If you're like most people, you probably think about the construction industry when the topic of fall-related injuries and deaths is brought up. That makes sense, given that construction work often involves working at heights - and that falls account for 37% of all construction worker deaths.
The risk of work-related falls extends beyond the construction industry and into the general industry sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 261 general industry workers fell to their death each year between 2006-2012. In addition, fall injuries in general industry account for over 48,000 lost workdays. These lost workdays reduce productivity and increase your company's medical costs - thus impacting your bottom line.
OSHA regulates fall-related hazards for general industry in its "Walking-Working Surfaces" Standards. These standards define walking-working surfaces as surfaces "on or through which an employee walks, works, or gains access to a work area or workplace location." This broad definition includes surfaces which are horizontal, vertical, or inclined such as "floors, ladders, stairways, steps, roofs, ramps, runways, aisles, scaffolds, dock boards, and step bolts."
The standards address the following fall hazards:
- Falls on the Same Level: keep walking-working surfaces clean, as dry as possible, and free of trip hazards. Comply with load ratings and cover or guard all floor holes.
- Falling Objects: install toe boards, safety nets, and other barriers to prevent overhead objects from falling and injuring workers below. If possible, prohibit workers from entering the falling object zone. Require hard hats if this is infeasible.
- Falls from Heights: prevent workers from falling off the sides and edges of roofs, stairs, docks, or any other elevated surface by installing guard rails or providing personal fall protection systems (fall arrest, travel restraint, or positioning systems). Ensure that ladders and scaffolds meet OSHA requirements.
The Walking-Working Surface Standards were revised earlier this year. They now incorporate technological advances that have occurred since the standards were published over 45 years ago. Many of the standards include design and performance requirements as well as requirements to inspect many fall-protection elements and items.
Note: 29 CFR 1910.30 requires that employees who are exposed to fall hazards receive training that includes the following safety and health topics: the types of fall hazards in your facility, procedures to protect employees from these hazards, and all aspects of personal fall protection systems (how to install, operate, store, inspect, etc.)
Does your facility have fall hazards? Do you comply with OSHA's revised walking-working surfaces standards? Cashins & Associates, Inc. can evaluate your fall protection and health and safety programs and train your employees. Click on the icon at the right to submit your inquiry now. We hope to hear from you!