Working at a Height: Planning for Safety Risks and Mitigating with a Modern EHS Software
Blog | April 12th, 2023

Working at a Height: Planning for Safety Risks and Mitigating with a Modern EHS Software

According to data from the Center for Disease Control, falls from a height have been one of the biggest causes of fatality, especially among construction workers. Nearly 300–400 deaths were reported due to workers falling when working on roofs, ladders, and scaffolds.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) delineates clear regulatory requirements for the following:

  • 29 CFR 1926.501 for fall protection measures
  • 29 CFR 1926.451 for best practices to be followed while using a scaffolding
  • 29 CFR 1926.1053 to plan for safety risks associated with ladders
  • 29 CFR 1926.503 for employee/worker training for better fall protection
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Not just in the construction industry, working at heights is a common sight in every industry, with workers using overhead platforms or elevated workstations to perform a task like in the oil and gas industry or aviation manufacturing. Holes in the floor and walls are also other potential risks that can cause falling from a height. Therefore, it is mandatory for employers to make it safe and prevent any injury or death due to a fall.

When working at a height using an overhead platform, scaffolding, or ladder, the risks of losing balance or the ladder or scaffolding collapsing are some of the potential causes of the fall. High winds can also cause instability and falls.

Fall Prevention: Planning is Critical

The injuries can be severe and involve damage to the musculoskeletal system, rendering the worker disabled for life. The second risk is that of traumatic brain injury, which can lead to traumatic occupational injuries and even death.

Some of the preventive measures to minimize risk and improve fall protection in the workplace include:

Planning: To ensure the tasks are completed safely, ensure the scope of the task on hand, the tasks involved, and the safety equipment needed for each task.

Budgeting for Safety: Investing in appropriate safety equipment is essential and therefore needs to be budgeted when planning the costs for the task at hand. Involve the safety team to identify the correct equipment of the right quality to prevent falls and injuries.

Tracking Weather Conditions: High winds and rains are highly risky for working at elevation. High winds can cause unsteadiness and rains can cause the surface to become slippery and dangerous. Therefore, ensuring that the weather condition is conducive for working in open, elevated platforms to protect workers is important.

Providing PPE: The impact on the brain in case of a fall can be minimized by using sturdy helmets with shock absorption capabilities. Safety harnesses and lines may be required for some of the jobs being performed at a height.

Providing Guard Rails: There must be a guard rail on the open side of the elevated platform, floor, or runway. If there are holes in the floor, there must be a guard around it such as a railing, a toe-board, or a floor hole cover, to prevent a worker from walking into it accidentally. Since there is a risk of workers falling into or onto dangerous equipment or machinery such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt, they must be protected with guardrails and toe-boards. Other control measures include providing safety nets, stair railings, and handrails.

Housekeeping: Keeping steps, floors, and elevated surfaces dry and clean is crucial to prevent slipping, tripping, and falling from elevated surfaces

Ensure the Sturdiness of the Elevated Surfaces: OSHA also specifies that elevated surfaces must have the necessary quality, structural integrity, and strength before being allowed for use. There are specifications for scaffolding, ladders, and platforms that must be followed diligently to ensure safety.

Hazard Communication and Training:  Making workers using the elevated surfaces aware of the potential risks is essential. Where required, they must also be provided with sufficient training to use the PPE/harness, etc. correctly so that they can be safe. If work permits are required, then they must be provided as appropriate to ensure that only authorized personnel access such surfaces.

The Need to Automate Fall Protection Workflows

Fall protection in some industries like construction and oil and gas is mandatory. But businesses that invest in fall protection just to be on the right side of the law sometimes manage to be compliant, but most of the times that is not enough. Even regulatory bodies expect businesses to go beyond compliance and look at establishing a culture of safety and requires a proactive approach to safety.

A proactive approach to safety also assures employees of the commitment of their employers to their safety. This increases their productivity and satisfaction and improves retention.

ComplianceQuest Environment, Health, and Safety (EHS) Management Software helps businesses automate their safety workflows. It provides end-to-end visibility into safety data that facilitates identifying gaps and trends and effecting continuous improvement.

With the ComplianceQuest Safety Management System, businesses can integrate reactive, proactive, and predictive safety management. This not only helps with managing current events but also identifying potential risks and addressing them effectively by triggering root cause analysis and CAPA.

The features of the CQ EHS that help with comprehensive safety management include:

  • Automated safety inspection workflows to schedule and execute periodic inspections to improve the safety of working at a height
  • Improved safety audits where the findings are shared with the departments concerned for further action
  • Permission-based access to safety data for further processing and taking remedial action
  • Incident management to report and analyze events to identify the root cause and trigger CAPA
  • Automate training to improve worker behavior for improved safety
  • Documentation for drawing insights as well as report to the regulatory authorities as required

The tool also supports relevant checklists to enable safety leaders and managers to ensure that people working on elevated platforms are provided with robust and safe workspaces, have the necessary information, training, and PPE to improve their safety.

To know more about the CQ EHS and fall protection, visit: https://www.compliancequest.com/lp/ehs/

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