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Five Fall Protection Myths to Counteract

Monday, January 30, 2012

Falls are the leading cause of worker fatalities. According to OSHA, each year more than 100 workers die and thousands are injured as a result of falls at construction sites. The fall protection standard, at 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M, details training and equipment requirements that employers must use to protect workers from falls.

This story is excerpted from an article by Mark Stromme, ISHN. He offers valuable suggestions for increasing safety for workers, and avoiding OSHA fines.


Employers need to:

    •    Select systems and equipment appropriate for the situation;
    •    Properly construct and install safety systems; and

    •    Train workers in the proper selection, use and maintenance of fall protection systems.

Train employees so they don’t fall for these five common myths and misconceptions about fall protection requirements in the construction industry. (Note: The citation amounts listed are related to the specific standard violated.)

Myth #1-“Residential construction has an exemption from the fall protection rules.”

This used to be true. However, in December 2010, OSHA rescinded the directive that allowed for that exception and as of September 15, 2011, all residential construction companies must comply with 1926.501(b)(13). The employer still has the option to develop and implement a fall protection plan that meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502 if the employer can demonstrate that fall protection is infeasible or creates a greater hazard.

The new directive STD 03-00-002, Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction, rescinds STD 03-00-001, Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction, and provides that OSHA will be enforcing 1926.501(b)(13) for all residential construction work.

According to OSHA:

“Prior to the issuance of this new directive, STD 03-00-001 allowed employers engaged in certain residential construction activities to use specified alternative methods of fall protection (e.g., slide guards or safety monitor systems) rather than the conventional fall protection (guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems) required by the residential construction fall protection standard (29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13)). Employers could use the alternative measures described in STD 03-00-001 without first proving that the use of conventional fall protection was infeasible or created a greater hazard and without a written fall protection plan. With the issuance of the new directive, all residential construction employers must comply with 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13).”

When employees say there isn’t a need for fall protection during residential construction work, point out that OSHA says differently. As of September 15, 2011, OSHA compliance officers can enforce STD 03-00-002 for residential construction sites.

Myth #2-“I don’t need any fall protection; it’s only going to take me a couple minutes to install that equipment.”

Fall protection must be provided when employees are performing construction work on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge that is six feet or more above a lower level. (Note: Construction work is “work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.”)
The length of time needed to perform that construction work has no bearing on the employer’s duty to provide fall protection. Be it one minute or one hour, OSHA requires fall protection per 1926.501(b)(1).

There is an exception: when employees are making an inspection, investigation or assessment of workplace conditions prior to the actual start of construction work or after all construction work has been completed, no fall protection is needed.

The following is from an OSHA Letter of Interpretation dated March 2, 2010:

“OSHA has set this exception because employees engaged in inspecting, investigating and assessing workplace conditions before the actual work begins or after work has been completed are exposed to fall hazards for very short durations, if at all, since they most likely would be able to accomplish their work without going near the danger zone... [R]equiring the installation of fall protection systems under such circumstances would expose the employee who installs those systems to falling hazards for a longer time than the person performing an inspection or similar work.”

When employees say they don’t need any fall protection — because the task is going to take them only a few minutes — tell them that in 2010 this misunderstanding cost employers $1,344,612 in OSHA citations.

Myth #3-“Training programs for fall protection aren’t really needed.”

OSHA is clear about requiring training for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. For example, employees may be familiar with specific types of fall protection and have had proper training. However, if a different type of fall protection is to be used, employees using it must be trained by a competent person qualified in this area of expertise.
This training must include the following:
  •     •    The nature of fall hazards in the work area;
  •     •    The correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling and inspecting the fall protection systems to be used;
  •     •    The use and operation of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, safety net systems, warning line systems, safety monitoring systems, controlled access zones, and other protection to be
  •     •    The role of each employee in the safety monitoring system when this system is used;
  •     •    The limitations on the use of mechanical equipment during the performance of roofing work on low-sloped roofs;
  •     •    The correct procedures for the handling and storage of equipment and materials and the erection of overhead protection;
  •     •    The role of employees in fall protection plans; and
  •     •    The standards contained in Subpart M.
To prove this training was done, employers need to have a written certification of training that contains the name or other identity of the employee trained, the date(s) of the training, and the signature of the person who conducted the training or the signature of the employer.
If workers scoff and say they don’t need to be specifically trained in fall protection, tell them the OSHA regulations state otherwise. Failure to provide the required fall protection training in 1926.503(a)(1) resulted in $649,006 in OSHA citations in 2010.

