Taking the First Step

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls are the No. 1 killer in the construction industry and the second leading killer in private industry. In contrast to this well-known statistic, employers have always had the responsibility for solving fall hazards at their job sites.

The requirements were scattered throughout the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations. This made devising a cohesive fall plan a challenging and daunting task.

In late 2007, a new standard took effect that helps to provide the knowledge and guidelines needed for those in construction to take a first step to protect against falls. Standard ANSI/ASSE Z359-2007 deals with fall arrest systems and helps employers to be aggressive when implementing a fall safety program.

The Managed Fall Protection Program (MFPP) is composed of five individual standards that work as a unit dedicated to all aspects of fall protection. Many sides of the construction industry had input in developing the standard. The committee included engineers, end-users, military personnel, representatives from OSHA and ANSI, fall protection equipment manufacturers, rescue experts and academics.

Due to the inclusiveness of this standard, there are significant differences between it and the previous standards. A main difference is that the new standard works to clarify and condense what is already known about fall protection. The language is specific to allow employers, employees, owners and consultants to better understand their fall protection roles and responsibilities. Also, previous standards dealing with different aspects of fall protection were spread throughout all the standards. There wasn’t one place to find everything needed to put together a concise program. The MFPP places all standards dealing with fall protection in one spot, making working with fall protection much more manageable.

These five standards make up the MFPP:

  • ANSI/ASSE Z359.0-2007 serves as a foundation for fall protection and provides the terminology needed and used throughout Z359-2007. It allows an understanding of the issues and provides a structure for planning a fall protection program. This section introduces and defines new members of the MFPP team, including program administrator and competent rescuer. These members were added to provide missing expertise. Also included are clearer definitions for the competent person and the qualified person as well as the credentials necessary to fulfill these roles.
  • ANSI/ASSE Z359.1-2007 institutes requirements for the resources to be used in personal fall arrest systems. This should include connectors, full-body harnesses, lanyards, energy absorbers, anchorage connectors, fall arresters, vertical lifelines and self-retracting lanyards. The administrator needs to work with the employer and all members of the fall protection team to develop a list of which training and equipment needs to be purchased and used in any particular setting.
  • ANSI/ASSE Z359.2-2007 will assist an employer in developing a proactive MFPP. This includes a means by which an employer can prevent new fall hazards from developing as well as controlling or even eliminating those hazards that already exist. Historically, fall protection training has been quite varied in content and length, ranging from 30 minutes to 40 hours. It alerts employers about training that must be provided, so the fall protection team members can perform their role effectively in creating a safe work environment. This will require a review and overhaul of existing policies and procedures and identifying areas of training that need to be enhanced.
  • ANSI/ASSE Z359.3-2007 deals mainly with the requirements for lanyards and harnesses that are part of the personal positioning and travel restraint systems. It concentrates on who is authorized to use the equipment, improper use, fit and compatibility with the task at hand.
  • ANSI/ASSE Z359.4-2007 deals with rescues. This typically is the most overlooked aspect of a fall protection program, and this section helps to establish requirements for a rescue preplan. It examines criteria for the equipment needed for both self and assisted rescue. This section helps to explain why calling 911 isn’t and shouldn’t be considered the primary choice of rescue option. By using this information, a MFPP team will learn how to deal with issues, such as prompt rescue time, orthostatic intolerance/suspension trauma and when to call EMTs in for a secondary rescue.

ANSI/ASSE Z359-2007’s mission is to identify and fill in any gaps in the fall protection program. With the inclusion of expanded definitions, the intent for providing fall protection is easier to grasp and to implement. Integrating fall protection information into one standard decreases the likelihood an employer misses what’s needed to keep all employees safe on the job.

KELLY is a safety and health specialist with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. She can be reached at 800.745.4818 or dkelly@intecweb.com. This article was edited by Joe O’Connor.



About the Author

Diane Kelly

Safety Columnist
Diane Kelly is a safety and health specialist with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. She can be reached at 800.745.4818 or dkell...

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