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Fall Protection: 4 Tasks to Perform Now to Ensure Safety

Fall protection is at the top of the OSHA violations list for 2017, and it’s consistently been at the top of this violation list for many years. The National Safety Council found that fall protection accounted for over 6,000 citations as of September 5, 2017.

Fall protection is a big category within OSHA, and the organization updated the Walking-Working Surfaces rule in the past couple of years; there are rumblings that it may be updated again in the coming years.

As we approach the end of the year, it’s important to review your facility to determine that you have the proper guarding and safety devices in place to prevent falls and worker injury. Here are four tasks to make sure you provide the best fall protection at your facility and are up to date with regulations.

Do a Walk Through
Schedule time during the day when you can walk through the facility and see every area in which employees are working. Start by reviewing inside the facility to the areas with the highest elevations as these are the most dangerous areas. Often you will notice elevated work platforms with insufficient guardrail or proper safety barriers where pallets are being loaded up to the areas. Then move towards the outside and the loading dock areas. Note each area in which employees must work from an elevated surface -- anything that raises an employee off the ground floor is elevated and should be properly guarded. Make notes of any unprotected ledges, anything impeding egress through the area, loose items on the deck, or any wet or slick surfaces. Clean up or move anything that can be corrected immediately, and tag or close out areas that will require additional review.

Review Existing Equipment
Take an inventory of your existing safety equipment - this could be safety gates, machine guarding, netting, personal equipment like respirators and more. Make sure all of these items are functioning correctly and meet current OSHA and ANSI standards.

Make note if your operation has changed since these devices were installed in case modifications to the equipment are required to make sure they are accommodating the current procedure. For example, if you have a pallet drop area that now is replenished by a hoist instead of a fork truck, you may need to modify the type of gate used to secure that area.

Talk with Employees
Your employees are one of your most valuable assets and they have great insights into your business - especially the applications and processes they work on. Ask them about the tasks that they perform; in many industrial facilities the tasks are repetitive and can be tiring. Ask them if they feel safe while they are working, especially those on elevated platforms or in the loading dock area. Find out if the safety practices are being done correctly, and if not, offer training.
Observe them working; is there equipment that can be installed to make their procedure easier and safer? Run ideas by them; their feedback is imperative to making the environment as safe and efficient as possible.

Make a List & Reach Out to a Professional
Note all of the areas in your facility that may need a second look when it comes to safety; pay close attention to pallet drop areas, mixing platforms and loading docks as those areas often pose the greatest risk for falls. Make sure to note any swing gates in pallet drop areas, which should be replaced with dual-gate safety systems.

Once you have a list, contact a company that specializes in material handling safety; this could be a consultant or a manufacturer. Chances are, what is unique to you has been installed many times by a professional organization. Share with them what you have observed and learned and they will do the same.

Fall protection should not be an after thought, but as the OSHA violations list shows, it often is not top of mind when it comes to industrial facilities. Protecting employees from falling is a must; by offering protection, you are not only protecting your company from fines, but also protecting workers from injury, and in severe cases, death.