Don't fall down on the job

Requirements of a fall protection work plan

PRACTICAL WELDING TODAY® JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2006

January 10, 2006

Companies should develop a written fall protection plan and maintain it on the job site. The plan must describe how your company will protect workers on a given work site when employees are working 10 feet or more above the ground, other work surfaces, or water.

Falls from elevated work surfaces continue to cause worker deaths and injuries at a high rate. In one year alone, falls caused five deaths in the construction industry.

Many workers may not consider fall protection necessary, that it's something only ironworkers on high-rise construction sites need. But even if yours is a small job that requires only a 15-foot ladder, you can suffer the same consequences as working higher off the ground.

Even if you work exclusively in a welding shop, it's still important to think about fall protection—you never know when an employee or you may need to use a ladder to change a light bulb or perform remodeling, for example. If outside companies come into your shop to perform work, you will need to provide fall protection for them to reduce your liability.

The following are Department of Labor and Industries guidelines, developed through the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA), regarding what to include in a comprehensive safety standard to address fall hazards.

You should develop a written fall protection plan and maintain it on the job site. The plan must describe how your company will protect workers on a given work site when employees are working 10 feet or more above the ground, other work surfaces, or water.

The plan should:

  1. Identify all fall hazards in the work area.
  2. Describe the method of fall arrest or fall restraint to be provided.
  3. Outline the correct procedures for the assembly, maintenance, inspection, and disassembly of the fall protection system to be used.
  4. Explain the method of providing overhead protection for workers who may be in or pass through the area below the work site.
  5. Communicate the method for prompt, safe removal of injured workers.

Before you can develop a fall protection plan, you must understand two important definitions:

  1. Fall Arrest System. This equipment protects someone from falling more than 6 ft. or from striking a lower object in the event of a fall, whichever distance is less. This equipment includes approved full-body harnesses and lanyards properly secured to anchorage points or to lifelines, safety nets, or catch platforms.


  2. Fall Restraint System. This apparatus keeps a person from reaching a fall point; for example, it allows someone to work up to the edge of a roof but not fall. This equipment includes standard guardrails, a warning line system, a warning line and monitor system, and approved safety belts (or harnesses) and lanyards attached to secure anchorage points.

Developing a Fall Protection Work Plan

To develop a fall protection work plan, you must identify your company and the work site to which the plan applies. This information should be listed as the first item in your plan. After you identify your company and work site in the plan:

  1. Identify all fall hazards in the work area. To determine fall hazards, you must review all jobs and tasks to be done. After all fall hazards have been identified, list those requiring employees to work 10 ft. or more above the ground, other work surface, or water.

  2. Determine the method of fall arrest or fall restraint to be provided for each job and task to be done that is 10 ft. or more above the ground, another work surface, or water. If you decide to use a safety monitor system, use special care to ensure full compliance.

  3. Describe the procedures for assembly, maintenance, inspection, and disassembly of the fall protection system to be used.

  4. Describe the correct procedures for handling, storage, and security of tools and materials.

    For example, tools will be secured as follows:
    • Tool belts will be used to carry hand tools to the elevated work surface.
    • Tools too large for the tool belt will be raised by rope and pulley.
    • When hand tools are used, they will be returned to the tool belt immediately after use.
    • Large tools, such as circular saws, will be secured or placed in an area that will not allow them to fall.

  5. Describe the method of providing overhead protection for workers who may be in or pass through the area below the work site. This could be one or more of the following:
    • Hard hats are required on all job sites.
    • Warning signs will be posted to caution of existing hazards.
    • The area under the material handling areas of the roof will have a warning line installed at a distance at least as great as the height of the building and a minimum of 8 ft. on either side to prevent workers from accidentally walking into the hazard area.
    • Debris nets will be used.
    • Toe boards must be installed on all walkways and decks where workers may be below.
    • Screens will be installed between the toe board and the midrail at all locations where employees work below or if conditions warrant.

