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Who is your Fall Protection MVP?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The following article was featured in the September issue of ISHN, and authored by Roco Chief Instructor Pat Furr.
Every team has their most valuable player or person, their MVP. When you consider all the personnel who make up the fall protection team at your facility, who is your MVP?

Chances are it is your Competent Person. OSHA defines a Competent Person as “One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” In order to do their job and become your Fall Protection MVP, it is very important that your Competent Person be.....well, competent.


Understanding Regulations & Standards

Competence can come through formal training, work experience, self-study, or most likely a combination of all three. Areas in which the Competent Person must be well versed include a thorough understanding of legislated requirements pertaining to fall protection. A great deal of time must be spent visiting the applicable OSHA regulations that apply to the type of work activities that the Competent Person will be overseeing.

This can be rather daunting, but there are plenty of resources to help in this effort. OSHA provides clarification through the issuance of letters of interpretation, Safety and Health Information Bulletins (SHIBs) and safety posters, and several training institutions provide formal training covering OSHA regulations as part of their curricula.

In addition to understanding the OSHA legislated requirements, it is also helpful that the Competent Person use consensus standards, BKM, and certainly any company policies that strengthen the OSHA required protections. The ANSI/ASSE Z359 family of standards is a big help, especially Z359.2 titled, “Minimum Requirements for a Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program.” This document provides recommended guidance for roles and responsibilities, training, fall hazard surveys, procedures, the hierarchy of fall protection, anchorages, inspection, maintenance and storage of fall protection equipment, rescue procedures, incident investigation, and evaluating program effectiveness.

Meeting the Needs of Authorized Persons

The Competent Person is in a unique position. They must communicate to the Authorized Persons that will be employing the fall protection procedures and systems, and also to the Program Administrator. In many cases, the Competent Person may be the Program Administrator, too. In this position, the Competent Person must strive to understand the needs of Authorized Persons regarding systems and equipment that will not create an unacceptable hindrance to their job.

If the fall protection equipment is so burdensome that workers cannot do their job, or is very uncomfortable, there is a better chance they will be reluctant to use it. So one of the most important aspects of the Competent Person’s education is to stay abreast of the types of fall protection equipment and systems commercially available. With the recent explosion of modern, lightweight, multi-function, easily deployed fall protection equipment and systems, the question of feasibility and overcoming reluctance on the part of the Authorized Person is becoming a concern of the past.

Fall Hazard Survey

The “Fall Hazard Survey” is a great tool for the Competent Person to use to identify existing and potential future fall hazards at the worksite, and to determine means to abate those hazards. This exercise is outlined in ANSI/ASSE Z359.2 and provides a systematic approach to this most valuable step. I refer to it as the fall hazard walk-about — a top-to-bottom, north-to-south, thorough physical review of all areas in which current or future work at height may be performed. The goal is to identify fall hazards by type and to identify one or more means to eliminate or control hazards while keeping the hierarchy of fall protection in mind at all times.

Once the Fall Hazard Survey is completed, it may call for the use of active fall protection equipment and systems if falls cannot be eliminated through engineering controls. In this instance, the Competent Person may have to impose limits on work activities and prescribe specific guidance on equipment and non-certified anchor point selection, and also on equipment use limitations to control swing falls and clearance requirements. Procedures put into place to eliminate or control fall hazards should be documented and included in the fall protection program.


Rescue Planning

One often overlooked duty of the Competent Person is to prepare or ensure that written rescue pre-plans are developed for any identified fall hazard that calls for the use of personnel fall arrest systems. I advocate development of a rescue from height pre-plan anytime employees are performing work at an elevated location that is accessed by means other than a stairwell or elevator. This includes platforms that may be protected by passive restraints such as standard guardrails or parapets. Always consider the possibility that a worker may be injured or become suddenly ill while at this elevated position and will need prompt rescue to get them safely to ground level.


