The Closest Thing to Wings

The Closest Thing to Wings Guidelines for establishing a fall protection program By Keith Jackson September 2001 Although the issue has received little attention in the aerospace industry until now, fall protection has, for decades...

The Closest Thing to Wings

Guidelines for establishing a fall protection program

By Keith Jackson

September 2001

ImageAlthough the issue has received little attention in the aerospace industry until now, 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 lower levels were the third leading cause of fatal occupational injuries. In fact, falls are the number two overall cause of death in the American workplace, just behind employee violence. A recent OSHA study involving 99 fall-related deaths indicates that nearly all of those deaths could have been prevented by using proper fall protection equipment. To reduce these numbers, OSHA has mandated the installation and use of fall protection equipment where workers are exposed to hazards of falling more than six feet.

Training Resources

Though it may be an added expense, consulting with the manufacturer of your system on training issues, or contacting an outside source, will pay big dividends in increased worker awareness, efficiency and productivity. Listed here are a few web sites to visit for information on training and consulting services. Many of the companies also provide training packages for sale via the web site. – Dynamic Scientific Controls, Inc. offers fall protection consulting, engineering, installation and institute training. – Argus Pacific offers company-wide, customized and site-specific health/ safety plans. – Sun Industries offers training and installation of fall protection systems. – All Industrial Safety Products, Inc. offers group seminars, or individual seminars can be arranged at the customers location. – North American Safety Associates offers training and certification in practical fall protection systems applications. – Safety Connetion, Inc. offers actual hands-on exercise of rescue techniques and usage of equipment. – provides links to products and services of fall protection manufacturers. – Summit Training Source, Inc. offers training and safety videos. – PureSafety develops new training packages, or programs based on your in-house materials.

FAA and OSHA regulatory background
Maintenance facilities fall under the jurisdiction of FAA, but FAA does defer to OSHA concerning this and other workplace safety issues to the extent allowed under 4(b)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). Maintenance facilities must comply with the existing OSHA Requirements listed under the Code of Federal Requirements No. 29 Parts 1910 and 1926.
There are several OSHA regulations and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) guidelines (though ANSI is not a regulatory body) that apply to fall protection. Click on for links detailing this information. Employers need to understand these regulations and standards when selecting the appropriate fall protection equipment. David May, OSHA Area Director for New Hampshire, says, "Employers must be aware of the hazards faced by their employees on the jobs they require them to do; and they especially must be aware that the law compels them to do everything they can to protect their workers from those hazards. Anything less is unacceptable."

Different levels of protection
Fall protection can be subdivided into two basic categories: fall restraint and fall arrest.
A fall restraint system is a work positioning system designed to prevent a worker from falling from a work position. This can include such simple precautionary measures as installing guardrails, safety nets, or establishing a control zone (the area between an unguarded edge of a building or structure and a line that is set back a safe distance), or other OSHA-approved procedures. A major drawback to this type of system is that it may restrict the work area, making it impractical to perform tasks like working on top of a fuselage or engine.
On a more advanced level, workers can be equipped with a fall arrest system designed to protect them in the event of a fall. These systems are put into place in order to maintain maximum mobility and efficiency.

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