Late one afternoon in 2005 I received the phone call that every safety professional fears. An employee had fallen while descending a tower and had died at the scene. After the initial shock dissipated, I started the notification process and waited for additional information to filter in. While waiting I started to play 20 questions on what could have happened. Did the employee have on his fall protection equipment? Had he anchored off correctly? Had he followed our safety procedures? Was he familiar with the tower and its hazards? The answer to these and many others were all yes. Our Corporation had a good fall protection program that met current OSHA guidelines so what went wrong? Over a year later OSHA agreed, our Fall Protection Program was compliant and not at fault.
As part of our Corporations recovery from this tragic event an internal "Green Belt" team consisting of experienced climbers, instructors, and management was formed. Here are the "top 10" areas that we decided to take a second look at, apply the best fall protection safety practices available globally and in that process strengthened our overall program to a level that even our parent corporation was mandated to adopt.
During that year while OSHA investigated, we took a hard look at not just our current fall protection program but the tasks our employees were really being asked to perform. Our Corporation got into the climbing business gradually. First it was some roof top work, then some tasks on antennas, and finally tasks performed on towers. Since it was so gradual, few noticed that our tasks aloft had increased and changes in our program may have been needed. OSHA was at a loss for suggesting improvements but our mandate was clear. We needed to go beyond current OSHA requirements to protect our employees. The generic Fall Protection Program we had built years before no longer had enough detail and depth for the tasks we performed. In response, we adopted a Managed Fall Protection Program based on the new family of ANSI Z359-2007 standards. These standards are the bedrock that our Fall Protection Program is now built on.
Building and incorporating a Managed Fall Protection Program into our corporation required major changes. The simple program that had been placed within the corporations "Walking, Working Surfaces Policy" now became a stand alone program, with its own administrator and leadership responsibilities. Supervisors now had to identify and provide funding for the training of qualified, competent and authorized personnel.