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...

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. Mechanics 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
You’ve covered all the bases as far as developing a program and training employees on the equipment. So what happens if someone does fall off a wing or fuselage and injure themselves? Assuming the system has done its job, a rescue plan is necessary to ensure the employee can be retrieved quickly and without endangering the rescuer. You may need a crane or hoist, as well as some method of attaching a rescue rope to the individual. The extent of any injuries should be determined and first aid administered before moving the victim. If there are no serious injuries requiring medical attention, refer to guidelines of your program and safety equipment to rescue the worker.
Developing a fall protection program requires a commitment to safety and no shortage of hard work, but the benefits will far outweigh the costs. Know the regulations, identify the particulars of your situation, implement a fall protection plan, and train using ALL of your resources. Follow all of these steps, and productivity and shop safety will soar, and you can take pride in knowing you’ve equipped your mechanics with a set of "wings" nearly as effective as the real thing. AMT

For more information...
There are a number of manufacturers out there offering fall protection systems and training packages that can be specifically designed to suit any hangar environment. Check out the site list below to get started.

CAI Safety Systems ( manufactures Turn-key Safety systems, and offers Aerolution, a mobile, hydraulically-driven unit that requires no pushing or pulling around the hangar.
DBI/SALA ( offers fully customizable components, vacuum anchor systems that won’t damage airplane fuselages, and both on-site and in-house training.
Dalloz Fall Protection ( provides products, custom-engineered systems and professional training to ensure proper equipment use and maximum worker protection.
Fall Protection Systems, Inc. ( offers its Trolley Rail, Triangular Truss and Lifeline and Harness Systems.
JLG Industries, Inc. ( offers fall protection gear, and the 740AJ boom lift with an integrated fall arrest system that allows for work outside the platform, complete with optional air compressor and AC generator.
Klein Tools ( has fall arrest, position, suspension and retrieval systems designed to arrest free falls and distribute impact forces over thighs, pelvis, waist, chest and shoulders as required by OSHA.

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