Our industry is most commonly associated with window washing systems and suspended maintenance systems. Because of this, fall protection (specifically on low-rise buildings) is often overlooked.
Fall Arrest vs. Fall Restraint
“Fall protection” is actually a term that encompasses the method of either “fall arrest” or “fall restraint”.
Fall arrest prevents a person from reaching the ground (once a fall occurs). An example of fall arrest is a worker tripping over the edge of a building but then being suspended midair (by a lanyard tied to a cable system) and not reaching the ground.
Fall restraint prevents a worker from even reaching a fall. An example of fall restraint is a worker not being able to reach the edge of a building because a guard rail is located in the way.
Data shows that falls are the most common accident in the construction industry and that 75% of the falls occur at elevations of less than 3 stories.
A fall protection system can include:
- Cable systems
- Fixed ladders
- Guard rails
- Localized anchors
When designing a fall protection system one must concerned itself with:
What type of work is being completed while the system is in use?
- Washing the windows from a ladder
- Cooling tower
- Equipment located on the façade of the building (from a ladder on the ground)
- Mechanical units
- Surveillance cameras
How often will this work occur?
If it is expected, routine, scheduled maintenance then the most user friendly system (to encourage its use) should be implemented.
If it is unexpected, non-routine, unscheduled maintenance then the most basic and cost effective system should be implemented.
Who is using the system?
A worker who is trained and supervised may not require as much equipment as someone who is unfamiliar with fall protection.
Falls can effectively be prevented with adequate safety equipment, proper training, and a suitable fall protection system.
The bottom-line is; fall protection equipment is needed:
- In Canada, where any section of the parapet wall is less than 36 inches (and someone is subject to a 10 foot fall)
- In the USA, where any section of the parapet wall is less than 42 inches (and someone is subject to a 4 foot fall)