Workplace safety is crucial to keeping employees safe. In 2019 alone, 880 workers died as a result of falling at their jobs. Setting up a fall protection safety plan can help you prevent events like this at your job sites. These plans require significant amounts of careful consideration to ensure the fall protection solutions are Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-compliant and effective for the given situation.
Learn how to set up a fall protection plan for your business, the best ways to assess your job sites and helpful tips for budgeting in this guide.
What Is a Fall Protection Safety Plan?
A fall protection plan outlines a safety strategy for employees working at high elevations. Writing out this method and putting it in place helps ensure working environments are safe for employees. Your plan should describe methods for fall protection and the equipment necessary to promote security. Every site will have different fall risks and safety hazards, so you’ll need a new plan based on the particular job and location.
Fall protection safety plans are necessary for businesses that have employees working at elevated heights. Government regulations also require these strategies because falls are one of the most common causes of severe workplace injuries and deaths. If your employees are working in elevated workspaces, having a fall protection plan is essential. You should also include training for your workers so that they know the risks mentioned in the document and understand how to use the safety equipment to help reduce the chance of falling.
Having OSHA-compliant fall protection and safety equipment is crucial, now more than ever, since OSHA has a new president. Proper fall protection equipment will keep your employees safe and help you avoid OSHA citations and costly fees.
Things to Include in a Fall Protection Safety Plan
If you’re writing a fall protection plan for the first time, ensure you’re incorporating the necessary aspects to create an effective safety strategy for your employees. Here are several features you should include:
- Job site information: Every job site is unique and will potentially have different fall risks, so it’s important to include information about the location, job foreman and safety manager, along with other general details specifying the area.
- Fall hazard assessments: This section is where you’ll keep track of all the potential fall hazards at the given job site. The number of risks will vary based on the site’s characteristics, but be sure to list hazards like floor holes, elevator shafts, window openings and platform edges.
- Fall protection equipment descriptions: OSHA requires employers to provide safety equipment for their employees, so include a list of all the necessary fall protection equipment you will issue to your workers, along with descriptions. There are numerous types of systems you may require your employees to use, including guardrails, harnesses, lifelines and more. Provide descriptions of each type of instrument you use, including the manufacturer.
- Safety equipment instructions: You should also make a point to outline methods of safely and effectively using the provided safety equipment. Include information about maintenance, assembly and disassembly to ensure your employees know how to properly use the tools you provide. In this section, you can also outline when and how workers should conduct inspections on the safety equipment.
- Equipment handling and storage strategies: When employees handle, use or store safety equipment improperly, it can result in damaged or worn equipment. For example, if your workers leave certain tools out in inclement weather, the material can rust and deteriorate prematurely, resulting in ineffective safety equipment. To ensure your employees know how and where to store their safety apparatus, outline this information in your plan.
- Overhead protection specifications: Ensure you also consider and address the overhead protection your employees should use. For example, hard hats are an important element in case debris or materials fall.
- Rescue plan outlines: Accidents are possible regardless of the number of safety protocols and equipment you have in place. In the rescue section of your fall protection plan, you should outline the procedure that your workers need to follow if a fall occurs. Include instructions as well as emergency phone numbers and the locations of first aid kits on site.
- Employee certification and training requirements: You’ll want to specify in the plan that all employees on the job site need to have the necessary qualifications and certificates to complete the project. Consider including a form your workers can sign that states they received the appropriate training to enter the job site.
After designing the fall protection plan, you should ensure your workers are aware of it. Communicating your detailed strategy with your employees will help reduce fall risks and make your job sites safer places to work.
What to Consider When Setting Up Your Fall Protection Plan
To be effective, the fall protection plans you write need to be specific and detailed each time. As you might imagine, there are many considerations that must go into creating such a detailed safety plan. Here are some important considerations to make when building your fall protection plan.
Aspects to Look for When Assessing the Site
One of the first things you should do when setting up a fall protection plan is to look for any potential fall hazard at the job site. There are several specific types of hazards and risks you should keep an eye out for. To assist you, we developed a five-step method at FIXFAST USA to ensure you know what to look for when assessing all aspects of your sites for hazards and how to apply potential solutions.
Using our “High Five” methodology, you’ll be able to thoroughly check for and resolve any fall hazards before your employees enter the job site. Here are the five areas we recommend addressing:
- Roof access: A good starting place is determining how workers access the roof or elevated workspace. Since most fall accidents occur at this stage, it’s best to ensure the access points are compliant with OSHA regulations. Methods of access vary depending on the site, though some common approaches include a roof hatch, fixed ladder, portable ladder, elevated work platform or exterior stairs. Ensure the access points are OSHA compliant and secure, necessary fall protection is in place, and only authorized individuals can enter the area.
- Roof access fall hazards: Next, consider what hazards may be present at the access points. If workers could be exposed to a four-foot fall or more, there is a risk and you should incorporate fall protection. In many cases, guardrails provide effective protection at the tops of fixed ladders and stairs, as well as around roof hatches. Additionally, self-closing gates are required at access points to remain compliant. If workers use unsecured access points, like portable ladders, consider securing the equipment with brackets to ensure it’s safe for use.
