You can never be too safe, right? That’s why federal and state OSHA requirements are considered the bare minimum to keep workers safe.
Safety professionals know it’s always better to go the extra mile, if at all possible, so that workers have extra layers of safety to protect them from whatever hazard they’re facing.
For example, a Sept. 19 report by the Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program found that a July 21, 2020, fatal fall may have been prevented if guardrails would have been used on a scaffold in addition to the required use of fall PPE.
No harness, scaffold lacked guardrails
The incident occurred when a 38-year-old siding installer, who owned his own construction company, was working for a subcontractor installing siding at a new construction apartment complex.
On the day of the incident, the installer climbed an extension ladder to get to the third floor level of the scaffold. The scaffold wasn’t equipped with a guardrail system as all workers on the construction site were required to wear fall PPE when working at heights.
The installer provided his own full body harness and the subcontractor provided the scaffold and a personal fall arrest system consisting of a vertical rope lifeline with a rope grab and connector. However, the installer didn’t wear his harness on the day the incident occurred. As he was working from the scaffold platform, he fell 23 feet, landing on a pile of construction materials on the ground.
He died of multiple blunt force injuries sustained from the fall.
Subcontractor emphasized fall protection
FACE investigators found that all of the subcontractor’s employees had received fall protection training. The site superintendent held weekly site-wide safety meetings which included an emphasis on the requirement for workers to use their fall PPE.
The superintendent also did safety walk-arounds once or twice per day to ensure workers were using fall protection. He hadn’t yet completed one of these walks on the day of the fatal incident.
Fall PPE + guardrails = safer workers
FACE investigators felt that despite the focus already placed on fall protection, more could have been done, including increased walk-arounds and more emphasis on the requirement to maintain 100% tie off.
Further, the investigators concluded that despite the presence of the personal fall arrest system, which met the state’s requirements for working safely at heights, the scaffolding should have also had guardrails to help prevent falls.
Specifically, the report states that contractors should “use guardrails on scaffolds whenever practical instead of or in addition to personal fall protection.”
Federal and state requirements are considered the bare minimum for a reason. Those requirements are meant to be a guide, but going above and beyond them, if possible, is always the better choice.