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How to Start a Fall Protection Program

Fall prevention and protection requires team effort and preplanning. Many employers are remiss in applying the team approach, forgetting that the end-user in the harness must be a part of the planning process. They’re wearing the gear.

In order to be effective, all parts of the system must be in place and working together. The following factors must be addressed when developing a successful fall prevention and protection program.

Hazard Identification

  • Each situation, whether a job-site or task specific, requires a well conceived fall protection program that begins with identification of all potential fall hazards in a work place. As a general rule, any time a worker is at a height greater than 4 feet, a fall hazard exists. Where a fall hazard exists, there are two acceptable options:(1) eliminate the hazard, or (2) provide protection against it.

    Ideally, it is best to totally eliminate the hazard. Since elimination is often not possible, other measures such as the wearing of personal protection equipment (PPE) are required.

Written Fall Protection Program

  • Following hazard identification, a written program should be developed specifying how to deal with each hazard. The program should utilize the following hierarchy:1. Prevention, which includes eliminating or engineering out the hazard, or:
    2. Protection, which includes personal fall arrest systems.

    If standardized safe work practices and operating procedures can eliminate the hazard, then such procedures should be specified as part of your preventive techniques.

    Where personal fall arrest systems are needed, the program should state what types of fall protection measures are to be used, how they are to be used, and who is responsible for overall supervision and training. This program need not be elaborate, but it should cover the basics with the essential elements clearly conveyed and understood by all participants in the program.

    Any employee who might be exposed to a fall hazard must be trained by a Competent Person.

Equipment Selection

  •  The employer must know the types of fall protection equipment available, and decide which would be most suitable for the workplace. Because all work environments differ, it is impossible for the equipment manufacturer to determine exactly which fall protection products will provide maximum protection for each job. OSHA (Occupation Health and Safety Administration) requires that these decisions be made by a Qualified and/or Competent Person.


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