The Hierarchy of Fall Protection
The Hierarchy of Fall Protection is the preferred order of control to eliminate or reduce fall hazards. This methodology mirrors common safety practices for hazard abatement beginning with elimination and ending with administrative controls. Using the data collected from the fall hazard assessments, each solution in the hierarchy can be applied to each hazard.
***This hierarchy of solutions should always be evaluated – in order – to determine which is the safest, most effective one.***
1. Hazard Elimination
The first step in the Hierarchy of Fall Protection is elimination. Elimination simply means finding an approach to a task that does not place a worker in a position where he or she could be at risk of a fall injury.
Example: have a worker use a light bulb changer pole to replace light bulbs, rather than having that worker climb a ladder to reach the bulb.
2. Passive Fall Protection
The second step is Passive protection. Passive protection is generally considered to provide a higher level of safety since the opportunity for error is less than using personal protective equipment (PPE). Passive fall prevention includes physical barriers that keep workers away from edges that present fall hazards.
Example: Including guardrails or railings along the edge of an upper level that keeps workers away from high-risk edges.
3. Personal Fall Restraint System
The third step in the hierarchy is a Fall restraint system. These typically use fixed-length lifelines connected to anchor points, which restrict workers’ movement so that they can’t reach over an edge and fall to a lower level.
Example: Best practice is to pair ANSI Tested and OSHA compliant full-body harnesses and lifelines that tether a worker to an anchor point such as the GATOR Roof Anchor or the GIBBON Cross Arm Strap with the COBRA Self Retracting Lifeline.
4. Personal Fall Arrest System
The fourth step in the Hierarchy of Fall Protection is fall arrest, and it is distinctly different from the previous three steps. Unlike those steps, which protect workers by preventing falls, fall arrest systems protect workers by stopping them after a fall happens.
Like fall restraint systems, fall arrest systems use full-body harnesses, lifelines, and anchor points. However, the lifelines on fall arrest systems are either energy-absorbing lifelines (EAL) or self-retracting lifelines (SRL).
5. Administrative Controls
The last step in the fall protection hierarchy is administrative controls. Administrative controls are work practices or procedures that increase a worker’s awareness of a fall hazard. These preventive measures are taken to reduce the likelihood of a fall.
Examples: Include safety monitors, warning lines, warning horns, designated areas, or control lines.
When it comes to protecting workers, prevention is the first line of defense. These steps of planning, providing the right equipment, and asking the right questions are the foundation for implementing a fall protection plan. Of course, when creating a fall protection plan, all possible outcomes are taken into account. The Hierarchy of Fall Protection is the preferred order of control to eliminate or reduce fall hazards which exists to help determine the best method of protecting workers at height.
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