Fall Prevention – Elevated Work Platforms

Originally published 01/10/2018

Most incidents where construction workers fall from elevated platforms have a common theme: the workers were not using fall protection or weren’t properly tied off.

Workers operating inside buckets are at risk of being ejected or bounced out of the buckets to the ground below when:

  • Moving the lifting equipment from one area to another.
  • The lifting equipment is struck by a motor vehicle.
  • The bucket gets lodged in objects.
  • The lifting equipment suddenly shifts because it is being operated on grades, side slopes or ramps that exceed manufacturer’s recommendations.

How do you keep yourself and your co-workers safe when working in buckets or on elevated platforms?

  • Be sure you have the proper training on the set-up and use of elevated platforms. Unqualified, untrained workers should never operate elevated work platforms.
  • Implement a traffic control plan after determining if flaggers or other traffic control (such as barriers, cones and signage) are necessary to protect workers operating near motor vehicles.
  • Do a prestart inspection of the components of the elevating work platform.
  • Survey the area before using the elevating platform to look for hazards such as untamped earth fills, ditches, drop-offs, debris, overhead obstructions and electrical conductors, weather conditions and unauthorized persons in the area.
  • Make sure the elevating work platform is on a surface that is within the limits specified by the manufacturer. Be certain that outriggers, stabilizers, extendable axles, or other stability enhancing methods are used as required by the manufacturer.
  • Choose the appropriate fall protections system based on the equipment manufacturer’s specification.
  • Inspect your fall protection equipment daily. Look for fraying ropes, cracks or other defects in the hardware.
  • Tag and remove defective equipment from service.
  • Ensure that all persons working in a bucket or on an elevated platform wear the appropriate fall protection and that it is fixed to the manufacturer-provided and approved attachment points.
  • Keep the manufacturer’s operation manual available onsite for reference by operators.

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New Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Requirements

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, November 17, 2016

OSHA issues final rule updating walking-working surfaces standards and establishing personal fall protection systems requirements

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems.

“The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls.” The final rule also increases consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both industries.

OSHA estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, and will affect approximately 112 million workers at seven million worksites.

The final rule’s most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994 and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry. Other changes include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level; prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system; and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.