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Following the Hierarchy of Fall Protection to Avoid Fall Protection Misuse

The Hierarchy of Fall Protection is the accepted order of control to remove or minimize fall hazards. This method reflects typical safety practices for hazard mitigation starting with elimination and ending with 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 – guardrails, hole covers, etc. – are forms of passive fall protection. Passive protection is mostly applied to heighten level of safety as the possibility of error is less compared to 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 intended to prevent a fall from happening. Fall restraint systems rely on PPE to control the worker’s range of movement to keep them from physically moving towards the fall hazard. Even as fall restraint systems are generally underutilized since they have no specific mentions in several regulations, they are still prioritized 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 installed so that a fall can take place but is arrested within safe force and clearance limits. Fall arrest systems have more risks to them, as the falling worker needs to be stopped with a harmless amount of force and also prevented from hitting the ground or any surrounding structure. Adequate training for fall restraint as well as fall arrest systems is a must.

5. Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are preventive actions taken to decrease the chances of a fall. These include but are not limited to safety monitors, warning horns and control lines. 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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