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The Hierarchy of Fall Protection and Avoiding Fall Protection Misuse

The Hierarchy of Fall Protection is the recommended order of control to eradicate or decrease fall hazards. This approach echoes regular safety practices for hazard reduction, from elimination all the way to administrative controls. With the data gathered from the fall hazard assessments, every solution in the hierarchy may be employed on every hazard.

1. Hazard Elimination

The favored solution to any fall hazard is elimination. The reason behind exposure to the fall hazard is tested to establish if changing the procedure, practice, location or equipment will block exposure to the fall hazard. Indicating HVAC (Heating, Venting and Air Conditioning) equipment be installed on the ground, or in an equipment room instead of by the edge of the roof, is one demonstration of hazard elimination.

2. Passive Fall Protection

Physical barriers, such as guardrails and covers over holes, constitute passive fall protection. Passive protection is essentially employed to increase level of safety because the chance for error is lower than with using personal protective equipment (PPE). The upfront costs of passive protection, though likely high, are typically more justified than long-term PPE costs. Passive protection may however not be guaranteed if fall hazard exposure is limited in terms of frequency and duration. An complete hazard assessment supplies the information vital to making these types of decisions to increase cost-effectiveness.

3. Fall Restraint Systems

Fall restraint systems are installed so that a fall cannot take place. Fall restraint systems rely on PPE to control the worker’s range of movement to keep them from physically moving towards the fall hazard. Although fall restraint systems are usually underutilized for the reason they are not particularly mentioned in various regulations, they are still preferred over fall arrest systems. Free fall distance is not a problem for fall restraint systems, so clearance requirements, arresting forces, secondary injuries, etc. are virtually ruled out.

4.Fall Arrest Systems

Fall restraint systems are intended to let a fall occur but be arrested within non-hazardous clearance and force margins. Fall arrest systems have a greater accompanying risk, since the falling worker has to be stopped with an acceptable amount of force and kept from touching the ground or surrounding structure. Proper training for both fall restraint and fall arrest systems is crucial.

5. Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are preventive solutions applied to minimize the probability of a fall. They include but are not restricted to warning lines, control lines, designated areas and safety monitors. It must as well be noted that OSHA controls the use of several administrative controls, and it rests upon the fall protection program administrator to determine the regulations and jurisdictions relevant to them.

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