The Height of Safety

The Height of Safety: How a safety management course can enhance your safety culture--Call to Action!Half of all fatalities from work accidents are caused by falling from heights. They are one of biggest reasons workers suffer long-term injuries. And most of these falls can be prevented. Falls can happen from overhead platforms, work stations that are high up, or from plummeting down holes in the ground or flooring.

A safety management course on fall protection, when combined with worker common sense and follow through, can prevent most falls.

OSHA has rules that require specific fall protection from a range of heights:

  • 4’ at most workplaces
  • 5’ at shipyards
  • 6’ at building sites
  • 8’ for longshoremen50 things you must know about safety leadership

Numerous jobs require workers to perform their duties high off the ground. Most obvious are constructing skyscrapers, bridges and ships. Window washers, roofers on flat and peaked roofs and tree trimmers all need to worry about falls. Less obvious, but equally at risk, are musicians on bandstands. Road crews must be concerned with holes in the ground and excavations.

Required Protection

OSHA requires specific protection for workers to shield them from falling them in a variety of settings. All holes in the floor and in walls that a worker might fall through need to have railings and a toe-board, or coverings to keep people in the vicinity safe. Every runway and platform with open sides also needs railings and a toe-board. At any elevation, protection around vats, dangerous chemicals and machinery is required.

Specific duties require the use of safety harnesses and lanyards, nets, stair railings and hand rails. Every person who regularly does his job around excavations, industrial equipment and in settings high in the air needs to take a safety management course in how to prevent falls and how to use protective gear.

Worker Responsibility

A worker needs to be aware of his limitations and suitability for working high up. If he suffers from vertigo or has problems with dizziness or balance, he has no business working at heights.

The employer is responsible for teaching the appropriate safety management course, and the worker needs to put the information he learns to practical use on a daily basis. This arms him with knowledge and procedures to protect himself and his co-workers.

fctc-online-bannerTaking sensible precautions reduces the chances of falling, whether the work is done at heights, around dangerous machinery or around holes in walk ways and work areas. One of the simplest and most important is to keep the floor and surrounding area clean and dry. Spills should be cleaned up as soon as they happen.

Protective gear needs to be not just readily available, but also used. Even if railings or coverings for holes in the floor are inconvenient, a worker shouldn’t move them. Though he may be aware of the danger, the next person passing by won’t be.

Most falls can be avoided. Management needs to provide training in proper safety techniques and the use of protective gear. Workers need to use the gear and common sense as they do their jobs. All these things, taken together, can enhance your safety management plan.

~Mary Hannick


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About the Author

safetyBUILT-IN is the safety-leadership learning and development division of SCInc. We believe sustainable safety performance is best achieved through a core-values based safety culture, and that culture must be driven by leadership. Our safety-leadership programs are competency-based, and focused on performance outcomes. We believe in building capability and ownership into our client organizations—as well as sustainability into our programs—so that our clients can continue running those programs long after we’re out of the picture. Our emphasis is on building better leadership presence, better leadership communication and better leadership coaching by first building relationships of trust with people and learning how to engage them on the level of their core values and beliefs.