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Rigid Rail Fall Protection

Overhead rigid rail fall protection systems provide the highest degree of mobility and safety in fall protection. The system is designed to prevent its user from falling a long distance if he/she should slip while traversing along an elevated surface. While the rigid rail system does not prevent falls, when properly used, it limits the distance a user can fall to less than two feet.

Rigid Rail Fall Protection
Rigid Rail Fall Protection

In an overhead rigid rail fall protection system, a steel track is installed above your walking surface providing continuous lateral coverage along the unprotected area. The user is outfitted with a full-body safety harness that connects to a moving trolley via a self-retracting lifeline (SRL).

The SRL provides a vertical lifeline for fall-arrest or restraint. While they pull out and retract easily to allow for workable mobility, SRLs contain a sensitive braking mechanism that is activated by sudden rapid movement. The lifeline is designed to absorb some of the shock incurred by a fall. Most of today’s SRLs feature a friction control mechanism that provides a smoother stop and limits fall forces.

The force of the fall is distributed over a user’s body via a full-body harness, which is connected to the SRL. Typically weighing less than three pounds, the safety harness has a back-mounted D-Ring which is used to hook up to the lifeline. Harnesses include several quick-release clamps and tensioning adjustments to fit various body shapes and sizes. Proper adjustment of the harness is essential to the user’s safety. Because of this unique fit, it is recommended each user have his/her own personal harness.

The safety harness takes on the force of a fall and distributes to areas of the body better able to absorb the force and support weight. In addition to distributing force, the design of a full-body harness serves to keep the user upright in a fall. This allows a deceleration device to properly deploy, but also keeps the spine vertical, which is ideal for the body to best absorb compressive forces of a fall.

Overhead rigid rail fall protection systems can be customized for your unique site or purchased as pre-engineered kits. Configurations include outdoor, indoor, fold-a-way, swing arm, or portable applications.

Employers must set up the work place to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floor and walls. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance. If these hazards exist at your work site, consider overhead rigid rail fall protection systems to protect your workers.

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Rooftop Falls are Costly

Fall-related incidents at work cost U.S. businesses $15.4, cause 200,000 days away from work injuries, and claim 800 American worker lives annually. Construction workers are the most at risk and construction businesses are the highest targeted industry for safety groups. Rooftop falls are the most common and costly.

Rooftop Falls are Costly
Rooftop Falls are Costly

Recently, a Buffalo man who suffered sever and disabling injuries in a workplace fall was awarded a $9.5 million settlement resulting from the incident. In 2017, a roofing and siding worker fell about 30 feet onto a concrete floor while replacing the roof of a commercial building. The worker suffered two severely fractured legs that ultimately required amputation. Officials determined that the employer and property owner failed to provided employees with any fall protection equipment as required by New York state labor laws.

Falls can be prevented and lives can be saved with proper planning, providing the right protection and equipment, and thorough training.
A fall protection specialist who is experienced with customizing secure and compliant systems is the most competent fall safety partner.

There are many solutions available to provide safe and compliant rooftop fall protection. Guardrails, anchors, warning lines, cable lines, nets, personal fall arrest systems, and more: each designed to protect from specific hazards encountered working on roofs. Choosing the right solution can be overwhelming but you do not have to be the expert in each hazard, related regulation, or solution.

Fall protection specialists are experts in customizing OSHA & ANSI compliant fall protection solutions for your unique circumstances, providing exactly what you need to protect your workers from fall-related injuries. Their extensive knowledge and understanding of regulations, requirements and safety solutions make them trusted partners in providing you with a competent, compliant, and reliable rooftop fall protection system.

Get started by reviewing your rooftop structure and access needs through a rooftop hazard checklist. Share with your fall protection specialist who you can trust will customize a rooftop fall protection system with exactly the coverage you need to keep your workers safe.

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Loading and Tarping Fall Protection

When adjusting, removing, or applying tarps over loads, you are performing operations that require fall protection. OSHA requires fall protection when you are working more than four feet above a lower level or over dangerous equipment in general industry. Loading and tarping fall protection options include overhead rigid rail, access platforms, and any personal fall-arrest or restraint gear needed to use within those systems.

These systems protect you when you are, preparing, receiving, or delivering a load. Your employer must provide OSHA compliant fall protection and train you on safely operating while using the system at your facility. Most states have multi-employer workplace guidelines that require a host facility to provide the same level of fall protection if you are required to perform tarping and loading operations at their fixed-site location.

