Falls are one of the leading causes of accidents and fatalities across many industries. Whether it's in construction, manufacturing, or any other type of workplace, identifying and addressing fall hazards is essential to keeping workers safe. One of the most effective ways to do this is by conducting fall hazard analysis or completing a fall hazard survey.
A fall hazard survey involves a thorough and comprehensive inspection of the workplace to identify potential hazards that could result in falls. This includes examining equipment, tools, and materials, as well as evaluating the physical environment, such as the layout or configuration of the workspace and the condition of floors, stairs, walkways, and other working platforms. The survey should be conducted by someone with expertise in fall prevention, such as a safety professional, qualified person, or fall protection competent person.
Whether it's in construction, manufacturing, or any other type of workplace, identifying and addressing fall hazards is essential to keeping workers safe.
During the survey, the inspector should look for all potential fall hazards in and around the worksite. Inspectors should also assess the potential risk to workers, considering factors such as the height of the work area, the type of work being performed, and the likelihood of workers being exposed to the hazard. Some of the most common fall hazards may include:
- Unprotected edges: Unprotected edges, such as open-sided floors, roofs, and platforms, can be dangerous fall hazards. Workers can accidentally step off these edges or be pushed off by equipment, materials, or other workers.
- Ladders: Ladders are a common tool in many industries, but they can also pose a significant fall hazard. Falls from ladders can be caused by using the wrong type of ladder, overreaching, and unstable placement of the ladder.
- Scaffolding: Scaffolding is used in construction, painting, and other industries to provide workers with access to elevated areas. However, if scaffolding is improperly erected or not used correctly, it can collapse or cause workers to fall.
- Roofs: Workers who perform tasks on roofs, such as installing solar panels or conducting maintenance, are at risk of falling off the roof or through skylights or roof openings.
- Elevated walkways: Elevated walkways, such as catwalks, bridges, and elevated work platforms, can also be dangerous fall hazards. These walkways can be slippery, and workers may fall through openings in the walkway.
- Unguarded machinery: Workers who operate machinery at elevated heights may be at risk of falling into the machinery or off of it. Unguarded machinery can also pose a danger to workers on the ground below.
Being proactive will not only help you prevent falls, but can significantly decrease the time that it takes to perform a rescue in the event that one is needed.
Once the survey is complete, the inspector should document their findings in a report that includes photographs or diagrams of the workplace as well as detailed descriptions of each hazard. The report should also include recommendations for corrective action, such as implementing fall protection systems, modifying work practices, or providing additional training for workers. Another consideration to include in the report is any prior history of known accidents or incidents related to the specific work area or task.
Perhaps the most commonly overlooked component of a fall hazard survey is ensuring that a documented rescue preplan is created and reviewed before beginning work. The worst time to try to develop a rescue plan is after someone has fallen! Being proactive will not only help you prevent falls, but can significantly decrease the time that it takes to perform a rescue in the event that one is needed.
OSHA provides a free fall protection plan template that can serve as an outstanding baseline for developing or improving your current fall protection plan. Additionally, you can access our Fall Hazard Survey Template here and our Rescue from Fall Protection Preplan Template here.
Whatever route you choose to implement, conducting fall hazard surveys is an essential component of an effective fall prevention program. It enables employers to identify potential hazards and take steps to eliminate or control them before an accident occurs. And remember, there’s a safe way and a SAFER way!
- OSHA Fall Protection Plan Template
- Roco’s Fall Hazard Survey Template
- Roco's Rescue from Fall Protection Preplan Template