profile, but they can limit flexibility offered by other systems.
Overhead track systems: Fixed overhead systems are commonly used in indoor areas such as truck bays, aircraft hangers, freight facilities, and more. These systems operate similarly to a roof-mounted lifeline, except the anchor point is above workers and mounted to the ceiling or another provided framework. These require appropriate harness and lanyard use as well to ensure safety. Portable and fixed options are available and can be customized to fit a location’s safety needs.
What type of fall protection is right for me?
Determining what type of fall protection system meets your facility’s needs can be difficult. It depends on the amount of time workers will spend in the tall area, what sort of work will be completed, and the amount of flexibility needed to complete the work. As OSHA regulates what type of fall protection systems are required, it is of the utmost importance that you select your systems carefully and correctly. Our team of experts at FIXFAST USA will help you determine the right solution to your needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.