Myth #4-“I’m doing roofing on a low-sloped roof so I don’t need any fall protection.”

OSHA requires (per 1926.5010(b)(10)) each employee engaged in roofing activities on low-sloped roofs, with unprotected sides and edges six feet or more above lower levels be protected from falling by:

    •    Guardrail systems,
    •    Safety net systems, or
    •    Personal fall arrest systems

Other options include a combination of:

    •    Warning line system and guardrail system,
    •    Warning line system and safety net system,
    •    Warning line system and personal fall arrest system, or
    •    Warning line system and safety monitoring system.

On roofs 50 feet or less in width, the use of a safety monitoring system alone (i.e., without the warning line system) is permitted.
There is an exception. When the employer is doing leading edge work, precast concrete erection work or residential construction work, and can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, they must develop and implement a fall protection plan that meets the requirements of 1926.502(k).

Contrary to what workers may think, OSHA does require fall protection on low-sloped roofs. In 2010 they issued $909,442 in citations to enforce that requirement.

Myth #5-“A warning line is all I need for fall protection when working on a steep roof.”

According to 1926.501(b)(11), a warning line is not allowed as a form of fall protection when working on a steeply pitched roof. OSHA requires that each employee on a steep roof with unprotected sides and edges six feet or more above lower levels be protected from falling by guardrail systems with toeboards, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems.

Training employees on these requirements would have saved employers $447,828 in citations in 2010.

Counteract these myths... Training employees to avoid these five fall protection myths and misconceptions can prevent injuries and fatalities and save your company money.
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Tower Rescue: Essential Training in a Global Landscape

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

It is becoming more and more difficult to find a hilltop or a ridge in America that does not have some type of telecom tower placed on it. Likewise, there are many other types of towers popping up across the countryside and in our urban and suburban areas. Everything from wind turbine towers to high tension transmission line towers.

In this piece, Roco Chief Pat Furr shares his experience in Tower Rescue.Furr is from Burlington, Vermont, and served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ). His background includes eight years as a member of the 71st Pararescue team in Anchorage, Alaska, where he specialized in mountain, and glacier rescue. He summited Mt. McKinley and augmented the National Park Service mountain rescue team and spent two tours of duty in Iceland where he put in multiple first ascent ice routes. Furr joined Roco in 2000, where he leads our Fall Protection and Tower Work & Rescue programs and serves as a Technical Rescue Consultant.

Tech Towers Demand Human Interaction

It is becoming more and more difficult to find a hilltop or a ridge in America that does not have some type of telecom tower placed on it. Likewise, there are many other typesof towers popping up across the countryside and in our urban and suburban areas. Everything from wind turbine towers to high tension transmission line towers.

One thing that is common to nearly all of these towers is that someone at some point must climb them. This is true during the initial erection of the tower, and at various times during maintenance, inspections, and equipment installations.

Sad Stats – Tower Work Claims 100 Fatalities a Year

The workers that climb these structures are a unique breed. They require specialized skills and equipment for the safe performance of their jobs. It is certainly a risky business and it is good to have both legislated (OSHA) and consensus standards like the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) to provide guidance to help ensure safe work practices at height. Unfortunately, accidents are still happening on these structures. With the proliferation of cell towers across the nation, it is only logical that a corresponding increase in accidents is occurring. In fact, cell tower and other communication tower climbers have a fatality rate approaching 100 deaths per 100,000 workers annually.