Loading and Tarping Fall Protectio

A building materials manufacturer contacted Fall Protection Systems to protect contractors and company drivers performing loading and tarping operations. Daily tasks included loading flatbed trailers, weather and dunnage cargo tarping, and securing DOT load binder cargo straps. Workers were exposed to falls from elevated surfaces well over the four feet height where OSHA requires fall protection in their Walking-Working Surfaces standard.

Our Fall Protection Specialist visited the facility and completed an onsite survey documenting current operations, taking measurements, and identifying improvement of sighting and guiding bay entry. The FPS Design and Engineering team drafted a custom overhead rigid rail solution that centered positioning of the truck operations.  The solution provided the most secure fall protection application while improving safety of workers while sighting truck bay entry.

While this was the best solution for this particular facility, each operation is unique. Compliant fall protection equipment can be custom or pre-engineered, fixed or portable, and can work alone or be combined with fall prevention equipment to protect workers from ground level to work at heights.

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Fall Prevention vs Fall Protection

When you cannot eliminate a hazard on your job site, you must look to implementing engineering controls to protect your workers. When it comes to fall hazards, engineering controls can include both prevention and/or protection equipment. It is important to know the difference, and to consider all risk and injury mitigation strategies from the perspective of fall prevention vs fall protection. An example of these two different controls are safety cages and overhead anchorage.

Fall Prevention vs Fall Protection

While safety cages provide a level of fall prevention, the risk of a fall and subsequent injuries cannot be completely engineered out. On their own, cages allow for fall through and fall over hazards and workers using rails for balance reduce their job operation mobility. Positioned over the wide variety of railcars, trucks, and machinery with different shapes and sizes, gaps that workers may fall through can be amplified. Cages do not provide fall protection.

Overhead rigid rail systems, on the other hand, provide the highest degree of mobility and safety in fall protection. Overhead anchor points used in combination with self-retracting lifelines and safety harnesses are designed to arrest a fall in less than two feet. When anchored overhead, workers have hands-free security, allowing them to traverse along elevated surfaces safely and focused on job operations.

When used together, a safety cage with overhead anchorage is the safest engineered control for your worker. OSHA compliant fall protection begins when users are secured to an overhead anchor from the moment of access at ground level to operations at heights.

OSHA Compliant Fall Protection with Fall Prevention
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Budget for 2021 Fall Protection

With fall-related incidents claiming 800 lives, causing 200,000 injuries, and costing $15.4 billion annually, investing in fall protection solutions is a critical safety element. Budget for 2021 fall protection to secure your workforce and mitigate asset losses.

Budget for 2021 Fall Protection
Budget for 2021 Fall Protection

From custom overhead rigid rail fall protection systems to pre-engineered and personal fall protection and prevention products, there are solutions to help maximize safety for your particular operations and budget.

  • Custom Overhead Rigid Rail fall protection systems provide the highest degree of mobility and safety in fall protection. Users are secured to an overhead rail that spans length of your unique operation site and is designed to arrest a fallen worker within 2 feet if he/she should slip while traversing along an elevated surface. This system would require the largest budget allocation as customization requires site visits, engineering and design, footing and system installation, and sometimes site modifications. A budget quote can be provided to help you plan for this type of fall protection equipment investment.
  • Pre-engineered fall protection includes fixed or portable solutions. Most provide the same fall arrest functionality as custom overhead rigid rail, but for single point operations with less than 60 feet of coverage needed and no additional site modifications. Because of the limited use-needs and modifications in addition to the ability of self-installation, budgets needed for pre-engineered solutions are more moderate.
  • Guardrails and safety gates – OSHA requires prevention of trip and fall hazards, including open edges, floor or wall openings, rooftop perimeters, and walkway obstructions. Guardrails and safety gates are available as pre-engineered kits that can quickly be placed onsite to remove the fall hazard. These products are more modular in design and budget depends on the components needed to secure your fall hazard.
  • Ladder fall protection – OSHA recently updated standards regarding acceptable fall protection equipment for ladders. Fixed ladders over 24 feet must have ladder safety or fall arrest systems. Ladder fall arrest systems are available as kits and can be quickly self-installed. Depending on length and type of fall arrest system, you can expect to budget an average of $1,500 per fixed ladder kit.
  • Fall Protection PPE– Each worker using a fall arrest system should have their own, uniquely fitted harness and the correct lifeline or lanyard for their size and operation. Sold individually or as user sets, a variety of sizes and configurations are available and should only be used for their intended application and weight capacity. They should be inspected daily to ensure good working condition and custom-fitted to the individual user. You will need to determine the type of individual components needed in order to budget for user sets as prices vary as much as the types of harnesses and lifelines vary (including women’s harness, leading edge self-retracting lifelines, and user sets for big & tall workers).

