The ABC’s of Fall Prevention

Photos: Malta Dynamics

Falls accounted for almost 40 percent of fatalities in construction in 2017, according to OSHA, and failure to provide fall protection remains the most frequently cited OSHA violation. Nearly 400 construction workers died in the United States as a result of falls in 2017 alone. These are more than statistics on a page; these sobering numbers mean as much to the roofing industry as they do to any other profession. By nature, roofing jobs require working at heights, where we and our teams may be exposed to fall risks. It’s important to do everything we can to mitigate these risks and ensure that we and our teams go home safely at the end of the day.

Some simple precautions early on can prevent much more dangerous and costly scenarios later. Fall restraint and restricting access to hazardous areas can prevent falls in the first place, which is the preferred approach whenever possible. Guardrails are an excellent, cost-effective way to restrict access to roof perimeters, skylights, roof hatches, ladder access points, and other fall hazards. If your jobsite lacks these safety features, temporary guardrails are available that don’t penetrate the roof and damage it. These portable, free-standing safety rail systems are great for temporary jobsites or one-time contracts, where you aren’t installing permanent guardrail fixtures.

Whenever workers need to access areas in which there is a fall risk, however, fall protection is key. Personal fall protection systems are a cost-effective way to ensure the safety of your team. The basic ABC’s of fall protection are Anchors, Bodywear, and Connectors, which combine to make a complete personal fall arrest system.

Anchors

Anchors are the fixed points on a roof to which personal fall protection gear can be tied off. Anchors provide a solid foundation for any fall protection system, ensuring the rest of the worker’s fall protection equipment is secured to a stable point that can support their weight and the force of a fall.

Many styles of roof anchors are available, including standard single-worker anchors, four-way anchor plates, and swiveling anchor points that allow for increased working range, as well as reusable anchors that can be installed with screws or nails for temporary use on rooftops.

Bodywear

The gold standard of bodywear for fall protection is a full body harness. The full body harness is the roofer’s equivalent of a sailor’s life vest — both can save one’s life in an emergency. Worn properly, harnesses evenly distribute the force of stopping a fall throughout the parts of the body best able to absorb it — across the larger muscles of the legs, shoulders and chest.

Few other pieces of equipment are as personal to the user as one’s harness, so it’s important to find one that fits well and is comfortable to wear. Many harnesses offer optional padding for the back, neck and shoulders to help keep the pressure off, even when wearing a toolbelt. One-piece designs eliminate shoulder pad slippage and help to keep the harness and padding in place, allowing it to be worn safely and comfortably even while moving around on the jobsite.

Connectors

Connectors include self-retracting lifeline (SRLs), shock-absorbing lanyards and vertical lifeline assemblies. These components are what actively arrest a fall and stop an uncontrolled descent. They also assist in absorbing the fall’s impact and diverting some of the stopping force away from the worker’s body and harness.

An important factor to consider when choosing a connector for roofing jobsites is the location of your anchor point relative to the working surface. Most standard SRL and lanyard systems are designed for overhead tie-off, but this isn’t always possible when working on a rooftop. When you’re working on a leading edge — a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level — and you don’t have an overhead anchor point, foot-level tie-off requires a different style of connector that’s designed and rated specifically for these kinds of applications.

Of course, all the best fall protection gear in the world means little if your crew doesn’t know how to use it correctly or fails to wear it because it’s uncomfortable or ill-fitting. Training and proper fitting and use of personal fall arrest systems is an important final step to take with your teams.

OSHA 29 CFR 1926.503 states: “Employers must provide a fall protection training program to workers who might be exposed to fall hazards. Training must include how to recognize fall hazards and how to minimize them.” OSHA cited 1,978 companies for failure to properly train their teams in 2018, up from 1,728 citations in 2017.

Simply purchasing fall protection equipment isn’t enough to keep your workers safe. Your team needs to know how to properly use, inspect and store safety equipment to prevent injury, and your equipment must be properly maintained and kept in good repair. Safety training courses are available from fall protection equipment manufacturers, who can train your teams on how to inspect, use and maintain their products. Knowing how to identify jobsite hazards, having a fall protection plan that meets your jobsite’s specifications and a rescue plan prepared should anything go wrong are all part of any successful training program.

Coming to a jobsite prepared to employ fall prevention, equipped with personal fall protection, and trained in the proper use of your safety systems lays the groundwork for keeping your crew safe when working on roofing projects at heights. These precautionary steps are important to ensuring that your team members don’t become another statistic.

About the Author: David Ivey is a Fall Protection Engineer for Malta Dynamics, where he oversees the engineering and installation of all custom fall protection systems. For more information or with questions about OSHA compliance of fall protection systems, contact him by email at divey@maltadynamics.com.

Understanding the New OSHA Regulations for Fixed Ladders

As of November 19,2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) implemented new requirements for fixed ladders on buildings. Understanding these new ladder regulations can be confusing, and you can spend a great deal of time referencing the standard interpretations pages on the OSHA website and still not find the answers you need. 

