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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2005, there were 735 fatalities involving falls in private industry and 255,750 non-fatal injuries.
The new ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard, ANSI Z359, increases fall protection requirements. While this is technically a “voluntary standard,” business owners are still considered liable for fall incidents. OSHA is actively performing periodic inspections and issuing fines for unsafe conditions, as well as responding to calls from concerned workers and observers.
What Is Included in the Basic Fall Protection Requirements’ Safety System?
The basic safety system has 3 parts, said Mark Damon, a fall protection trainer and safety expert with Damon, Inc.:
- Harness—worn by worker
- Connecting lanyard—strap or device
- Anchorage point—connects to the structure
“The goal of the safety system is to provide maximum protection in the event of a fall,” Damon said. “The equipment works together not only to stop the fall, but also reduce the impact of force that the worker experiences in the event of a fall.”
New ANSI Requirements
A summary of ANSI’s key changes to the fall protection safety system:
- Gate strength—requirements have been increased for snaphooks and carabiners
- Self retracting lifelines (SRLs)—new requirements for use and inspection
- Shock absorbers—new requirements, including length and testing
Most fall accidents occur with workers aged 20-39, although falls have been recorded at almost every age—from 18-72 years old. 50% of victims fall from ladders and scaffolds. Slippery surfaces, trips, and loss of balance are also significant factors. In fact, 53% of falls occur from a distance of 10 ft. or less.
“Falls are a leading cause of the fatalities and catastrophes that are investigated by OSHA,” Damon said.
The average cost of a worker’s compensation claim for a fall incident across all industries (for the 2005-2007 policy years) is $50,383. For carpenters, that average goes up to $97,169; for roofers, it’s $106,648.
“The goal is to reduce potential injuries to workers, as well as reduce potential litigation or fines from OSHA,” Damon said.
Training Reduces Risk
While length of time on the job was not shown to be a significant factor in preventing falls, training was. Research shows that:
- In 16.5% of fatal falls, the right personal protective equipment (PPE) was available—but not worn
- In 13.2% of fatal falls, PPE was used incorrectly
- In 19.8% of fatal falls, correct PPE was not even available
The lesson here? Training is an important part of fall protection—for the worker, supervisor, and even business owner.
“Having the right equipment is important,” Damon said. “But it’s absolutely critical to know what equipment you’re using and how to use it correctly.”