Within most field sites, fall protection is a paramount concern.
Tapping into Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) data, guidelines and fall protection requirements, this article navigates the essential fall safety tips, protocols, regulations, and operational workflows necessary to increase fall protection safety.
We’ll emphasize how digitized workflows can support safety protocols, using specialized software. Armed with this critical information, you can help to keep everyone on your construction sites safe and compliant.
OSHA and Fall Protection Compliance
According to the OSHA data, workplace falls are the leading cause of construction fatalities.
Working on roofs, ladders, scaffolding, and near edges and pits, or on other elevated platforms puts employees at risk of serious injury or death.
Fortunately, it’s possible to protect against falls with the right regulations, processes, and workflows in place. The OSHA guidelines set out clear requirements for field sites when it comes to fall protection safety.
These guidelines state that when working from a height of six feet or more, a guardrail system should be installed, as well as nets or fall-arrest systems to protect against accidents.
Additionally, as a safety-minded organization, you should approach fall protection in four different ways:
- Elimination: This is the first and foremost method of fall protection. Where possible, eliminating the need to work at heights is preferable. With certain types of construction, such as that of buildings, deep pile foundations, and utility installation, it’s impossible to entirely eliminate working at height. In these instances, project managers, superintendents, and safety managers should review work plans to minimize the need.
- Prevention: Preventing falls is often achieved through guardrails or barricades near edges. Prevention also includes using personal protective equipment (PPE), such as restraint lanyards and safety harnesses that restrict workers from approaching edges and pits.
- Arrest: This refers to a system that stops a fall as it’s happening. Fall-arrest systems may be general, such as safety nets, or personal, such as a lifeline.
- Administrative Control: Administrative controls won’t directly prevent a person from falling. However, this control type can involve the use of warning signs and mechanisms or involve hiring an observer to supervise.
The approach should also include daily construction reports, equipment inspections, as well as creating a policy for fall protection. This policy must then be enforced as part of the overall safety management strategy.
It is within administrative control that digitalized flows can play a critical part in ensuring warning signs are responded to quickly, as concerns spotted and photographed during a site inspection can be digitally shared within seconds.
Automated workflows and document management also ensure reporting is as accurate and compliant as possible, without the hassle of slow paper-based processes, and lost or missing information.
Read More: How to manage health and safety documentation for compliance using Fluix
Active Safety Management
A safety management plan must be proactive and anticipate any fall protection requirements associated with the work taking place. This must be achieved through extensive risk assessments, safety training checklists, and more. These processes can be digitized into automated workflows with a tool such as Fluix.
Once workflows are digitalized, tasks can be assigned and monitored, ensuring bottlenecks and delays which can affect onesite H&S are caught through the use of specialized software, like Fluix, with task completion notifications.
Although ongoing training is great, it’s not enough to provide a generic safety video in the hopes of improving fall protection compliance, especially on construction sites.
You need a comprehensive safety management plan that encompasses a team of professionals, including managers, inspectors, and auditors, to fulfill the following tasks:
- Identify fall hazards, such as pits, edges, ladders, scaffolding, and roof work
- Eliminate the need for fall protection by reducing the risk where possible
- Identify unsafe conditions and behaviors from site workers and third parties
- Gauge understanding and attitudes toward fall protection
- Confirm best practices for preventing all accidents
- Create and/or revise company-wide safety management policies
- Establish specific safety protocols for each new project
- Provide OSHA-compliant training for fall protection safety
- Engage with senior management to provide PPE and training
- Verify fall protection compliance in accordance with OSHA, company policy, and client requirements
- Perform random site visits to check compliance
- Undertake ongoing site safety audits
- Document the details of any accidents, incidents, or safety violations
- Provide ongoing additional training and education
Holistic safety processes across organizations, can then be broken down into individual digital workflows for specific projects and sites. These workflows then become repeatable, eliminating tedious paperwork for daily tasks, saving time and improving efficiency across the business.