In this article, we will be referencing the OSHA fixed ladder rules found under Occupational Health and Safety Standards, Subpart D, Standard 1910.28, “Duty to Have Fall Protection and Falling Object Protection.” We will address some of the most frequently asked questions about the regulations for fixed ladders and include some tips and links to other resources for more information. 

What has OSHA changed?

The first and primary change is the phasing out of cages on fixed ladders. Many see this as a step forward for ladder safety. The reality is that cages offer little in the way of fall protection. In fact, they can increasethe risk of injury during a fall. 

Should we order our new ladder with a cage or not?

Under the new rules, cages are not required or recommended for any new ladder installation. We will get deeper into what this means for existing ladders later in this article.

The next question is if OSHA takes away cages, how are they planning to protect people from falls? This is accomplished using a personal fall arrest system (PFAS) or ladder safety system. These come in wide variety of designs. 

Three primary types are:

1. Bolt-on cable systems (with a cable grab fall arrester)

2. Track systems (with a climbing trolley)

3. Top-mounted self-retracting lifelines

Of course, each type has its advantages and disadvantages. The key is that each must meet the minimum OSHA requirements outlined in section 1926.502(d) of the OSHA codes. 

When is a PFAS Required?

Under the new regulations, a ladder over 24 feet high will require a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system. You can choose any PFAS provided it meets the OSHA requirements in section 1926.502(d).

Please note: A ladder that is less than 24 feet high does not require a fall arrest system of any sort. 

What about landing platforms?

Multi-section ladders with a climb of 24 feet or more require rest points. These are meant to protect climbers as they ascend. Previously, a fixed ladder with a cage required a landing platform at a maximum interval of 30 feet.

The new regulations change this requirement dramatically. Fixed ladders without cages must now have a landing platform at maximum intervals of 150 feet. Ladders with cages must now have a landing platform at maximum intervals of 50 feet. 

How do the new rules affect existing ladders?

Under the new rules, the modification of an existing ladder or replacement of a ladder section requires that the modified or replaced section be equipped with a fall arrest system. 

By November 18, 2036, allladders 24 feet or higher must be retrofitted with a PFAS or ladder safety system.

Here’s the confusing part: Will all existing ladders with cages have to be replaced, or at least have the cages removed? No.The existing caged ladder can stay. But as outlined above, a fall arrest system of some type will have to be retrofitted. 

In such cases, the cage must not interfere with whatever fall arrest system is installed. Choosing the right type fall arrest is critical in these retrofit situations.

What questions should I ask then choosing a fall arrest system?

While the fall arrest systems themselves are not that complicated, the burden often falls on the purchaser to try to figure out all the parts and pieces needed to make their ladder OSHA compliant. 

It’s not uncommon to select a fall arrest system, only to find out the product or that the accessories needed to make it compliant might be discontinued or out of stock. This leads to a list of questions that you need to ask prior to picking a fall arrest system:

· Will this system work with my ladder and the height of my climb?

· What is the system’s load capacity? 

· Will the system allow for only one or for multiple climbers? How many?

· What is the true product cost? You need to gather information on the cost of not only the base components, but any accessories needed to make the system OSHA compliant, such as harnesses, cable grabs, trolleys, carabiners, etc. 

· Is the system, and all its accessories, readily available?

· Will replacement parts be available in the future?

Where can I turn for more information about ladder regulations? 

Reputable manufacturers and suppliers of ladders and fall protection equipment should have experienced personnel on hand that can help you navigate the new OSHA regulations. The OSHA website includes the regulations cited above, as well as a Q and A section that covers fixed ladders (https://www.osha.gov/walking-working-surfaces/faq.html). Contractors can also contact their area OSHA representative for assistance. 

Other OSHA ladder resources available online include:  https://www.osha.gov/stopfalls/trainingresources.html  and https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/alliances/alliance_products.html#Ladder.

The American Ladder Safety Institute also provides an online ladder safety training resource: https://www.laddersafetytraining.org/

About the author: Chris Lafferty is a sales and marketing associate with Design Components Inc., a full-service provider of fixed ladders and fall protection accessories. For more information, visit www.designcomponents.com

Lifeline Works Like a Seatbelt

Latchways has introduced the next-generation ManSafe Mini Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL) to its portfolio.

Latchways has introduced the next-generation ManSafe Mini Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL) to its portfolio.

Latchways has introduced the next-generation ManSafe Mini Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL) to its portfolio. Smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the product features a patented, frictionless braking system and multiple spring radial energy-absorbing technology. Weighing a little more than 2 pounds when fitted with a double-locking snap hook, the mini is 6 feet in length. It can be used with a forged-steel snaphook, carabiner/hook and aluminum scaffolding hook. SRLs work in a similar manner to a seatbelt, permitting normal movement to facilitate work but in the event of a sudden fall, the mechanism locks, preventing any further movement. The SRL accommodates users from 132 to 309 pounds, including tools.