Tying off can be a lot of work. The equipment must be researched and purchased, employees must be trained on it, and it must be inspected daily for wear and tear. Not to mention, the harnesses are not always the most comfortable, especially when they are being worn all day. These are some serious negatives; however, the positives outweigh them tenfold.
Year after year, falls are in OSHA’s top ten for worksite injuries and the number two cause of workplace deaths (second only to auto accidents). The costs for claims related to falls are astronomical. The injuries are serious and potentially life changing or even life ending. This is a situation where prevention is much better than treatment because serious falls occur because failure to plan.
Fatal falls can happen from any height. In fact, falling from ten feet and under accounts for many of the fall fatalities each year. OSHA requires that anyone working in the construction industry tie off or use a form of fall protection at any height above six feet. The requirement for general industry is above four feet. Complying with these standards doesn’t have to be difficult.
One of the most important elements is getting employees to agree and make safety a priority. Employees tend to avoid wearing fall protection for many reasons:
They feel it’s uncomfortable
They don’t like the added time to “gear up”
They don’t feel safe wearing it if they haven’t been trained
They can’t work as efficiently in the equipment
Each of these concerns can and should be addressed. The easiest and best way is through training. Training should be done before the employee is ever exposed to the hazard and repeated frequently. The more comfortable and aware the employees are with the equipment, the more likely they are to use it and use it correctly. Also, investing in better quality equipment can increase the level of comfort for the employees wearing it each day.
If the employee benefits don’t fully make the case for fall protection, consider the financial costs. More catastrophic claims mean higher insurance premiums. More claims mean increased OSHA presence and in turn fines for noncompliance. A contractor in Florida was recently fine almost fifty thousand dollars for failing to provide proper fall protection for its employees. Taking these things into consideration, fall protection equipment is the much cheaper option.
Balance can be lost, but injury from a fall can be prevented. All the deaths association with falling can be avoided too. The goal should always be safety, and fall protection is the way to get there. The equipment cost and increase in training time is all worth saving lives and making sure everyone gets home to their families each night.