All over the world legislation requires employers to provide employees with a safe work environment. As proper planning helps prevent incidents occupational health and safety regulations call for a fall protection plan before any work at height is started.
A fall protection plan is, literally as the name indicates, a safety plan to protect workers from falls while working in elevated areas. The objective of the plan is to identify fall hazards, select fall protection equipment and set up safety procedures to minimize fall hazards. Another important part of a fall protection plan is a rescue plan, we dedicated an earlier blog to this crucial, but often forgotten plan.
Requirements of a fall protection plan
Every fall protection plan starts with the physical address of the worksite, contact information, the name of the person who prepared the plan and the date the plan was setup.
The fall protection plan must be written by a qualified person with extensive knowledge and experience in the field. After completion the plan must be available to anyone working on the site.
You’ll also have to appoint someone who is in charge of the fall protection plan. This person needs to be able to identify and correct fall hazards and hazardous conditions, and thus modify the fall protection plan. Please note that every update to the plan requires a signature from a qualified person.
You can imagine that working at an elevation in a factory above machinery requires different fall hazards and fall protection equipment than working on a flat rooftop. Therefore each fall protection plan has to be custom made to fit the workplace situation.
Identifying fall hazards
Putting together a fall protection plan starts with an analysis of the worksite. Include all the existing and potential fall hazards the workplace poses, such as skylights and holes. Be as detailed as possible and try to think of all the fall hazards imaginable for the worksite. For example, also think of the influences of weather conditions.
Also think of the needs of the people working at height. What tasks need to be performed at an elevation? How many employees will have to work at height and will they all have to work simultaneously? What is the area that needs to be accessed safely?
Once you have identified all possible fall hazards and fall protection needs you can determine what fall protection system suits your situation and the needs of those who will be working at height.
Once you’ve decided which fall protection equipment will eliminate your worksite hazards you will need to address safety procedures. This section will have to answer questions about assembly, inspection, use, maintenance etc.
Installation, assembly, disassembly and maintenance of fall protection systems must be done conforming to the manufacturer’s instructions. Most regulations (and manufacturers) require an annual inspection of fall protection equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). But workers also need to carry out a pre-use inspection of their own equipment before every use. Instruct them to check for wear, tear, rust etc. Also write down instructions for how to handle defective equipment or equipment that was involved in a fall accident; tag and remove from use immediately.
Your organization should have a policy for properly handling, storing and securing fall protection equipment. After all if PPE isn’t stored properly it can become damaged and unsafe for use. Always remember to avoid heat, moisture and chemicals when storing PPE.
Now that you have specified all the fall protection equipment to be used and the fall protection procedures matching with the equipment you need to write down training requirements.
Training must be given before employees enter areas where the risk of falling or risk of falling objects exists. The fall protection plan must specify when fall protection training is conducted and who will give the training.
Everyone who works at height must be trained in:
- identifying fall hazards,
- the proper use of their fall protection equipment,
- how to inspect their PPE,
- the fall protection procedures and
- the rescue procedures.
The rescue plan is often overlooked in fall protection planning. However rescuing a worker post fall arrest is very time sensitive. The longer an employee is arrested in suspension the more at risk he or she is for suspension trauma. Read more about setting up a rescue plan in our previous blog.
A fall protection plan is not a static document. When worksite situations change you may need to alter your fall protection plan. When an accident or near-miss occurs at the jobsite you need to review your fall protection plan. Adjustments need to be made to prevent similar incidents. As stated earlier after the plan is updates a qualified person must sign off that the plan is sound.
To help you set up a fall protection plan we have put together an outline. Download this framework to help you form a basis for your fall protection plan.