If you are an employer of tower climbers, or if you are responsible to respond to a tower emergency as part of a municipal or rural emergency service, are you prepared to perform tower rescue? Have you trained for and practiced these types of rescues to ensure that you have the skills and equipment necessary to provide safe and efficient rescue? Most rural communities do not have ladder trucks as part of their equipment inventory. Even if they did, ladder trucks have a limited height range and most probably won’t provide adequate range to reach the victim anyway.

Easy to Learn

Tower rescue is not that complicated. In fact, it is quite straight forward as compared to other types of technical rescue such as confined space rescue, trench rescue, or structural collapse rescue. But even then, it still requires specialized training and equipment. The most obvious need is for much longer ropes than what you would require for most other types of rescues. Additionally, the need to be able to provide “one-on-one” rescue of a stricken co-worker is typical. The days of sending a single worker out to a tower climbing job are becoming less common, but there are still employers who see no problem sending a single climber out to change the lamp on a 1200-foot guyed tower.

Fortunately, in the time I have been involved with tower work and rescue, it is becoming more likely that the employer has at least a “buddy system” in place as part of their standard procedures. And, some employers now require a minimum of a three-person crew to provide a “team-on-one” rescue capability. Yes, two rescuers do qualify as a team rescue. Having two rescuers makes the task so much easier and safer than a single rescuer.

Physical Demands

One of the biggest wake-up calls for new tower climbers (and rescuers) is the level of physical fitness required to climb a significant height, especially if the weather is extremely hot or cold. Most folks have little trouble climbing a vertical or near vertical structure up to one or two hundred feet, especially if they are able to use a reliable vertical lifeline and climbing pegs. But if the height exceeds a couple hundred feet, or especially if the climb is protected with a Y-Lanyard instead of a vertical lifeline, then the task can become exhausting if proper technique is not used. Developing a “leapfrog rhythm” with the Y-lanyard or grasping the vertical posts instead of the horizontal sections on a guyed tower make a huge difference in reducing fatigue or forearm cramping.

Two Makes a Team

The techniques required for rescuing an injured or suspended worker from the tower are simple adaptations of existing rescue technique used for other rescue duties. The primary tasks require an ability to lift the victim a short ways to “un-tension” their fall arrest lanyard or work positioning system if they are suspended, and then providing a means to lower the victim to the ground. Depending on the height of the incident, the lower may be accomplished with one pitch of rope. For incidents where the height exceeds the length of the rope, a multi-pitch lower may be required. This is where having a minimum of two rescuers really pays off. Even better if the rescue rope is of sufficient length, one rescuer can operate the lift and lower from the ground, while the second rescuer performs minimal rigging at height.

Strategies for Success

There are a couple of strategies in providing rescue capability for towers. One mindset is to use a build-as-you-go rescue system that can be tailored for the specific structure and incident encountered. A second way is to use pre-built systems in an attempt to cover all situations. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Generally, build-as-you-go systems require marginally more initial training and may not have the same degree of skill retention as pre-built systems. But their advantage is the system can be tailored to fit the situation more readily and the components of the system can also be used for planned work activities. Pre-built systems have a slightly higher rate of skill retention and are ready to be employed as soon as they are put into service. They are, however, limited to a specific function and are not typically used for any other purpose other than for rescue. These pre-built systems are typically packaged in a protective pouch and can be fairly bulky. Thus, they’re typically left at ground level and must be retrieved before a rescue can commence.

At Roco, we rely on a combination of both approaches. Understanding that build-as-you-go systems require a slightly higher degree of proficiency than most pre-built systems, we use very basic techniques that have proven to be retainable, effective, and very safe.

We advocate that the tower climbers have the minimum components required to construct a build-as-you-go rescue system clipped to their harness at all times while on the tower. Simply adding the rescue rope to the system provides a tower rescue capability without the need to rely on a pre-built system. However, for instances where a pre-built system makes the task easier, we have a lightweight and versatile system that works especially well in the event a line transfer while on rappel is required.

