When you work at heights, there are generally two different types of safety standards that your employer will utilize to protect workers on the job. These are known as fall protection and fall prevention systems. While these terms are often used interchangeably, there are key differences between the two.
It is important for workers to understand how these systems operate so that they can perform their jobs safely. While injuries are unfortunately always a possibility, the right systems and processes in place can make them less likely. Considering how common and dangerous falls are, it’s critical to have these systems in place.
Fall prevention systems
When using a fall prevention system, the goal is to keep the fall from happening in the first place. An example of this could be a roofing company that installs railings around the outer edge of a flat roof. The goal of the railings is simply to keep workers far enough away from the edge the fall is impossible. These are known as passive systems. Training employees to recognize and spot fall risks is another example of fall prevention.
Fall protection systems
Fall protection systems, by contrast, provide equipment to minimize an injury if the worker does fall on the job. While these systems do not prevent falls, they work to lessen the risk for serious injuries.
Fall arrest systems are common examples of these. For example, some roofers might set up an anchor point on the roof and then wear harnesses that are tied to straps or ropes. Workers may be able to fall and potentially could fall entirely off of the roof, but the rope or straps in place should keep them from striking the ground.
When is fall protection or prevention required?
Rules requiring the use of either fall protection or prevention vary by industry and even by region. In general, OSHA requires some sort of fall protection for workers at the following heights:
- Five feet for maritime workers
- Six feet for construction workers
- Four feet for general industry workers, or all other workers
Both fall prevention and protection systems can be helpful and guard against serious injuries. Unfortunately, falls are still incredibly common. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry alone, with 351 workers suffering fatal falls in 2020. Employers must do their part to train workers on safe practices, as well as provide a safe environment to complete job duties.
If you have been injured due to a fall on the job in Maryland, make sure you know how to seek medical coverage and financial compensation through workers’ compensation. Contact an attorney experienced in handling Workers’ Compensation claims.