According to 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M, OSHA requires employers to comply with safety and health standards promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. Given this, it’s important to know what you need to do to comply with OSHA Fall Protection Standards. With that in mind, here are some OSHA Fall Protection Plan tips you can adopt to help you prepare and plan for readiness on your job sites.
Preparing your jobsite and having an OSHA fall protection plan starts with reviewing your work order. Know what warning signs you need to post, and have site-specific fall-protection work plans in place. Before you leave for the jobsite, gather all the tools necessary for your work for that day. Make sure your fall protection equipment isn’t damaged, and ensure that all of the required components are present.
Perform a Walk Around Safety Inspection
Before you even start working, evaluate the site for safe access, including location of trenches, excavations, slip hazards, and any unprotected openings in roofs. Determine a dedicated, safe, and convenient area for dropping roof debris. You also want to check that permanent anchors are properly installed. If you are planning on doing any overhead work, be sure to inform anyone else on the jobsite so they are aware of potential hazards and hazardous areas.
Lastly, you want to document the inspection, and get any deficiencies corrected.
One of the most basic ways to ensure ladder safety is to carefully plan access to and from the roof. When placing your ladder, select the best location—be aware of any soft ground, slippery surfaces, or overhead power lines. Place your ladder in a location where it will help provides the safest possible access for the roofing professional to tie off. (In some cases the ladder can be placed directly below the anchor to serve as a barrier until the roofer is safely tied off.) Be sure the base is free of debris, and the ladder is placed on a stable and level surface.
First and foremost you want to choose the right ladder for the job at hand. Mind the 1:4 ratio. Your extension ladders should be 1 foot away from the wall for every 4 foot in height. The ladder must also extend at least 3 feet above the working surface (remember 3 rungs above), so the worker has something to grasp for balance when getting off and on ladder. Keep areas at the top and bottom of the ladder free of materials. Ladders must also be secured. You can dig holes for the base of a ladder to sit in if necessary, or you can drive stakes near the ladder base and even secure the side rails to stakes. Setting temporary blocking on wood floors will also help prevent a ladder from slipping.
Ladder rungs must always be kept free from mud or oil. This will also help keep the roof free of debris and make it safer for your crew to walk around without losing their footing. The top of the ladder must also be secure, particularly on areas where there might be a potential for the ladder to slide or get bumped or moved.
Sometimes you need to anchor off after using a ladder. Instruct your crew that, after gaining access to the roof, they should go directly to the anchor and tie off. You want to install temporary anchors if permanent anchors have not been installed, and you always want to follow the manufacturers’ recommendations.
When tying off to an anchor, adjust the length of safety rope (when applicable) so you have only the length required to do the work safely. Move any unused portions of safety ropes or lines to an area that doesn’t create a tripping hazard. Additional safety ropes can also be attached near a worker who is already safe, allowing other workers to tie off before getting onto the roof.
If there are any openings in a roof you are working on, like skyights or chimney shafts, they must be guarded by standard guard rails or securely covered and marked. Once felt is laid, caution should be used when walking to prevent tearing and slipping.
Fall Protection Safety at Job Completion
Many accidents happen right at the end of the work day. This is because you’re often thinking about going home, and job safety may not be on the forefront of your mind. Don’t let that happen to you—your OSHA fall protection plan has to carry through to the very end.
When working on a roof or other elevated area, be aware of the people below you. Obey and maintain clearly marked drop zone areas. Always announce before dropping materials off a roof. Finally, after the roofing job is complete, only one worker is really needed to finish the job, so any additional workers exiting the roof can remain connected to lifelines until they are safely on ladder. Then, the remaining worker can disconnect all other lifelines and transport them and the remaining tools off the work area safely. The last thing to do is to disconnect your lifeline and go directly to the ladder and safely exit the roof with both hands for climbing.
Finally, once everyone is on the ground, inspect your fall protection gear for any damage, and store it in a protected container for next time.