Your Attention is Required
According to recent statistics released in 2012 by WorkSafeBC—also known as the Workers’ Compensation Board of B.C.—falls are the number one cause of injury in British Columbia’s construction industry, responsible for a full quarter of the compensation claims filed and almost 40 percent of overall claim costs. Fall and repetitive motion injuries also require the longest average recovery times—in most cases in excess of two months.
No matter where you live, you simply cannot ignore the idea of employee training and fall protection products known to effectively reduce the number and severity of your employees’ falls and fall-related injuries.
Situations Legally Requiring Fall Protective Measures
There are several common construction situations that legally require the implementation of both active and passive fall prevention systems. According to Ontario’s legal requirements for the construction industry, if a particular assignment has the potential for any of the following accidents, a fall prevention system and a specific written rescue system must be in place:
- Falling from a distance of greater than 3 meters or 9.8 feet;
- Falling from a distance of greater than 1.2 meters or 3.9 feet if the general area is specifically used as a pathway for self-propelled equipment—such as a wheelbarrow—or motorized equipment;
- Falling into any moving or stationary machinery in operation;
- Falling into any liquid, including water;
- Falling into or striking any hazardous object, substance or machinery;
- Falling through a work site opening on the floor or through the walls, such as a window frame or a floor ladder cutout.
Common Measures to Stop Falls
The two most common measures to arrest falls and fall injuries are personal fall arrest harnesses and catch platform strategies. The latter is commonly used for larger and higher building construction sites.
Personal Fall Arrest Methods
A full body harness is the most commonly used method of personal fall arrest, particularly in the roofing trade. It’s the natural evolution of the belt used for many decades. While the belt undoubtedly saved many lives, it also contributed to a few by concentrating the full force of a fall’s deceleration at the waist where most of the major organ systems are located. A full body harness distributes this same force over six different body points well away from vital organs.
In addition, some manufacturers have designed lanyards with an area of stretch rubber to provide additional shock absorption. Body harnesses must be the correct size for the worker and are required to be an ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Class III harness. Finally, all workers should be trained in the application of a full body harness and the rescue of a coworker who has fallen with an attached harness.
Catch Platform Fall Arrest Methods
While ANSI body harnesses may initially be expensive investments, they can be used over and over again at different sites. The catch platform method, however, is constructed around the periphery of the roof upon which workers are using. They are literally designed to catch a worker who has fallen off the roof so that he avoids injury.
Catch platforms are as regulated as body harnesses. They must be constructed no more than 10 feet from the roof level so that the maximum fall a worker might make would be 10 feet or less. The width of the catch platform needs to be the height of the distance of the platform from the roof but never less than about two feet. For instance, a platform constructed six feet from the roof edge must be at least six feet wide. The catch platform must have guardrails for safety and cannot be used to store materials before use.
An Investment That Pays Dividends
Imagine that your workers’ compensation carrier contacts you to inform you that your premiums will be lowered by almost 40 percent. Consider the savings and man-hours when a quarter of your work force isn’t recovering from injuries sustained by a fall. And of course, the savings to a worker’s health, strength, work and home life can be invaluable.