Don't Fall Down On Safety

Health and Safety

Don't Fall Down On Safety

A deadly fall can be prevented with the right plan, writes Sara Garity

By Sara GarityBy Joan Bittel>

September 2002

Ground service providers are often exposed to dangerous heights while working on aircraft. But, because of other heavily regulated safety concerns and the fact that sometimes it takes longer to be safe than the job takes, fall protection is often overlooked. However, falls from heights is the second leading cause of all deaths in the American workforce. Fall prevention and fall protection systems should be integrated and implemented in all potential fall situations.

Prevention Is The First Step
If you are just getting started, fall prevention is the first step. Recognize that accidents frequently involve a variety of factors. Employers and employees need to do the following:

  1. Identify the task.
  2. Select options that will protect employees from hazards.
  3. Identify and assess employees' strengths and weaknesses to maximize efficiency.
  4. Train those that will be working at elevated heights and certify those that will be training others.

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's (OSHA) website, "each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems." Section 19.26

Categories Of Protection
Fall protection can be as simple as a guardrail or as complex as a multi-combination system. Fall protection falls into three basic categories:

Work Positioning — Work positioning allows the worker to perform a task while being exposed to a minimal free fall (2 feet or less). A worker using this device should employ a back-up system.

Fall Restraint — Designed to eliminate the possibility of falling such as guardrails, safety nets, and control zones. "SINCO/SALA offers netting to North America and Canada," says Tim O'Brien, V.P. of Sales and Marketing at DBI/SALA in Red Wing, Minnesota.

Fall Arrest — Designed to protect you in the event of a fall. "Fall arrest systems bring in about 85 percent of our business," states Dan Neal, Sales Engineer for Hy-Safe Technology in Union Grove, Wisconsin. "We work primarily with the Latchway's systems because they allow our customers 30 degrees more movement to either side of the line, which is the maximum OSHA allows for an offset distance."

Getting The Right Package
Whether you require a complete fall protection system or the integration of a single element, there are several options available.

"A turnaround for total system integration generally takes around 6-8 weeks, depending on the system design and the season," says Neal. "Summer is heaviest and we get the least amount of business in the winter months."

"We offer as much or as little of the fall protection system as you need — that is part of Hy-Safe's success," Neal continues. "You only pay for what you want."

O'Brien agrees, "This is true for everyone in the industry. DBI is committed to customer service and dedicated to getting the worker home safely."

The Basics of a Fall Protection Package:

  1. Assessment: A fall protection specialist will travel to your location for consultation.
  2. Design: By considering variables such as supporting structure, height of work area, obstructions, and worker mobility requirements, a fall protection solution is designed for you.
  3. Engineering: Engineers use the design and determine critical technical specifications to assure system integrity and code compliance.
  4. Fabrication: Welders use the engineered drawings to make applications that are specific to your system.
  5. Installation: Field teams properly install fall protection systems by strictly adhering to system engineering drawings and specifications to ensure that the system delivers 100-percent of intended performance.
  6. Testing: After installation, all fall arrest components are visually inspected and load tested in accordance with strict testing procedures.
  7. Certification: All completed fall arrest systems are certified to meet or exceed performance specifications before being delivered.
  8. Training: A completed fall-arrest system is effective only if it is properly used. Programs are developed to teach proper equipment use and maintenance.
Source: Hy-Safe Technology website at

The Final Step

Fall Protection Systems Resources

The final step, once you have chosen and installed your fall protection system, is to make sure that it is maintained and utilized properly.

"DBI/SALA has over 13 maintenance and repair locations located in the United States, Brazil and Singapore," says O'Brien. According to O'Brien, DBI/SALA also offers an on-time delivery guarantee for parts. "DBI has a 24-hour delivery time for all parts in stock, and a 5-day delivery time for most non-stock custom items."

Along with maintenance, training is an important part in maximizing your system's efficiency.
"In addition to training as part of our fall protection package," Neal explains, "Hy-Safe also offers Certification training so that others may do the training themselves within their facility."

Fall protection systems are necessary to protect the ground crew from injury, or even death, after a fall from heights. The fall protection manufacturers will work with you to ensure that you get the best quality system, especially designed for your needs. Just remember, from an 11-foot fall, your chance of survival is only 15 percent. Protect yourself and your employees by establishing a safety plan, installing a fall protection system, and using the resources available to keep your operations securely on its feet.

Elements of Fall Protection / Arrest Systems:

Body Harness: Straps which may be secured about the employee in a manner that will distribute the fall arrest forces over at least the thighs, pelvis, waist, chest, and shoulders with means for attaching it to other components of a personal fall arrest system.

Connector: A device that is used to couple (connect) parts of the personal fall arrest system and positioning device systems together. It may be an independent component of the system (such as a buckle or D-ring sewn into a body belt or harness, or a snap-hook spliced or sewn to a lanyard or self-retracting lanyard.)

Decelerator/Deceleration device: Any mechanism, such as a rope grab, rip stitch lanyard, specially woven lanyard, tearing or deforming lanyard, automatic self-retracting lifeline/lanyard which serves to dissipate a substantial amount of energy during a fall arrest or otherwise limit the energy imposed on an employee during fall arrest.

Source: UC Santa Cruz Environmental Health & Safety .