Equipment Inspections & Incident Investigation

There are two primary types of fall protection equipment and system inspections, and the Competent Person plays a role in both types. The Competent Person is tasked with performing OSHA-mandated periodic inspections and any periodic inspections in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Pre-use inspections of fall protection equipment will be completed by the Authorized Person, but the training on these pre-use inspections and the person who ensures that these inspections are indeed completed is the Competent Person. If any equipment fails a pre-use or periodic inspection, it is immediately removed from service. In the unfortunate event that there is a fall from height incident, the Competent Person will participate in the investigation.

Role Recap

I’d like to summarize the role of the Competent Person “According to Pat” by saying they:

  • •  Must be very knowledgeable of the OSHA fall protection regulations.

  • •  Identify and understand all areas where work is performed at height and provide solutions adhering to the hierarchy of fall protection by completing a thorough and honest Fall Hazard Survey.

  • •  Have a finger on the pulse of traditional and emerging technologies for fall protection equipment and systems. Provide solutions to the Authorized Persons that are comfortable, convenient, and may be safer than what is currently being used.

  • •  Understand the capabilities and limitations of rescue systems.

I hope you have your own “Fall Protection MVP” at your work site and, if not, maybe it is time to groom one.

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A Job Hazard Analysis for Work at Height

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The following article was featured in the June 2014 issue of ISHN, and authored by Roco Chief Instructor Pat Furr.

As part of my safety consulting duties, I have seen many fall protection programs for a wide variety of industries. When I ask about an employer’s fall protection plan, it’s pretty scary to be told, “Well, I can show you our program in two minutes”— and then see no more than a locker with a rag-tag assortment of body belts, harnesses and a few six- foot energy-absorbing lanyards of questionable integrity.

Now, it is rare to come across such an inadequate program. But truth be told, the comprehensiveness, diligence and effectiveness of the programs I have assessed run a fairly wide spectrum from so-so to top notch.

Top-notch programs all had several common elements, but the one element that stands out the most as being consistently included in the best programs is the completion of fall hazard surveys.

A Comprehensive Survey

The fall hazard survey, or what I like to call the fall hazard “walk-about,” is a critical early step in the process of assembling a comprehensive managed fall protection program. And a survey should be conducted again when certain changes occur including, but not limited to, changes in the facility configuration, changes to work processes, changes to legislated requirements, and the emergence of modern fall protection equipment solutions.

Outlined in ANSI Z359.2, the fall hazard survey is an effective means to identify areas where work is performed at height, identify ways to eliminate or control fall hazards, and help determine which hazards require the highest priority when it comes to allocating sometimes limited resources. A comprehensive fall hazard survey is the best way to identify and understand the types of fall hazards that need to be addressed to provide the best protection to your workers at height.

This requires that the Qualified or Competent Person do a top to bottom, left to right, tour of the facility to identify known areas where work at height is currently being performed, and any areas where future work at height may take place.

It may be helpful to have an area foreman or even an Authorized Person with thorough knowledge of the specific work areas available to ask questions regarding the work process and their needs and concerns.

The goal of this survey is to not only identify areas of work at height, but to determine the most protective means of abating the fall hazards.

 
The goal of this survey is to not only identify areas of work at height, but to determine the most protective means of abating fall hazards.

The Qualified/Competent Person must have the “Hierarchy of Fall Protection” in mind at all times. By having the goal of eliminating the fall hazard first and foremost, any opportunities to bring the work to the ground or to perform the work from the ground should present themselves during this survey. This may require a change in the configuration of certain structures, or the retrofitting of systems that allow the work to be performed from the ground. This may incur some significant costs, but in the long run the changes will be more than offset by avoiding a fall from height and the direct and indirect costs of such an accident.

Continuing the survey while still adhering to the Hierarchy of Fall Protection, the Qualified/ Competent Person may have to consider the use of fall restraint measures, either passive measures in the form of guardrails or parapets, or active measures in the form of body belts or harnesses with lanyards anchored in a way that the system prevents the Authorized Worker from reaching the leading edge of a fall hazard. Once active measures are employed, it is critically important to work with the Authorized Persons to understand what their work activities entail to come to a solution that provides the needed protection but also considers their need for mobility.

If the lower echelons of the Hierarchy of Fall Protection cannot be employed, a fall arrest system may be the only feasible solution.
 

