Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Getting Started with Managed Fall Protection: A Proposed ANSI Standard Offers Companies a Effective Framework for Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Falls

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Getting Started with Managed Fall Protection: A Proposed ANSI Standard Offers Companies a Effective Framework for Preventing Injuries and Deaths from Falls

Article excerpt

Since the late 1980s, when OSHA and ANSI introduced standards for fall protection, companies have been tackling the issue of fall hazards. Initially, companies thought fall protection equipment was the sole method to protect their workers against injuries and fatalities resulting from working at heights. But given the high number of fatalities that continued to occur both in general industry and construction, the sole use of fall protection equipment was being reevaluated.

Emerging through this time period was an awareness of the need to use an integrated approach of engineering and safety. Gradually, companies realized this approach would help them to protect lives, but there wasn't a single standard centered on this integrated approach that addressed and structured all the issues associated with fall protection. This void motivated the ANSI Z359.1 committee to put together a document that outlined a standardized approach to make it easier to develop and implement a fall protection program. The ANSI standard should be finalized this winter.

Calling the managed fall protection program a "milestone in the maturity of the practice of fall protection," Dr. Frank Weisgerber, structural engineering professor at the University of Cincinnati and committee member, noted that up until this effort, fall protection programs were not fully developed. "Now," he says, "there is a standardized approach that helps individuals and their companies to develop a program that is more appropriate and efficient, therefore more effective, than a patchwork approach."

Getting Started. The cornerstone of the managed fall protection program is the process of pre-planning, which includes identifying the people, items and issues involved. It is important to make certain that all the factors have been identified and considered while you are developing your program. Since new terms have been added and responsibilities expanded, the best place to begin is with the definitions. As you review the definitions, you will begin to understand what is involved with this program and why training plays such a critical role. You could even begin to consider who in your staff could fulfill these responsibilities.

A key individual in the managed fall protection program is the program administrator. This role should be filled by someone with the ability to communicate well with both staff and management. He must also be able to help the company's financial team to understand the value of good versus cheap equipment. He should possess a general safety background and have completed the competent person training (we recommend a 40-plus hour course).

The next pivotal player is the competent person, usually a foreman, supervisor or safety person. This person needs to have strong communication skills and be willing to learn new ways. He can't have the "we've never done it this way before" attitude or your program will have problems getting off the ground. Your core competent persons should make up the fall protection committee.

The qualified person should be a structural or civil engineer with advanced training, knowledge and experience in fall protection. This person must know how to develop fall protection abatement procedures and understand that different abatement solutions have different required anchorage strengths. In addition, he or she needs to be able to design fall protection systems based on the fall protection equipment that will be used. While other roles aren't insignificant, these three play critical roles in the success of your managed fall protection program.

Next, you can assess the current condition of your fall protection program. This is the point where you identify members of the fall protection committee and begin to develop your approach to addressing fall hazards. Since people are less likely to argue with their own data, begin the process by collecting information that will be used for directing your program. …

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