Fall Protection Hierarchy of Controls

By its very nature, working at heights exposes operators to a risk of a fall that is reasonably likely to cause injury or death.

In determining the best solution, there will be situations where fall hazards can be eliminated completely or at least minimised by accounting for the needs and introducing systems specifications in the initial design phase of a project. This is in an ideal situation, but often we a confronted with projects and work locations where workers will need to be protected via other means as the risk of a fall could not be reduced or removed.

Removing or eliminating the hazard is considered the best method of protecting workers from falls, whilst applying a collective fall protection approach is often more practicable as far as instituting changes to existing structures. This means drawing solutions from the different tiers of the Hierarchy of Controls to determine how best to address the unique problems of the work needing to be carried out.

The ultimate goal of any fall protection system is to protect any persons at risk of falling from one level to another, but you can begin by understanding the nature of the environments where workers are at risk:

  • in or on plant or a structure that is at an elevated level
  • in or on plant that is being used to gain access to an elevated level
  • in the vicinity of an opening through which a person could fall
  • in the vicinity of an edge over which a person could fall
  • on or in the vicinity of a surface through which a person could fall¬†
  • on or near the vicinity of a slippery, sloping or unstable surface.

So, once you have determined there is a risk, what is the next step? In comes the Fall Protection Hierarchy of Controls to help.

Eliminate the hazard

eg: Move mechanical equipment from roof level to ground level.

Change the control measure to a safer method

eg: Move mechanical to safe zone

Manage the risk by means of engineered control

eg: Provide static line system to access gutter edge or passive protection like handrails

Control the risk by means of procedure (administrative)

eg: Provide signage to advise operator to stay away from hazard or institute access management processes

Protect the worker using personal protective equipment

eg: harness, lanyard, SRL