Introduction

Once the third-leading cause of work-related death across all industries in the USA, falls have surpassed workplace homicide to become the second-leading cause after motor vehicle crashes. Empirical data and research suggests that past and present approaches to traditional fall protection have not significantly reduced the number of fall incidents in either construction or general industry in the USA.

A search through the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (US DOL/OSHA) website (http://www.osha.gov/pls/imis/accidentsearch.html) reveals that most of the fatal falls that occur in the workplace are the result of the decedent worker not utilizing any means of fall prevention or arrest. In a disturbing number of cases the worker is actually wearing a safety harness, and perhaps even a lanyard, but is not clipped in to anything. Unprotected falls from elevated work surfaces frequently result in the individual's impacting the ground, most often resulting in death.

Although fall prevention and protection has been repeatedly addressed by OSHA, which has suggested methods such as elimination or substitution of work, use of engineering controls, administrative controls, and the appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to control hazards, occupational deaths and injuries have not followed the same trend as other workplace accidents. Falls continue to be a leading cause of death and injury in the workplace.

A common concern noted in many fall accident investigations is that traditionally accepted fall protection methods are simply not feasible in certain situations. In addition, misjudgment of a hazardous situation is the most common type of human error involving falls, accounting for about one third of all the accidents.

This presentation will explore safety at height in light of various types of fall protection methodology used, including fall arrest, positioning, and rope access. The potential cost benefit of requiring higher levels of competence, supervision, management and personal levels of responsibility in work at height will be explored and contrasted with the idea that all hazards can be "engineered out" of a situation.

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