Where work at height is executed there is always the possibility of an accident happening. As a safety officer or HSE manager you have the task to minimize, or even eliminate, fall incidents from occurring. This starts with trying to eliminate the risks at the source. However, there are situations where it isn’t possible to take away all potential fall hazards.
Fall accidents are often severe, resulting in many workdays lost, high healthcare costs, claims and governmental fines. They also have a negative impact on the bottom line of a business and can seriously damage its reputation. Not to mention the blow to the relationship between workers and management. Therefore the best approach is to prevent risky behavior and ensure no calamities happen. Here we present you 5 tips for safety managers that can help in minimizing fall incidents and preventing serious accidents.
Conduct a thorough job specific risk analysis of all the tasks that involve working at heights before any work starts. This will help identify all potential hazards at the job site. This document isn’t static, when the situation changes new hazards may arise. This is one of the reasons why fall protection is often difficult on construction sites as the structure constantly changes.
While executing a risk assessment also consider the weather circumstances and the effect that has on work at height when this work has to be conducted outside.
Based on the risk assessment the right fall protection measures and equipment need to be selected. Either you entirely eliminate the fall risk, or you install fall protection equipment that will keep users safe during their job. Ensure that all the measures to combat fall hazards are implemented properly and that people conform to them.
To ensure that safety helmets are not compromised keep them away from chemicals that can damage the plastic outer shell. This means it is not advised to use (most) stickers on a helmet. Also be mindful of storing helmets in direct sunlight, as exposure to ultraviolet radiation can also damage or deform the shell.
Make training an ongoing project
Providing the right fall protection equipment has no use if people do not know how to use it properly or if they display risky behavior. Fall prevention training should therefore be the basis for any employee who has to work at height. They should be able to identify risks, know company safety policy, know how to use a fall protection system properly and be able to visually inspect fall protection Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). But simply completing a training of such is not enough.
Daily toolbox talks, stand-downs, or other informal sessions about work safety topics will help keep safety at the top of everyone’s minds. The topics can be based on situations that are not optimal in the workplace, or to combat misuse of equipment. For example, hands on practice on how to properly connect to an anchorage system, or a demonstration on maintenance and inspection of fall protection PPE. The more direct contact there is, the greater the positive impact.
Keep training records in which you keep track of both formal and informal training sessions. This way you can signal when knowledge may be fading and retraining is necessary.
Focus on continuous improvement and deal with hazards quickly
Ensure that workers know that upper management is highly involved in worker safety. Get them to periodically visit the worksite, or take part in onsite training sessions. This displays commitment to safety to both supervisors and workers.
Health and safety posters or videos can also play a key part in displaying commitment to workplace safety. As these materials can help remind people of safety rules at the jobsite, on how to wear their PPE properly or the rescue procedures when someone does fall. Especially video is a powerful tool to increase the awareness of fall hazards.
Clearly display and communicate health and safety policy
Encourage the reporting of accidents and near-misses, so you can learn from them. Show employees that there are no negative consequences to reporting any workplace hazards. For example, host a walkthrough and get employees to demonstrate what they would do if they are exposed to a certain hazard.
If an incident happens where a person gets injured, no matter how slight, take steps to ensure that type of incident cannot happen again. Debrief workers when there are accidents, tell them what happened and how the company will try to avoid future incidents. Consult with workers on risk management and invite them to provide feedback.
Another way to track safety and monitor for improvements are leading indicators, you can read all about them in a previous blog.
Never let anyone work at height alone. Ensure that competent supervision is provided during all work at height tasks. Often supervisors are chosen on their ability to perform a certain task, rather than their capabilities to oversee the safety other workers.
They are usually close to potential fall hazards and are thus critical in preventing incidents. Supervisors need to understand the regulations regarding safety and know how to motivate workers to use fall protection equipment properly.
As supervisors are often also regular employees a proper training schedule has to be made to ensure their knowledge is always up-to-date.
To help create more awareness we’ve put together a fall protection checklist which documents the three essentials of fall protection. This checklist can be downloaded and printed out to hang it at a location where everyone can see it.