Whatever means you decide on to provide a tower rescue capability, as either a tower worker or as part of an emergency response team, it is absolutely imperative that you adhere to safe work practices while climbing by always using 100% fall protection. Seek out and attend professional tower rescue training; and, finally, ensure that the tower climbing/rescue equipment is in serviceable condition and is ready and available to be employed. For those of you in deer and elk country, be especially diligent to ensure that your pre-built system is where it’s supposed to be when hunting season comes around. Not only are they great for rescue, but they come in handy at the hunting camp also.

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Preparing for the Forgotten Hazard: Rescue from Fall Protection

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UPDATE: OSHA recently unveiled its top 10 most frequently cited violations for 2010, and topping the list is Fall Protection. With 7,139 violations, Fall Protection is still at the top, switching places with last year’s first place holder, Scaffolding. OSHA reported that 260 workers died in 2010 from falls, which continues to be the leading cause of death in construction. So, you’ve developed an exemplary employee safety program and the shining gem is your fall protection program.

Using an organized approach and ANSI guidance for completing a “Fall Hazard Survey Report,” you have identified all the areas that workers are exposed to falls from height. Adhering to the hierarchy of fall protection, you’ve also been able to engineer out many of these fall hazards by bringing the work to the ground. Outstanding! For several of the remaining areas, you’ve installed passive fall restraint systems like guard rails and parapets. Great! Still, there are several areas that could not be protected by engineering out the hazard or providing passive restraint.

For some of these areas you are able to protect your employees from falls with active restraint, using body support and a restraint lanyard connected to a suitable anchor that prevents the worker from falling. Good. But, there are still a few remaining areas that you could not protect your employees from falls using the lower hierarchy solutions, and the only feasible solution was the use of personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). OK. You are still providing a compliant and possibly the most logical and feasible program that will provide a high degree of fall protection for your work force. Job well done! Or is it?

By taking the steps covered above and using the “Hierarchy of Fall Protection,” the employer is doing exactly what OSHA expects of them to protect their employees from the devastating injuries resulting from falls. However, there is one more piece to the puzzle…what are the potential outcomes and OSHA expectations after an employee falls? Especially if the employee is using PFAS.

OSHA’s Fall Protection regulations state that the employer shall provide prompt rescue in the event of a fall, or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves (OSHA 1926.502 and 1910.66 app. C). Although both regulations include “self-rescue” as the first choice in most cases — can we really rely on a worker to self-rescue in the event of a fall? What if the worker is injured during the fall, or what if a sudden medical emergency caused the fall? Are we confident that the individual will be able to perform self-rescue? In our opinion, relying on an employee to provide self-rescue after a fall does not fully meet the spirit of OSHA Fall Protection regulations. In fact, we feel that the only way to provide 100% rescue coverage is to assume that self-rescue is not a reliable option.

The irony is that an employer with an inadequate fall protection program may not face the need for a fallen/suspended worker rescue capability. In this environment, if the employee falls and has no PFAS, there is probably no need for rescue; it is more likely now a recovery. At this point, what the employee really needs is a “help wanted” ad to replace the employee and a very good lawyer.

Just a few years ago it was fairly common for employers not to be aware of the “after fall” hazards created by the PFAS. The understanding was that the PFAS did its job and the emergency was averted. However, in 2004, OSHA published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB 03-24-2004 updated 2011 https://osha.gov/dts/shib/shib032404.html) that provided advice and information on suspension trauma/orthostatic intolerance. In fact, the bulletin states that “research indicates that suspension…can result in unconsciousness, followed by death, in less than 30 minutes.” As a recognized hazard, an understanding of suspension trauma makes it clear that post fall arrest suspended workers are still at risk of serious and possibly fatal injury even in the absence of primary injury prior to, or during the fall.