A Fall Arrest Solution

If the lower echelons of the Hierarchy of Fall Protection cannot be employed, a fall arrest system may be the only feasible solution. This is where the Qualified/Competent Person’s knowledge of current fall arrest systems and components really shows its value. Lightweight, breathable, multi-function fall protection equipment available today protects workers while also providing the ease of use and freedom of movement that has been missing for many years. This is an important tool that the Competent Person can use to their advantage when faced with any resistance from certain Authorized Persons.

During the fall hazard survey, consider the presence of any environmental factors that may affect the performance of the fall protection equipment or systems as well as an alternate solution, specialized materials, or even a reconfiguration of the structure/process. Environmental factors can include hot objects, sharp edges, slowly engulfing materials, chemicals, weather factors, or any other environmental factor that may render the fall protection equipment ineffective.

Document Findings

Once the entire facility has been surveyed, it’s time to document in writing the findings and the means to abate the identified fall hazards. The Fall Hazard Survey Report becomes a part of the written fall protection program. It should be reviewed periodically and whenever there is a change to legislated requirements or a change in the facility or fall protection equipment.

Plan for Rescue

If any identified areas require the use of fall arrest systems, then that triggers the need to complete a written rescue pre-plan. It is my opinion that rescue

If any identified areas require the use of fall arrest systems, then that triggers the need to complete a written rescue pre-plan.

 
pre-plans should also include anywhere workers are performing work at height, such as elevated platforms that have been accessed by means other than elevators or stairs, with the goal that the rescue plan provides a capability to get the injured or suddenly ill worker to the ground promptly.

Time to Train

Once the Fall Hazard Survey is completed and documented, it is time for the Qualified Competent Person to provide training to the Authorized Persons on the types of equipment, systems, selection of anchor points, clearance requirements, swing fall hazards, and pre-use inspections of their equipment. Training may vary depending on the areas that Authorized Persons are assigned duties, but in all cases the type of training, any required re-training, and the criteria that would trigger the need for retraining must be documented.

A Valuable Tool

The fall hazard survey is a valuable tool that provides a thorough assessment of the entire facility to honestly identify fall hazards and determine the most effective means to protect workers from falls. Look at it as an expanded JHA that focuses specifically on areas of work at height.


About the Author: Pat Furr is a chief instructor and technical consultant for Roco Rescue, Inc. Pat teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue, Fall Protection, and Suspended Worker Rescue. He is also involved in research and development, writing articles and presenting at national conferences. He is a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescuer Professional Qualifications Standard.

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Quick-Connect Harness Buckle Safety

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Recently, we noticed a story in a leading safety and health magazine that questions the “two-piece, pass-through buckle” that is commonly used on many harnesses. The author, in fact, referred to it as a design flaw. However, we consider it more a matter of improper use than a design flaw. While he does identify some potential user failures, we feel his terming is not quite accurate. Here’s why...

As with any life support equipment, it is imperative to use the equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use and receive the appropriate training as required. The author cites instances where he has observed the mating plate of the two-piece, pass-through buckle being improperly oriented which can lead to the buckle loosening and potentially disconnecting. He also suggests that the pass-through plate have some type of “visual indicator” to warn the user when the buckle is improperly connected. Of course, we’re always in favor of additional safety features!

While this may be viewed as a matter of semantics, consider the following analogy… almost every outboard motorboat has one or sometimes multiple drain plugs in the transom well to provide drainage once the boat is pulled out of the water. If the skipper forgets to re-install the drain plugs the next time the boat is launched, the transom well will fill with water, which could lead to swamping. So, is this a design flaw, or improper use? From an equipment designer/manufacturer’s point of view, the use of this terminology could be very significant.

With the many advances in life safety equipment, we have seen harnesses and other rescue/safety equipment become more convenient, lighter, multifunctional, and overall safer than earlier generations. As with many product advances and improvements, there may be compromise in one area but advances in many others. In this case, the speed and ease of donning and doffing a Class III rescue or fall protection harness by using some type of quick-connect buckle. Of course, the user must ensure that the buckle is used correctly.

