Safety Talk: Fall Protection Compliance

In 2014, Lack of adequate fall protection was the #1 OSHA violation on job sites.  That makes this the fourth year in a row!  So in order to help combat this, we’ve got a couple suggestions and answers to your questions.

Connect with MIOSHA!

Here in Michigan, MIOSHA announced the MiSHIP grant program in October which can partially cover the costs of fall protection for contractors that participate in the program, so you don’t have any excuses.  The program runs through August of this year or until the grant funding is exhausted, so act quickly. We expect this program to run every year as Fall protection continues to be a hot topic in the construction industry.

Why is fall protection compliance so important?

Fall Protection is just a piece of the overall safety plan on a construction site – but a vital piece at that.  Let us tell you why: Statistically, falls are one of the top serious injury and fatality causes in construction – and even the safest of crews have a guy or two slip each year.  In addition, fall protection violations are usually the #1 most frequently cited by OSHA each year. But the most important reason -which we know we don’t need to mention- is the daily health and safety of each person on the job.

Tell me about OSHA and insurance requirements for fall protection – what is generally required?

MIOSHA Logo 376 & Blk with Slogan draft 9aAt their core, OSHA regulations require that an employer provide a “Safe and Healthy Workplace”.  But when it comes to contractors and Fall Protection OSHA says contractors must:

  • First they must assess the work place by doing a “Job Hazard Analysis”
  • Then they must determine how they are going to protect their workers and document this in a Fall Protection Plan.
  • This plan MUST be kept on the site.
  • They must then ensure that proper equipment is provided and that training is provided to each employee.
  • This must also be documented and the records must be kept.
  • An up-to-date, site specific “rescue plan” must also be prepared and maintained on site.
  • Again, all procedures must be understood by each worker.

It is then up to you to observe that safe work procedures are being followed.  The effectiveness of your safety practices must continually be evaluated and updated as determined.  Workers must be retrained as determined. Make the training a priority for your workers, enforce it to avoid pesky fines.

If keeping your crews safe and avoiding fines isn’t enough: Insurance companies generally charge lower rates to contractors with safe records and proper safety procedures.  Many insurance companies won’t even issue a policy to companies that are not compliant.   It’s a good idea to check the specific details of your policy with their insurance provider – they may have compliance discounts you can take advantage of now, that you couldn’t before. Also, In most cases, a general contractor will not allow any sub-contractor to work on their site without compliance to their safety procedures. If you’re a sub, good luck finding work with a sketchy safety past…No matter how tight labor shortage get; no one wants that heat.

The bottom line is:  a safe workplace culture is more productive – ask any of the best contractors around Michigan. There is less “down-time” and less additional costs for accidents, injuries, OSHA job site audits, citations, and fines.

There are many options available to roofing contractors for choosing fall protection.  What fall protection equipment should I use?

The “Job Hazard Analysis” determines what the fall protection plan will be and what options are best for that particular job.  In many cases the hazards can be “engineered-out” of the job.  Or maybe you can utilize a more “passive” system like guardrails or safety nets. A fall restraint system can be used to reduce or even eliminate a fall risk.  For most roofers, a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS) is most practical.  Whatever equipment you use, make sure that it meets the appropriate ANSI standards (American National Standards Institute)

Tell me about the components of a fall arrest kit, and what each part’s function is.

Many manufacturers offer a basic roofing  fall arrest kit that consists of all the basic needs for a Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS).

  • An Anchor Point to tie-off to
  • a vertical lifeline with a shock absorbing lanyard to connect the user with the anchor
  • and a safety harness for the individual to wear.
  • as well as the manual that is included to help the user understand how to use it.

Keep it pretty!

Proper care and maintenance of all safety equipment is key.  OSHA requires that all fall protection equipment is inspected prior to EACH USE. Oh and if any unsatisfactory equipment is found on an inspection?: you’ll get a fine and the equipment immediately removed from the job and disposed-of. So take care of that stuff!