Falls remain the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Despite OSHA’s ongoing campaign to raise awareness about fall prevention, many employers still fail to plan appropriately for individual jobs and provide necessary protective equipment and training, as OSHA suggests.
“Unfortunately, many people in charge of safety for their companies say rescue is the forgotten component,” said Diane Waghorne, president and co-founder of Tech Safety Lines Inc., a rescue training and personal protective equipment provider based in Carrollton, Texas. “Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make people aware of how essential this really is.”
Training for line contracting firms often involves self-rescue, Waghorne said. “An employer is obligated to provide prompt rescue in the event of a fall. For people who work alone, our self-rescue equipment and training qualifies as that.”
After earning a business degree from the University of North Texas at Denton and a job in food sales, Waghorne worked for nearly two decades as a stay-at-home mom, then shifted her career into overdrive.
Waghorne entered the fall-prevention industry when she developed a passion for keeping first responders safe after the events on 9/11. Her desire to prevent fall injuries and fatalities then extended to construction, including contractors employing lineworkers and electricians.
“Three weeks after the towers fell, I found myself on a plane, on my way to a military manufacturing plant,” Waghorne said. Her goal was to become a distributor of military compact descenders for firefighters and SWAT teams in Texas. “That was going to be my thing.”
Not long after, she noticed a cellphone tower going up in her Dallas-area neighborhood and contacted Bechtel Corp. representatives involved in the project.
“They loved the idea of using the equipment, but said they couldn’t buy it without training,” Waghorne said. “It’s the law.”
A whole new world
Fully realizing the legal necessity to provide training and equipment to private sector customers opened up a whole new world for Waghorne, who contacted the Dallas Fire Department and Brent Wise, then captain of training at the fire department’s training academy. Over a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies, she encouraged Wise to consider what turned out to be a sweet business deal. He would develop the training and connect Waghorne with firefighters who were highly adept in rescue operations. The firefighters would then do the training for the company. Waghorne and Wise established Tech Safety Lines in 2002.
Among its first clients was Bechtel, which hired Waghorne and Wise as a global fall-prevention safety equipment and training provider. Now with clients throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Jamaica, Thailand, Africa and the United Kingdom, Tech Safety Lines has grown steadily in response to inquiries from oil companies, line contractors, members of the wind industry and other construction-related businesses.
The company eventually bought the patent rights for manufacturing military compact descenders, steering manufacturing contracts to Texas, Waghorne said. Equipment orders are tailored for fall risk from 6–600 feet.
“Unlike a lot of fall-prevention equipment that stays in the truck where it’s of no use, our ropes and equipment are especially strong and lightweight, which is important because then people will carry it with them and use it,” Waghorne said. The lines are also fire resistant.
In addition to a 12-person marketing and sales force, Tech Safety Lines employs 20 members of the Dallas Fire Department’s technical rescue team. The trainers travel to deliver on-site education and provide training at facilities in Dallas, Hagerstown, Md., and overseas.
Much like Tech Safety Lines’ equipment, all training is tailored to the individual client’s needs.
For the U.S. electrical contracting industry, Tech Safety Lines training exceeds OSHA and ANSI Z359.2-2017 regulations and standards, which include a 4-minute goal for rescue upon discovery of a worker incapacitated by electrical shock.
Rescue training includes evacuation, victim assessment and assisted- and self-rescue, as well as using body harnesses, fall-arrest lanyards and other safety equipment while practicing on elevated structures.
For operating in confined-spaces, Tech Safety Lines training helps line contractors and lineworkers understand regulatory requirements, as well as testing, hazard control and rescue.