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Understanding the Hierarchy of Fall Protection to Avoid Fall Protection Misuse

The Hierarchy of Fall Protection is the recommended order of control to eradicate or decrease fall hazards. This technique depicts usual safety practices for hazard reduction, from elimination to administrative controls. Employing the data obtained from the fall hazard assessments, solutions within the hierarchy can be used on the hazards.

1. Hazard Elimination

The preferent solution to each 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 – for example, guardrails for unprotected edges and covers on holes – are types of 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 initial costs of passive protection, while probably high, are generally more efficient than PPE’s long-term 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 set up to prevent falls from occurring. Fall restraint systems depend on PPE to limit the worker’s range of movement so they cannot go anywhere near the fall hazard. While fall restraint systems are typically underutilized as they are not mentioned in particular in a lot of regulations, they remain preferred over fall arrest systems. Free fall distance is not a concern for fall restraint systems, thereby practically eliminating arresting forces, secondary injuries, clearance requirements and the like.

4.Fall Arrest Systems

Fall restraint systems are set up so that falls are allowed by will be arrested within safe force and clearance limits. 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. Such include warning horns, control lines, safety monitors, and more. 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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