Although OSHA regulations do not assign a specific time criteria to what constitutes “prompt rescue,” ANSI Z359.2 does. ANSI recommends that “physical or verbal” contact be made with the fallen worker within four (4) to six (6) minutes. Notice that ANSI includes verbal contact in their recommendation. It makes sense that if verbal contact is established, the fallen worker’s condition can be assessed and a determination made on the general urgency of the situation. For example, if responders can establish verbal contact with the fallen/suspended worker, and the victim is alert and oriented, has normal or near normal breathing function, and has no obvious signs of bleeding, then the rescue can be approached in a measured manner. Responders should also remind the suspended worker to “bicycle” their legs — or to deploy any system that is designed to delay the onset of suspension trauma. Obviously, the victim needs to be rescued in a safe and expeditious manner before the onset of suspension trauma, if possible.

However, if the victim is unresponsive, or showing signs of breathing difficulty, or active bleeding, then the sense of urgency should be elevated and the victim must be rescued ASAP. This presents a true dilemma for the employer who has not included a prompt rescue capability in their comprehensive fall protection program.

In fact, it is common to refer to a PFAS system as having four components:

(1) A fall arrest harness.
(2) An energy absorbing lanyard.
(3) A suitable fall arrest anchor.
(4) Rescue.

A great way to ensure that a prompt rescue capability is available in the event of a fallen/suspended worker is to complete a “Fallen Worker Rescue Preplan” for all areas where employees are working at height. For general industry facilities, which tend to be fairly static, this can be done initially with periodic review and updates as needed. For the typical construction industry with its dynamic activities, a much more diligent and regular review of rescue needs and rescue plans may be needed.

Employers have a few options in developing a prompt rescue of fallen/suspended worker capability. Coordinating with municipal emergency responders is one option. Contracting third party professional rescue services is another possibility — especially during turnaround activities or major reconfigurations/additions. Or, the employer can choose to develop an in-house rescue capability made up of their own employees that are trained and equipped to perform the types of rescues that they may be confronted with at their facility.

Whichever option the employer chooses, it is of utmost importance that the employer vets the rescuers, even their own in-house assets, to ensure that they can actually perform the types of rescue, including the worst case that they may be responding to. For those using an outside rescue service, it is a great practice to invite the rescuers to the facility for the purpose of rescue planning and a performance evaluation of their capabilities. It is very common for outside rescuers to be caught off guard when confronted with unique structural or victim access constraints upon seeing the facility for the first time. This may be so significant that the rescuers find themselves unequipped or lacking in the skills required to provide rescue.

The recent advent of pre-engineered rescue systems has also lulled many employers into the belief that these systems will provide an all-encompassing rescue capability. While most of these “Plug–and–Play” systems do provide a certain level of performance, they also have limitations, especially if access to the fallen/suspended worker requires a rescuer to be put on line to make physical contact with the victim. In this case, it is quite likely that the employer may need to consider a technical rescue capability exceeding the capabilities of a pre-engineered rescue system.

The need for a more technical rescue approach can only be determined after a thorough evaluation of rescue needs based on Fallen Worker Rescue Preplans. We often refer to this as a fallen worker “walk-about” where knowledgeable representatives of the employer (usually the competent person or the competent rescuer) tour the facility to develop Fallen Worker Rescue Preplans. These individuals will need a thorough understanding of the work processes, the areas of workers at height, the access routes, the types of PPE/PFAS being used, and most importantly, an understanding of the techniques and equipment necessary to affect a safe and prompt rescue.

Once the Fallen Worker Rescue Preplans have been completed, they become part of the comprehensive fall protection program and should be reviewed and updated as necessary.  With the seemingly continuous advent of new rescue equipment and techniques, it would be a great idea to review your preplans to see if there are opportunities to add these innovations, especially if they provide a safer and more efficient means of rescue.