- Designated walkway routes: Designated walkway routes are clearly defined paths for workers to walk on to ensure they avoid fall hazards. For example, if stationary hazards like skylights, vents, leading edges, openings and more are present, then you can install designated walkways to help workers maneuver around these fall hazards. Some applications of walkways may benefit from guardrails as well, while others may only need brightly colored warning lines. Ensure you train your workers thoroughly on the importance of staying on the intended paths.
- Equipment near fall hazards: In your assessment, you should locate any equipment in the elevated area that is in a danger zone. This situation is common when workers are working on a roof or performing rooftop maintenance. When work is being done on a low slope roof, ensure that any equipment is surrounded by guardrails if it’s within 15 feet of a leading edge or fall hazard. Other solutions could include warning lines or fall restraint systems, depending on the application.
- Leading edges: These areas raise serious risks, especially if there are trip hazards or slippery surfaces. Be sure to consider how changing weather can add to these hazards. Similar to the previous step, effective solutions for leading edges include guardrails, warning lines, fall restraints and lifelines.
Creating a fall protection plan can be challenging, but you’ll be able to accurately address high-risk hazards in frequently accessed work areas with our structured approach and High Five method. Download our detailed guide for more information.
Budgeting for Fall Protection
While an unlimited safety budget is every company’s dream, businesses need to retain money. Most often, you’ll have to obtain the necessary fall protection and safety equipment while staying within a set monetary amount. The best way to budget for safety equipment is to assess the site early on and plan ahead to prepare for safety costs.
Broadly speaking, you can plan for general safety costs based on aspects like what training courses will be required and how many employees will need personal protection equipment (PPE) in the next year. When calculating these amounts, be sure to account for any anticipated growth or new hires that will also need training and PPE. Considering these aspects ahead of time helps you prevent unexpected costs that you could’ve prepared for.
In terms of fall protection equipment, planning ahead is crucial, especially when working with a budget. Getting out and assessing your job sites for fall hazards as early as you can will allow you to determine what fall protection equipment you already have and what you’ll need to get. Being proactive will help you more efficiently plan around your budget.
When purchasing new PPE and fall protection equipment, carefully consider the benefits of each option. Safety equipment can range significantly in price and quality. You should avoid buying cheap safety equipment because it usually costs less for a reason. For example, two harnesses may both meet the same requirements but have drastically different prices. Lower prices often mean you’re sacrificing something, whether it’s the functionality or comfort of the equipment you’re buying or another important element.
In general, equipment that is of higher quality is typically worth the investment to ensure safety, comfort and OSHA compliance. While saving money is important, spending more of the budget on high-quality tools is worth the extra price in most cases. Your workers will appreciate well-made instruments and you may cut costs by avoiding fines related to compliance.
Other things to consider when choosing equipment is what your wants and needs are. If you can get virtually the same PPE for a more cost-effective price, take advantage of those situations. Additionally, buy your equipment in bulk when you’re able to. Many manufacturers offer bulk-order discounts that you can use to stay within your budget in the long run.
Choose Effective Fall Protection Equipment
Choosing appropriate fall protection equipment that will be effective in your employees’ work applications is an essential aspect of a fall protection safety plan. As each job site is distinctive, you will need different safety solutions at your various sites. The unique requirements of each job site and safety plan can make choosing your fall protection equipment a bit challenging at times. You need to be sure you’re purchasing fall protection equipment that will be effective in the given application.
For instance, lifelines and fall restraints are extremely valuable and useful fall protection safety equipment. However, in certain applications, they may not be as necessary when another solution could suffice. To be more specific, using fall restraints may not be appropriate in locations where designated walkways would be more than adequate. Purchasing this equipment for the job will take valuable money from other aspects, such as well-made walkway solutions that are OSHA compliant. Keep in mind, however, that some applications may require more than one safety product.
It’s important that you’re choosing fall protection equipment specifically for the hazards at the given site. Selecting effective products for each job and the work it requires will help create safer work environments. Assessing the conditions and workspace using the High Five method we mentioned earlier can help you determine what solutions may be appropriate for a given fall hazard. You should also make sure to encourage your workers to willingly use the fall protection you provide.
Invest in FIXFAST USA Fall Protection Products
As a family-owned business with over 40 years in the safety industry, we understand the importance of workers returning home to their family members every day. Family is the main reason behind why we provide access and fall protection solutions and education for workers so that they’re protected from workplace hazards. With the right assessment methods, you’ll be confident you identified all fall hazards and incorporated the appropriate fall protection equipment, which is why we developed our High Five method for finding job site hazards.
In addition, by incorporating effective training and proper fall protection equipment, you can help your workers will feel confident entering a job site knowing there are methods and tools in place to keep them safe. At FIXFAST USA, we offer various fall and access safety solutions so you can provide a secure and compliant work environment for your employees. For more information regarding our programs, training courses or products, contact our team of experts today.