When a carpenter at a Florida sewage treatment plant learned he'd have to replace his safety belt with a new full body harness attached to an overhead horizontal lifeline (HLL), he wasn't enthusiastic about the idea. He and his colleagues expressed concern over the new system: "How am I going to move in that thing? Will it make it harder to do my job? What's wrong with the waist belt we were using before?"
The morning he slipped off an unfinished mixer platform 20 feet above the concrete slab of a new aeration tank under construction at the plant, his skepticism disappeared. The engineered fall protection device he was using most likely saved his life.
Fall arrest systems such as HLLs are just one component of what's become known in the safety engineering industry as managed fall protection. Thanks in part to the managed fall protection concept, users have a comprehensive manner in which to establish or improve a fall hazard program. Drawing from the core elements of the existing Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) information on health and safety programs, the managed fall protection method provides a program administrator with an outline for a safety program. These core elements include management leadership and employee participation; hazard identification and assessment; hazard prevention and control; information and training; and evaluation of program effectiveness. The goal of this paper is to provide case studies of the Managed Fall Protection outline to show how the program can be used effectively to solve fall hazard issues. See outline on the first page of this article.
When developing a managed fall protection program, it's essential for a company's leadership to support the initiative on a philosophical level as well as a practical one, says Tracey Riepenhoff, P.E., C.S.P., C.P.E, an LJB managing principal and one of three LJB employees who volunteer on the ANSI standards development committee. By instituting official policy statements about worker safety, she says, a company communicates to its employees that their well-being and safety are high priorities for the company. Policy statements also strongly assert that compliance among employees is not only mandatory, but also instrumental in the effectiveness of the program in protecting safety and preventing injury, for in the absence of compliance, a worker's life and health are placed at unacceptable risk.
In working with a major U.S. petroleum producer to institute a managed fall protection program, LJB examined the client's corporate policies and standards as well as division-specific practices, then participated on a fall protection team to assist in writing a set of policy statements that conformed with all current regulatory standards. These statements, which were both philosophical and practical, provided definitions and set standards for procedures, training and accountability.