Fall Protection Systems is committed to workplace fall safety and partnering with you to resolve workplace fall hazards. With well over 10,000 customers served, our team of fall protection specialists, engineers, and certified technicians are experts in turnkey experiences including identifying, designing, manufacturing, and installing fall protection solutions. You can be assured your solution distinctly matches your facility and operation needs and is designed for the highest level of fall safety.

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Avoid Falls During Snow Removal

With workplace falls consistently remaining as a top cause for injuries, fatalities, and costs for U. S. businesses, reviewing facilities for hazards should be a priority. As winter weather approaches, facilities need to prepare to avoid falls during snow removal.

Avoid Falls During Snow Removal
Avoid Falls During Snow Removal

Heavy snow loads can be a risk to structures and snowmelt and slide can pose hazards at ground level. While rooftop snow removal may be necessary, making sure the risks associated with removal are minimized is critical. Consider some of the following when evaluating and planning for safe snow removal operations.

  • What other hazards may rooftop snow removal workers be exposed to? (severe temperatures, high winds, icy surfaces, heavier physical exertion, unfamiliar equipment)
  • Are there known hazards that may be hidden by the snow?
  • What are the maximum load limits of the roof and what will the impact be of snow load, removal equipment, and workers adding to that weight?
  • How should the snow be removed to prevent unbalanced loading?
  • How will you protect anyone at ground level from falling snow and ice during removal operations?
  • Can snow be removed without putting workers on the roof?

If you have determined that snow removal is necessary, make sure to establish a plan that keeps your workers safe and stays in compliance with OSHA regulations. Your workers will be exposed to some of the most commonly cited worksite violations including lack of fall protection, ladder safety, and fall prevention training.

  • Use snow removal methods that do not involve workers going on roofs whenever possible. 
  • Provide the appropriate tools, equipment, protective devices, clothing, and footwear.
  • Provide and ensure that workers use fall protection equipment.  
  • Ensure workers are using ladders equipped with vertical fall protection.
  • Make sure any hazards on the roof are marked to be visible during heavy snow events. (skylights, roof drains, vents, etc)
  • Train workers on fall hazards and the proper use of fall protection equipment.
  • Have a plan for rescuing a fallen worker caught by a fall protection system.
  • Establish a safe work zone in the area where snow is to be removed.

More information about the hazards and related regulations can be found through OSHA’s rooftop snow hazard alertFall protection specialists can help you plan for safe rooftop snow removal.

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Thankful for You

Thank you to all of our staff, partners, and clients for hanging in with us in 2020. We know safety is always a priority and are honored to be trusted with resolving your fall hazards and protecting your essential workers.

Thank you from Fall Protection Systems
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Repeat Fall Protection Violations

With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. Because falls continue to plague U.S. businesses, OSHA focuses significant resources on fall prevention. Unfortunately, some businesses fail to resolve fall hazards even after citations, resulting in repeat fall protection violations.

Repeat Fall Protection Violations
Repeat Fall Protection Violations

There are four types of violations assigned after an OSHA inspection:

  • Other-than-serious: A violation that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but is not serious in nature.
  • Serious: A serious violation exists when the workplace hazard could cause an accident or illness that would most likely result in death or serious physical harm, unless the employer did not know or could not have known of the violation. Penalties for serious violations can be as high as $13,494 per incidence.
  • Willfull: A willful violation is when the employer either knowingly failed to comply with a legal requirement (purposeful disregard) or acted with plain indifference to employee safety. Willful violations come with penalties as high as $134,937 for each incidence.
  • Repeated: Citations for a repeated violation can be assigned if there have been previous violations for the same or substantially similar conditions and if there is an inspection history with a prior notice issued within the past five years. Repeated violations are costly, with the maximum penalty set at $134,937 per incidence.

The costs of falls are considerable and compounding on your business. A fall injures your valuable employee, negatively impacts resources and revenue, increases insurance costs, incurs legal and medical fees, and exposes you to these repeated fines and penalties. U.S. businesses spend over $15 billion annually in fall-related injury expenses.

OSHA offers resources to focus on compliance education to avoid injuries, fatalities, and penalties. In addition to industry alerts, compliance directives, and educational collateral, OSHA offers an on-site consultation program that helps employers identify hazards to be resolved to protect employees and avoid citations and penalties. If an inspection occurs and citations result, the employer has another opportunity to resolve those hazards to avoid repeated violations.