  6. Describe the method for prompt, safe removal of injured workers.
  7. Include where (on the job site) a copy of this plan will be posted.
  8. Train and instruct all personnel in all of the above items.
  9. Keep a record of employee training and maintain it on the job.
Basic Fall Protection Definitions
Anchorage. A secure point of attachment for lifelines, lanyards, or deceleration devices that can withstand the forces specified.
Body Belt. A safety belt used with a lanyard or lifeline for fall restraint only.
Connector. A device used to couple (connect) parts of the personal fall arrest and positioning device systems together.
Continuous Fall Protection. A fall protection system designed and used to prevent exposure to an elevated fall hazard.
Control Zone. The area between the warning line and the unprotected sides and edges of the walking/working surface.
Deceleration Device. Any mechanism that serves to dissipate a substantial amount of energy during a fall arrest or otherwise limit the energy imposed on an employee during fall arrest.
Deceleration Distance. The additional vertical distance a falling employee travels, excluding lifeline elongation and free-fall distance, before stopping, from the point at which the deceleration device begins to operate. It is measured as the distance between the location of an employee's body belt or body harness attachment point at the moment of activation (at the onset of fall arrest forces) of the deceleration device during a fall, and the location of that attachment point after the employee comes to a full stop.
Drop Line. A vertical lifeline secured to an upper anchorage for the purpose of attaching a lanyard or device.
Failure. Load refusal, breakage, or separation of component parts.
Fall Distance. The actual distance from the worker support to the level where a fall would stop.
Free Fall. The act of falling before a personal fall arrest system begins to apply force to arrest the fall.
Free-fall Distance. The vertical displacement of the fall arrest attachment point on the employee's body belt or body harness between onset of the fall and just before the system begins to apply force to arrest the fall. This distance excludes deceleration distance and lifeline/lanyard elongation, but includes any deceleration device slide distance or self-retracting lifeline/lanyard extension before they operate and fall arrest forces occur.
Full Body Harness. A configuration of connected straps to distribute a fall-arresting force over at least the thighs, shoulders, and pelvis, with provisions for attaching a lanyard, lifeline, or deceleration device.
Full Body Harness System. A full body harness and lanyard attached to an anchorage or attached to a horizontal or vertical lifeline which is properly secured to an anchorage(s).
Hardware. Snap hooks, D-rings, bucklers, carabiners, adjusters, and O-rings used to attach the components of a fall protection system together.
Horizontal Lifeline. A rail, rope, wire, or synthetic cable that is installed in a horizontal plane between two anchorages and used for attachment of a worker's lanyard or lifeline device while moving horizontally; used to control dangerous pendulumlike swing falls.
Lanyard. A flexible line of webbing, rope, or cable used to secure a body belt or harness to a lifeline or an anchorage point usually 2, 4, or 6 ft. long.
Leading Edge. The advancing edge of a floor, roof, or formwork that changes location as additional floor, roof, or formwork sections are placed, formed, or constructed.
Lifeline. A vertical line from a fixed anchorage or between two horizontal anchorages, independent of walking or working surfaces, to which a lanyard or device is secured.
Locking Snap Hook. A connecting snap hook that requires two separate forces to open the gate—one to deactivate the gatekeeper and a second to depress and open the gate—that automatically closes when released. It's used to minimize roll out or accidental disengagement.
Low-pitched Roof. A roof having a slope equal to or less than 4 in 12.
Positioning Belt. A single or multiple strap that can be secured around the worker's body to hold the user in a work position.
Positioning Device System. A body belt or body harness system rigged to allow an employee to be supported on an elevated vertical surface, such as a wall, and work with both hands free while leaning.
Restraint Line. A line from a fixed anchorage or between two anchorages to which an employee is secured in such a way as to prevent the worker from falling to a lower level.
Roll Out. Unintentional disengagement of a snap hook, caused by the gate being depressed under torque or contact while twisting or turning.
Rope Grab. A fall arrester designed to move up or down a lifeline suspended from a fixed overhead or horizontal anchorage point, or lifeline, to which the belt or harness is attached. In the event of a fall, the rope grab locks onto the lifeline rope through compression to arrest the fall. The use of a rope grab device is restricted for all restraint applications.
Safety Monitor System. A fall restraint system used in conjunction with a warning line system only, where a competent person, having no additional duties, monitors the proximity of workers to the fall hazard when working between the warning line and the unprotected sides and edges, including the leading edge of a low-pitched roof or walking/working surface.
Self-retracting Lifeline. A deceleration device that contains a drum-wound line which may be slowly extracted from or retracted onto the drum under slight tension during normal employee movement. After onset of a fall, it automatically locks the drum and arrests the fall.
Shock-absorbing Lanyard. A flexible line of webbing, cable, or rope used to secure a body belt or harness to a lifeline or anchorage point that has an integral shock absorber.
Single-action Snap Hook. A connecting snap hook that requires a single force to open the gate. It automatically closes when released.
Snap Hook. A self-closing connecting device with a gatekeeper latch or similar arrangement that will remain closed until manually opened.
Strength Member. Any component of a fall protection system that could be subject to loading in the event of a fall.
Steep Roof. A roof having a slope greater than 4 in 12.
Warning Line System. A barrier erected on a walking and working surface or a low-pitch roof to warn employees that they are approaching an unprotected fall hazard(s).

This article was based on "Fall Protection Work Plan Requirements" from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, 7273 Linderson Way S.W., Tumwater, WA 98501-5414, 360-902-5799, fax 360-902-5792, www.lni.wa.gov/wisha.

Photo courtesy of Miller Fall Protection, a Bacou-Dalloz company, Smithfield, R.I.



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