October 21, 2013
Earlier this month, Oregon OSHA fined a construction company $70,000 for not protecting its employees from falls. The fine, based on a willful violation, resulted from an inspection at a Portland apartment complex last February. The company appealed the citation but agreed to it after an informal conference with Oregon OSHA.
During the inspection, an Oregon OSHA inspector saw two employees working on a second-story roof standing on trusses. Neither employee was wearing fall protection. The owner, who was at the site, said his employees were comfortable working without fall protection even though it was available in the company trailer. The workers may have felt comfortable working without fall protection, but that feeling of comfort would not have been reassuring after a fall. Despite the reasons that some contractors offer for not using fall protection when it is required ("it takes too much time to set up" and "it's not feasible" are others), protecting workers from falls is not a burden and is always possible.
You can solve most fall-protection problems by just taking time to plan your project. When you think about protecting workers from falls during the planning stage, you are more likely to come up with methods that fit the work rather than hinder it.
While there may be some situations in which a physical means of protecting workers from falls is not feasible, you still must protect them from falling. (A physical means of fall protection is one of the fall protection systems listed in 1926.502, Fall protection systems criteria and practices.) When a physical means of fall protection is not possible to use, a qualified person can develop alternative methods that minimize the risk of a fall.
Developing alternative methods
A qualified person must first identify the specific circumstances at the site that prevent the use of a physical means of fall protection. The qualified person must also be able to show that a physical means of fall protection is not feasible or would create a greater hazard than the existing one. The qualified person must also develop the alternative methods, ensuring that:
Remember that alternative methods are the least acceptable option for protecting employees from falls. Use alternative methods only when a qualified person has determined that a physical means of protecting employees from falls is not feasible or would create a hazard greater than the existing one.
For more information on protecting workers from falls with alternative methods, see:
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But remember: the information in this newsletter is intended to highlight safe work practices, but it does not replace Oregon OSHA workplace safety and health rules.
For information about Oregon OSHA services and answers to technical questions, call (503) 378-3272 or toll-free within Oregon, (800) 922-2689.