The pass-through buckle has been around a very long time. In fact, a Croll sport climbing sit harness that I bought in 1981 had this type buckle. These buckles were also used in the past on the leg loops on Roco harnesses. There are minor variations on the design of the buckle with some having slots to ease the pass-through of the top plate, while others do not have this slot.

There are important requirements for the safe use of these buckles, which include:

1.  Make sure the buckle is adjusted tightly enough to ensure constant tension is applied to the top plate against the fixed plate.

2.  Be sure that the top plate is not inverted.

3.  Double check that the tail end of the webbing does not pass through the “fixed plate” but instead lays parallel with the anchored section of the webbing.

These three user points of performance are easily completed. Our extensive experience with this type of buckle tells us that it’s a convenient and safe buckle when used as it was designed. As always, carefully check and re-check your gear before life-loading!

Information from article by Robert Peterson published by OH&S Online - www.ohsonline.com.


 

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New “No-Step” Work-Rescue Harness from Roco & CMC


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Imagine donning a Class III harness in as little as 8 seconds!
That’s just one of the many features of the new CMC/Roco Work-Rescue Harness.


Because of its innovative “no-step” donning, comfort fit and lightweight design, this new harness will appeal to rescuers, rope access technicians, tower climbers, and other professionals working in the vertical environment.

Our design team (aka Roco instructors) joined up with CMC’s engineering and fabrication team to create this new Class III harness with a “no-step-through” design. The harness literally wraps around your body as you don it. After the initial webbing adjustment, it is then fitted to the user with no need to re-adjust the various straps when you re-don the harness. This unique feature allows a user to don the harness and be ready to go in as little as 8 seconds. Compare this to donning a standard Class III where the user has to step through the waist and leg loops, then tighten the buckles and stow the straps. Not to mention when a “dreaded half twist” is discovered in one of the straps requiring the wearer to start all over again.

The CMC/Roco Work-Rescue Harness features comfortable wear especially while suspended. The lightweight proprietary CMC alloy D-Rings reduce the overall weight of the harness, while the addition of a rated attachment point at the back of the waist belt allows for a convenient connection to a fall restraint lanyard.

The harness has many advantages for work-at-height professionals. For rope access technicians, the top of the A-Frame lift is designed to accept a variety of connectors for anchoring chest ascenders. It also includes a closed loop on the chest H-Frame to mount a chest ascender adjustable tow strap.

Tower climbers will benefit from the vertical orientation of the sternal D-Ring, which eliminates binding of ladder safety system cable grabs during down climbs. The sternal D-Ring has a quick release stowage strap that keeps the ring tucked neatly against the chest when not in use.

The harness features ergonomic curves and pre-formed moldings for user comfort and durability while maintaining a modern look. It also incorporates breathable padding on the interior surfaces to reduce heat retention. The dorsal and shoulder pads are a one-piece design created by a vacuum molding process, making it comfortable without sacrificing form for ease of donning.

The Fall Arrest Indicator is another great safety feature available on this harness. The visual on the tag alerts the user if the harness has had a previous fall. 






"Creating a harness that is easier and quicker to don provides a great advantage for rope professionals. The new CMC/Roco Work-Rescue Harness literally wraps around the user's body…once donned and adjusted, it’s then ‘custom fit’ to your body,” according to Chief Instructor Pat Furr, who led Roco’s design team. 

For more information on the CMC/Roco Work-Rescue Harness, or to place your order now, click here.

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NEW Fall Protection Courses from Roco

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

• Are you concerned about potential falls from height at your workplace?

• Do your workers need more training in recognizing fall hazards?

• Does your fall protection program consider all the angles when evaluating these hazards?

Roco’s new Fall Protection courses can help create a safer workplace by equipping employees with the knowledge to better assess the dangers and take protective steps to abate common fall hazards. Participants will practice Fall Hazard Assessments and will be able to look at their worksite with new eyes concerning fall protection safety.


Click below to learn more about these courses or contact us at 800-647-7626.

Suspended Worker Rescue

Suspended Worker Rescue Using Pre-Engineered Rescue Systems

Competent Person for Fall Protection

Competent Person for Fall Protection Train the Trainer
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