In summary, it is of utmost importance for employers to ensure that their workers at height (especially if using PFAS) are afforded prompt rescue should they fall and remain suspended from their PFAS system. Whether the employer chooses an outside rescue service or elects to develop an in-house team, they should ensure that the rescue team can perform any and all types of rescues they may be summoned to. If a pre-engineered rescue system or a technical rescue capability is determined to be the most appropriate route, ensure that the rescuers receive thorough, high quality training on the types of systems they will need to employ.

If you would like more information or need assistance in preparing your Fallen Worker Rescue Preplans, please call Roco at 800-647-7626.
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What about rescue response for fallen workers at height?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We recently received a question about  what constitutes a prompt and capable rescue response for fallen workers at height suspended by their Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS).

Question:
  My question concerns guidance on the number of rescue/standby team members needed for response to “worker at heights” type incidents. We work in a chemical plant, so it’s basically areas such as columns, etc.

Answer:  OSHA guidance for rescue of fallen workers utilizing personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) is quite vague in that it calls for “prompt rescue.” For more definitive guidance on the subject, ANSI Z359.2 Para E6.1 recommends that contact with the rescue subject (communication or physical contact) should occur as soon as possible after the fall. The recommended goal for rescue subject contact should be less than six minutes. What constitutes “prompt rescue” can vary depending on the circumstances. The type of potential hazards identified in the Fall Hazard Survey report should determine rescue planning.

For example, if the work area exposes the worker to an IDLH condition such as energized equipment, then the Fall Hazard Survey should trigger the “Rescue Plan” to include a near immediate rescue provision because of the potential of worker electrocution leading to a fall and subsequently, a suspended victim. In a situation like this, it is imperative that prompt rescue would provide a means to have the rescue subject in a position that allows CPR in less than 6 minutes — and preferably much faster than that! The only way to respond this quickly is to have a “Stand-by Rescue” posture where the rescue system and personnel are pre-rigged and ready to initiate the rescue immediately.

For other situations, if communications with the rescue subject are established in six minutes or less, and it is determined that the victim is relatively unharmed (alert and oriented, good airway and breathing, and no signs of active bleeding) then the urgency is reduced and a more measured approach to the rescue could be employed. There is still the potential for suspension trauma to develop over a range of several minutes, so a “prompt” but measured rescue would still be necessary.

With this in mind, it is important for an employer with workers at height to complete a Fall Hazard Survey report to determine the most appropriate way to abate any fall hazards. If the use of PFAS is necessary, that triggers the need to complete fallen worker Rescue Preplans. The employer will need to identify the rescue assets and ensure they are available, equipped, and trained to perform safe and prompt rescue for any situation that they may be summoned to at the employer’s facility. For rescuers outside the employer’s workforce, it is important to thoroughly vet the prospective rescuers to make these assurances.

This information was provided by Pat Furr, Roco Chief Instructor and Technical Consultant. He regularly assists Roco customers in identifying opportunities to improve their fall protection programs and can guide safety professionals in the completion of Fall Hazard Survey reports. Roco can also assist in the development of fallen worker Rescue Preplans. For help with selecting the proper equipment or training, call us at 800-647-7626.
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Worker Falls to Death During Construction of Water Tower

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A recent accident involving a worker who fell from height inside the mono-tube of a water tower under construction, underscores the need to have a thorough understanding of Fall Protection systems and practices required by OSHA while undertaking hazardous work activities. It also emphasizes the importance of preplanning for rescue. Be sure to read additional comments from Roco Chief Instructor Pat Furr at the end of the article. Thanks to Dr. Skip Williams for submitting this story.

EAST WINDSOR, NJ… A worker fell nearly 50 feet to his death inside a new water tower under construction in a rural area of the township, police said. The 56 year-old man, whose name police did not release, was on a scaffold inside a tubular portion of the tower when he fell, landing on a solid floor 30 feet above the bottom of the structure. There was no water inside, and the worker was wearing a full body harness, said East Winsor Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 Chief Kevin Brink, one of the first responders on the scene. Mounting a ladder and coming up through a trap door in the floor where the man fell, Brink saw the man unconcious, unresponsive and bleeding. “I tell you this: I’ve seen worse people living,” he said. “To me, he was considered living until the paramedics pronounced him.”

