The Closest Thing to Wings

Although the issue receives little attention in the aviation industry, fall protection has, for decades, been a major concern for workers regularly exposed to dangerous heights. According to the National Safety Council Accident Facts, in 1997, falls to...

Listed below are some common situations, provided by , where work procedures may be acceptable because other forms of fall protection are impracticable:

  • Installation or removal of fall protection equipment (first person up/last person down).
  • Light-duty work for short duration, i.e. The performance from portable ladders of light-duty tasks such as inspection, touch-up paint, etc., for less than 15 minutes. The worker must not remove both hands from the ladder at the same time, nor move the body's center of gravity past the outside rails of the ladder.
  • Brief transfers between fall protection systems where the worker is protected by having a "3-point stance" (two feet placed firmly on the work surface, one hand supporting the worker and the other transferring to the next system).
  • Work requiring constant repositioning, such as the primary connection of skeletal structures.
  • Only workers employed in the initial placement of skeletal members requiring climbing and walking on the bare structure are likely to be covered by Section 11.2(5)(c), i.e.: scaffold erectors, tower erectors, blow-pipe ventilation erectors, structural steel erectors, tower crane erectors. All other workers on the structure engaged in welding, bolt installation, other fitting out work and climbing or walking on skeletal members must use the fall protection methods referred in the rest of Section 11.2.
  • Emergencies such as firefighting, or the correction of an unsafe condition.
  • When use of normal fall protection methods results in greater hazard. For example, cleaning gutters on a very steep roof where there may be greater hazard from climbing to the top of the roof to install anchors for fall protection equipment than working without the equipment.

Safety monitor

A safety monitoring system is another way to prevent falls. You must have a competent person designated as a safety monitor whose job it is to actively patrol the work area and warn others of any possible danger. While employees are exposed, this is a full-time job, the monitor must be able to recognize fall hazards and cannot perform other work duties.

A competent person qualified in fall protection should explain all hazards in the work area, the correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling and inspecting the fall protection systems to be used, and the use and operation of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest, warning line systems, safety monitoring systems, controlled access zones and any other methods used.

An example of a fall protection plan is available from OSHA at

Getting it done

If you're just getting started, there are four basic steps to consider:

1. Identify the tasks performed at elevated heights.

2. Select options that will protect employees from these hazards.

3. Identify the employees that perform these tasks and activities. Addressing the individual strengths and weaknesses of those involved will maximize the effectiveness of your program.

4. Training. Workers should be able to recognize the inherent fall hazards and know how to implement the options you select. This isn't just a good idea: it's required. OSHA 1926.503 states, "The employer shall provide a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program shall enable each employee to recognize the hazards of falling and shall train each employee in the procedures to be followed in order to minimize these hazards."

Realize that even if you have a state-of-the-art system, if it isn't used correctly, it's more dangerous than not having anything at all. Your first step should be to look to the manufacturer of your system for training.

Rescue plan

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