Safety & Health News

Preventing Falls-Using Fall Protection Right

Journal: NOVEMBER - DECEMBER 1999

A third of fatalities in the construction industry in 1998 were the result of falls from roofs, scaffolds, ladders, building girders or other structural steel. In the last issue of the Journal, a new IMI train-the-trainer initiative was announced to helped prevent fatal falls in our industry. But preventing the fall is just part of the solution. Contractors and workers need to know what the best fall protection is for the situation and how to use it correctly.

Workers using safety harnesses to prevent falls should be aware that a person left hanging -- unable to adjust their position -- in an OSHA approved harness can become "medically compromised in as little as 15 minutes," according to Ross S. Davis an assistant instructor with Ropes That Rescue, Ltd. A condition called "Harness Induced Pathology" (HIP) can occur. As a result it is important for other workers using the harness and those working in and around them to know what to do in an emergency. According to Joe Stewart, BAC's Craft Director for PCC, "One action that the worker in the harness can take, if they are able, is to drop a loop knot into the safety line. This would allow the worker to stand with a foot in the loop for short periods of time, and allow for some blood circulation in the legs until rescue is accomplished." To learn more about this condition and how to protect yourself and your fellow members contact: IMI at 301-241-5503.

Do the Math: when using six foot fall protection systems with shock absorbing lanyards. According to the National Erectors Association, "in many instances the workers' feet are going to hit that deck from 6 feet up to 18 feet below them, long before the lanyard and shock absorber are fully extended." They recommend that contractors and workers "calculate the distance from where the anchorage point is to the bottom of the worker's feet. Add the length of the lanyard and the length of the shock absorber minus the distance of the lanyard from the anchorage point to the D ring…[and] if the worker is tied to a static line or anything other than a fixed anchorage… calculate the deflection of the line and add that to the equation." The bottom line -- contractors should check with the product's manufacturer, use the proper equipment for the job, and "Do the Math."

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