The risks to your employees and your bottom line can be minimized with investment in fall protection equipment. From personal fall protection kits starting at $650 to certified engineered fall protection starting at $15,000, the cost of fall protection is less than the cost of a fall.

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Fall Safety During Holiday Decorating

‘Tis the season to brighten your homes and workplaces with festive holiday decorations. ‘Tis not the season to risk the safety of yourself or your employees. Improper fall protection at the workplace has topped OSHA’s Top Ten citations for nine consecutive years resulting in about 800 fatalities annually and about 200,000 additional serious injuries. Accidents at home happen too with catastrophic consequences. It is critical to consider fall safety during holiday decorating.

Fall Safety During Holiday Decorating
Fall Safety During Holiday Decorating

If you have opted to decorate your home or workplace for the holidays, your first consideration should be whether you self-install or if you should hire a commercial installer. Depending on your operations, this may be the only time your employees are working at heights so you should assess the following:

  • How often do you or your employees access the areas needed to install holiday decorations?
  • Do you have safety plans and equipment to keep yourself or workers at heights safe during installation?
  • Have you identified, marked, and/or removed any hazards that may be encountered by decoration installation?
  • Are you or your employees trained on all safety plans, hazard identification and avoidance, and on all safety equipment?

If you answered no for the most part, you may want to consider hiring a commercial installation service. These companies should be experienced in working at heights, have their own safety equipment, and be well-trained on hazard identification and avoidance.

Self-installation may be an option if your employees are regularly working at heights. Keep in mind you will be responsible for their safety and having a holiday decoration fall protection plan is the best way to prepare and review. Many homeowners opt to decorate their own homes, but often lack the safety equipment or training needed to keep them safe.

Decorating at Home: Safety equipment like the 3M Roof Anchor Fall Protection Kit may be a good investment if you are a homeowner and plan on regularly decorating or performing maintenance at heights on your home. The kit comes with a personal fall protection system including a harness, shock-absorbing lanyard, and removable anchor. When properly used, if you should slip or begin to fall, you will be “caught” quickly before a complete fall giving you time for safe rescue.

Decorating at Work: You’ll likely need to consider two major fall hazards when decorating commercial facilities:

Rooftop Safety: Before holiday decoration installation, inspect with this rooftop fall protection checklist. Ensure all hazards are clearly marked, skylights are covered, and perimeters have compliant fall protection (guardrails, lifelines, safe-access platforms, etc).

Ladder Safety: OSHA now requires employers to install ladder or vertical fall protection on ladder systems over 24 feet in height. It is also important to protect workers at the top of the ladder where they access upper platforms or rooftop with a self-closing swing gate or guardrail. You can review your ladder safety needs here.

Before you dazzle your employees and neighbors, make sure you have taken holiday decorating fall protection precautions in order to keep your workers safe.

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Safe Workplaces for Temporary Workers

As businesses across the country onboard temporary staff to meet holiday season and increased essential operation and production demands, they must ensure safe workplaces for temporary workers.

Safe Workplaces for Temporary Workers
Safe Workplaces for Temporary Workers

The safety of temporary workers can be overlooked as they get placed in a variety of jobs that they are not always given adequate training, explanation of duties, or complete safety and health training for. To complicate even further, temporary workers placed by staffing agencies can lead to misunderstanding of the role and duty of all involved.

While the extent of responsibility under the law of staffing agencies and host employers depends on the unique factors in each case, OSHA reminds that both are jointly responsible for maintaining a safe work environment. OSHA recommends that the staffing agency and the host employer define their respective responsibilities for compliance with applicable OSHA standards in their contract.

To work cooperatively in defining roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements and sharing responsibility for ensuring temporary worker safety and health, the following should be considered:

  • Staffing agencies have a duty to inquire into the conditions of their workers’ assigned workplaces.
  • Ignorance of hazards is not an excuse.
  • Staffing Agencies do not need to be experts on specific workplace hazards, but they should communicate with host employers to identify what conditions exist, what hazards may be encountered, and how best to ensure protection.
  • Host employers must treat temporary workers like any other workers in terms of training, safety, and health protections.
  • Host employers must provide temporary workers with the same safety and personal protective equipment (PPE) that is required for their permanent employees.

OSHA reminds temporary workers that they have the same rights as permanent workers including:

  • A safe workplace free of dangers
  • Training in clear language that you understand
  • Appropriate safety equipment
  • Right to identify safety hazards
  • Right to report work-related injuries without being punished.

Employers must give equal consideration to temporary workers in regard to obligations under the OSH Act and other worker protection laws. OSHA sets expectations on roles and responsibilities in their “Protecting Temporary Workers” publication.

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