The tower he was working on rises about 80 feet above the trees and farmland on Millstone Road. The familiar bubble-shaped cap that will hold water is not installed yet, and the structure yesterday looked much like a massive vase, with a dull pyramid for a bottom and a cylindrical tube mounted on top. A large crane had four metal lines grasping the top of the cylinder, and smaller cranes and trucks dotted the mud and gravel lot set back from the roadway. The victim, an employee of New Castle, Del.-based CBI Services, fell around 10:30 a.m., and was working near the top of the cylinder, Brink said. Fellow workers called 911, and police, firefighters and medical personnel rushed to the scene. The man’s colleagues entered a door at ground level and used ladders to get through the door at the bottom of the cylinder, where the man lay.

As firefighters donned equipment and prepared a basket to rush the man to a waiting ambulance, paramedics entered the structure and pronounced the victim dead. “We were just called out there for the actual rescue, unfortunately the person didn’t make it and it turned into a recovery,” Brink said. Police examined the body before firefighters put it inside the basket and lowered it out of the tower using a rope system, Brink said. By noon, the man’s body was out and ready to be turned over to the medical examiner.

A spokesperson for CBI Services would only say that an investigation is under way. Along with police and the medical examiner, both the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and OSHA responded to the scene, police said. “We’ve never really had any type of industrial accident out there,” Brink said. Unfamiliar with the layout of the tower, Brink said he initially was not sure if he would have to bring the company’s 100-foot ladder truck to reach the heights of the structure. “If he was stuck at the top, we were already starting to think about that,” he said.  Alex Zdan, Staff Writer/ New Jersey Times

NOTE:  While we were not present at the scene and don’t know all the details, here are some general comments from Chief Instructor Pat Furr concerning fall protection safety.

This incident took place while work was being done from a scaffold erected inside the tower. The worker fell from his work position and came to rest on a solid platform between the scaffold level and the ground. He was wearing a full body harness for body support as part of his personal fall protection system. However, this begs the question, “Why bother wearing a harness if the complete fall protection system is not employed?”

A complete personal fall protection system, which would be considered an active system, requires all of the components required by OSHA in order to be considered an effective/compliant means of personal fall protection. The harness is just the start. In addition to the harness for body support, there needs to be a connector attached to the appropriate point of the harness.

For fall restraint, a static lanyard can be used and connected to the rear or front waist belt attachment points of the harness (not the side attachment points); or, if desired, a body belt, or the dorsal attachment point of the full body harness. The lanyard must be adjusted to a length that does not allow the worker to fall from any exposed edges. This restraint lanyard does not need an energy absorber. If there is any potential that the worker may fall, then the lanyard must have an energy absorber that limits the impact forces at the harness to no more than 1,800 pounds. It must also limit the workers freefall to 6 feet or less.

An alternative is to use a Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL). The third component of a personal fall protection system is a suitable anchor. The anchor point must be able to withstand a 1,000 pound force without failure for fall restraint, and a 5,000 pound force if used for fall arrest. These anchors can be as light as two times the anticipated forces if designated by a qualified person. Only one worker can be attached to the anchor point unless the minimum breaking strengths are multiplied by the number of workers using the same anchor point.

To review, the three physical components of a personal fall protection system are: (1) body support, (2) connector, and (3) anchor. For a fall arrest system, a fourth component is required, and that is prompt rescue.

This worker was on a scaffold. If the scaffold was completed with a green tag affixed, then it would have had standard guard rails to provide a passive fall restraint system and a harness would not have been necessary. If the scaffold was not completed and green tagged, then a personal fall protection system would be required.

Too often we encounter workers who are either unaware of the requirements to ensure safety at height – or choose to ignore the safety requirements that would most likely save their life or prevent serious injury. Bottom line…the use of a harness without completing the entire system only comprises 33% of the system which equates to 0% fall protection.
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