Here’s an example of an Equipment Inspection workflow:
The workflow begins when a technician opens the equipment inspection checklist. They follow the steps outlined in the checklist and complete an inspection report as they go.
Once the checklist is complete, the report is submitted and forwarded to the relevant managers. This will include the technician’s manager as well as anyone responsible for follow-up actions.
Any necessary repairs or maintenance can then be scheduled as required.
Creating a Culture of Safety
In any workplace, it can be challenging to improve behavior and actions without cultivating the appropriate culture and conditions. To do this, it’s important to highlight how an increased understanding of safety measures can contribute to the effectiveness of fall protection measures.
While the needs of your company may vary, consider these approaches to developing a culture of safety:
Safety Is Success: Safety is important for its own sake. It’s not about checking boxes for OSHA compliance or reducing incidents to save money on insurance. Take action because you value the lives of your workers. Plus, project success cannot be measured or monitored without active safety measures, such as fall protection equipment inspections, in place.
Safety Is Everyone’s Business: If a leader isn’t enthusiastic and intentional about safety, employees likely won’t be either. Talk is easy, but action supports your commitment to making work environments safer. This also extends to your main and branch offices, as well as active construction zones. Safety needs to be a priority for absolutely everyone, from the site superintendent to the receptionist.
Education Matters: Regular fall protection safety training is important for all relevant workers. Implement a robust training initiative that ensures employees receive appropriate training. Naturally, office-based employees won’t need to learn about safety equipment to do their jobs, but they can benefit from being aware of workplace fall safety tips.
By digitalizing your training documents and setting up digital workflows to ensure they are received and read, you can ensure they are always up to date and to hand, which keeps workers safe and sites compliant.
Motivation Matters: Safety is often framed in terms of what’s best for the company, but consider reframing discussions in terms of what matters to each worker. For example, many employees have families they want to return to safely at the end of the day. When a person can internalize the idea that safety is not just about the company or the individual, but also the people they connect with, that person may change their attitudes and behaviors.
Prioritize Safety: Best practices should always be accommodated as much as possible. If a field employee notices a safety concern, how easy is it to report the issue? If a worker identifies a way to improve fall protection compliance, will that idea be shot down based on cost? When it comes to choosing protective gear, does your company always go for the least expensive choice, sacrificing quality and comfort? Take an honest assessment of where you are as a company and find ways to improve.
Address Bad Behavior: Your organization needs to take a hard line on penalizing non-compliance. The consequences of falls are not only costly with respect to lost time, lost wages, and fines – they can also be fatal. Your policy needs to clearly define the consequences of failure to comply. Will a worker be sent home without pay? Will an incident result in termination? This needs to be decided on and communicated clearly to everyone at all levels.
Incentivize Good Behavior: Employees should be rewarded for good behavior related to fall protection and other safety concerns. Consider awarding bonuses and other gifts to those who are exemplary when it comes to safety. You can boost enthusiasm by allowing employees to create campaigns, increase awareness, and take other actions that promote a culture of safety.
Using Fluix to Support Your Fall Protection Compliance
Fall protection compliance and general safety management require a top-down approach and the full support of all senior leaders.
Technology, such as Fluix, can be used to aid and enhance safety, both on-site and in the office.
Fluix is a versatile, user-friendly, and scalable platform that companies like yours can use to optimize and automate processes and workflows. It is accessible and fully operational on mobile devices, making it ideal for construction project teams.
This enables optimum communication between teams, ensuring safety and operational updates are always available immediately to relevant personnel.
With Fluix, your team can submit safety reports remotely and edit critical documents on the go. Users can also leave voice comments to their inspection documents, and use Apple Shortcuts keeping their hands free hold on if working at height.
Essentially, every aspect of safety documentation, such as equipment inspections, can be organized and automated with Fluix. This enables seamless process management and helps to create a safer workplace.