Fall Protection Hazard Identification

One of the most critical aspects of preventing falls is understanding what hazards exist that may cause a fall to occur. Many hazards are right in front of us, and we may not recognize them as hazards. Why is that?

Maybe we have been performing the same task the same way for a long time, and we have grown so accustomed to the hazard that we don’t recognize it as one. Perhaps we lacked specific training about a particular fall risk to even be able to identify it as a risk.

Here are some common examples, straight from our own job sites:

  • General Contractor on-site had another team (not our company) remove a barrier around a hole in a floor used for lift access.
    • Since we didn’t do the work, our people didn’t recognize it as a risk. Just because it is not our work doesn’t mean the risk doesn’t exist. Our employee got together with the GC and got the situation remedied, and the barrier was replaced.
  • Employee stepped on a piece of plywood that was placed by another contractor spanning the gap on top of two walk-in cases. The plywood gave way, and the employee fell far enough to cause an abrasion on his leg.
  • Safety chains at a dock door were not replaced after a trailer unloaded freight. This is a common occurrence, and a check that any warehouse worker should be aware of.
  • Employee misjudged the last step of a ladder, and twisted ankle after sliding down one extra step. This fall was controlled and less than three feet, but still led to injury.
  • An employee slipped on ice inside a walk-in freezer that he was servicing. Proper footwear in these environments as well as clearing icy surfaces would reduce the risk of injury.

Preparation is the key. Take the time to assess the task at hand, identify the hazards on site, and proceed with the right tools and equipment. Be aware of your surroundings, make sure your footing is secure ascending and descending ladders, and feel for the floor before releasing the ladder. Durable, non-slip footwear are a must in many of our work applications. I recommend this product or one like it for icy situations where there is no risk to damaging the substructure.