All workers should be able to perform their jobs in a safe working environment. This is especially true for those who do dangerous or risky work. Few jobs are riskier than working at height. Which is why all aerial workers should have fall protection certification any time they’re on the job.
There’s another reason for always using fall protection equipment on aerial lifts – it’s the law. According to OSHA 29 CFR 1926.453(b)(v), “A body belt shall be worn and a lanyard attached to the boom or basket when working from an aerial lift.” This covers workers in many different types of jobs, including:
– Tree cutting
– Construction work
– Maintenance tasks
– Surveillance (police, security, etc.)
– Window cleaning
– Electrical work
– Fixing elevated highway signs
– Bridge cleaning and repair
It doesn’t matter what type of work you do or how high you go. If you’re working on an aerial lift, you must be tied off. The only exception is when working on scissor lifts.
Different Rules for Booms and Scissor Lifts
OSHA requires workers to wear a personal fall restraint system when working on a boom lift. They do not require it with scissor lifts. Here’s why.
Boom lifts have a high risk of worker getting ejected while up in the air. Traveling across uneven surfaces further increases the risk. To protect against these risks, OSHA requires both fall restraint and fall arrest systems.
Fall arrest systems protect workers during a fall. They limit the amount of force put on falling workers and stop them before hitting the ground. Fall restraint systems prevent falls from occurring in the first place. Acting like a leash, restraint device limit how far workers can move in any direction on the lift. The “leash” allows operators to work anywhere within the basket. It does not reach far enough so they can climb up or out of it.
Scissor lifts have no risk of workers getting ejected from the platform. The guardrails provide enough of a barrier to protect people from falling. Therefore, OSHA does not mandate wearing fall protection for scissor lifts. They do require the guardrail system to provide “adequate” protection. This means no missing rails or any type of damage that could allow workers to fall. Some scissor lifts have anchor points workers can use for fall protection if they want. These anchor points are not required, but they must be ANSI-rated if provided.
Employers Must Provide Protection Systems
According to OSHA, employers must provide approved fall protection equipment. Otherwise they can be assessed with costly fines. Employers can comply with OSHA’s fall protection mandates by having workers:
– Use a body belt with a tether anchored to the boom or basket (fall restraint)
– Use a body harness with a tether (fall restraint)
– Use a body harness with a lanyard (fall arrest)
Employers are in compliance as long as they use at least one of these techniques. Belts, harnesses and lanyards can be obtained by buying aerial lift fall protection kits. These can be easily bought online. They can also be found at some big-box home improvement centers.
Keep in mind that providing fall protection equipment is only the first step. Workers need training to use it properly. They also need fall protection certification so that the business is OSHA-compliant. Most important, employers need to make sure workers wear the fall restraints any time they’re on a lift.
Three Reasons to Use Aerial Lift Fall Protection Equipment
Avoiding OSHA penalties is one good reason for workers to wear fall protection equipment. Here are three more.
- Fall protection literally saves lives.
Nothing is more tragic than the loss of an employee due to a fall. It devastates the worker’s family. It wrecks employee morale. It leaves a mark on everyone in the company for years. Unfortunately, these tragedies happen all too often.
From 1992 to 1999, falls from aerial lifts were the second leading cause of death among construction workers. During that time, 64 workers lost their lives due to aerial lift falls. With better equipment and stricter oversight, deaths from aerial falls have declined since then. But several aerial lift workers still die every year. With today’s fall protection equipment and training, even one is too many.
Fall protection is one of the most important parts of aerial training courses. Workers and learn the right techniques for securing all types of safety equipment. These include fall protection harnesses, retractable lanyards, and body harnesses. Simply providing this equipment to your aerial lift operators isn’t enough. They have to know how to use it correctly.
- It protects employees and employers.
We’ve already seen how fall protection can aid workers. But what about the boss? Without fall protection training, companies open themselves to potentially crippling fines, legal fees and penalties.
OSHA often hits companies with fines up to $25,000 a single aerial lift violation. If the violations are frequent, fines can easily top $100,000. For example, OSHA cited a roofing company in New York for 14 violations involving unsafe practices. This included the lack of adequate fall protection for workers. The company had a history of safety violations, so OSHA fined it $113,300.
Fatalities due to falls can also result in costly lawsuits. Some of them can run into the millions of dollars. Most companies have insurance to cover these types of events. But insurance doesn’t cover all of the payout. The company also faces stiff lawyer fees. And the negative publicity can ruin a firm’s reputation.
- It’s the right thing to do.
Clearly, saving lives is the #1 priority. And no company wants to pay out thousands or millions of dollars due to their own negligence. In the long run, every business should provide fall protection simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Working at height is a risky job, even when all safety procedures are followed. Every time workers go up into the lift, they put themselves at risk. The least employers can do is provide approved fall protection equipment and make sure everyone is trained to use it.
There’s an added benefit to doing the right thing. It’s the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve done all you can to protect your workers. You’ve complied with OSHA regulations. You’ve provided approved fall protection equipment. And you’ve made sure every lift worker knows how to use it properly. It also sends a message to your entire workforce that you’re serious about their safety. When employees see that you care about safety, they will take it more seriously as well.
Protect Your Workers and Your Business with ALC
Fall protection equipment training and certification is one of the best ways to ensure your workers stay safe on the job each and every day. Aerial Lift Certification’s online training modules cover all the fall protection basics. This includes the correct way to use:
– Fall protection harnesses
– Retractable lanyards
– Body harnesses
Our training packages supply the content – and more importantly, context – to help you understand the requirements for these fall protection tools. Once you’ve gone through our training sessions, you’re good to go.
Aerial Lift Certification’s training courses (Train a Trainer, Operator Training Kit and Bundle Package) provide a practical, safety-first, common sense approach to aerial lift training. Take a smart step toward better safety practices today. Call Aerial Lift Certification and speak to one of our fall protection specialists at (888) 278-8896. Or, visit our contact page for more information.