When treading into an open space at a height, it poses safety hazards from trip and fall by overstepping the edge or perimeter of that place. Think about walking on the rooftop with all sides open when inspecting the roof or doing some maintenance work, and you will easily understand how risky it can be. Similarly, if you climb a ladder to access the roof, the associated risks are much higher when you are on the top rung of the ladder and about to climb on the roof with no protection around. A similar situation may arise when you try to enter or exit a roof through the roof hatch. In all such environments, working in unsafe and elevated areas without proper fall protection is a violation of the safety regulations recommended by OSHA. Click here for more information about fall protection.
Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the regulatory agency that looks after the administration and implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act has worked out specific guidelines about fall protection that is binding on all workers and employers. Fall protection acquires a lot of importance because it is the most common cause of injuries and deaths in the workplace. Any workplace situated above the stipulated height must have adequate arrangements to prevent the fall of workers and other people accessing the work area. The rule applies for rooftops, elevated platforms and workstations and holes in walls and floors.
How to provide fall protection
Providing fall protection is the responsibility of employers, and the minimum requirements vary according to the industry and workplace. In the general industry, fall protection is applicable for working at the height of 4 feet, in shipyards it is 5 feet, for the construction industry it is 6 feet. For long shoring operations, it is 8 feet. Safety protection is also applicable even when working over dangerous machinery and equipment.
To prevent fall protection employers must provide guardrails at every open-sided platform and every hole on the floor into which a worker can fall accidentally. In other places where it is not practicable to offer protection by providing guardrails and toehold boards to workers, using other safety equipment like safety nets, safety harness and line, handrails and stair railings are the norms.
Guardrails have the same function of staircase railings that creates a boundary in open work areas and can be conveniently set up according to the site conditions. Guardrails form a safety barrier so that workers can safely move around the workplace without the fear of falling off when they approach the edges of the work area. It also prevents catching or snagging of the clothing worn by workmen. Guardrails allow workers to hold on to it for support when they access the place so that they can maintain proper balance to stand and walk steadily.
Some guardrail systems used for preventing fall from roof hatches have a self-closing gate that eliminates the risk of accidental fall into the opening while ensuring safe ingress and egress.