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Effective Fall Protection for Utility Workers

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A review of the relevant standards and training that companies need to provide.

OSHA and ANSI mandate the use of fall protection equipment and sufficient training for companies whose employees are exposed to fall hazards. Utility workers put themselves in high-risk situations when working at heights. There is no more diversified work environment than in the utility industry; continuous change and technological advancement within the industry create new challenges for an effective fall protection program.

THE STANDARDS
OSHA 1910.269 (g)(2)(v) states, “fall arrest equipment, work positioning equipment, or travel resisting equipment shall be used by employees working at elevated locations more than 4 feet (1.2 m) above the ground on poles, towers or similar structures if other fall protection has not been provided.” The standard also states that “fall protection equipment is not required to be used by a qualified employee climbing or changing location on poles, towers, or similar structures, unless conditions, such as, but not limited to, ice, high wind, the design of the structure (for example, no provision for holding on with hands), or the presence of contaminants on the structure, could cause the employee to lose his or her grip or footing.” Although this exception to the rule exists and gives leeway to some industries, many employers have strict safety policies that go above and beyond the standard. These utility companies commit to a culture of safety and fall protection training.
The new ANSI Z359.2 standard, “Minimum Requirements for a Comprehensive, Managed Fall Protection Program,” establishes guidelines and requirements for fall protection training. Although compliance with this standard is voluntary, most companies choose to comply with it as a best practice. Compliance may even become mandatory if OSHA references it in a standard.
According to the ANSI Z359.2 standard, there are six levels of competency that employees need to be trained in. The level of training will be determined by the functions that an employee performs. The levels include program administrator, qualified person, competent person, competent rescuer, authorized person and authorized rescuer. In most cases, to perform day-to-day tasks, utility companies need to have trained program administrators, competent persons and authorized persons on staff. A qualified person typically engineers fall protection systems, as opposed to using them on a daily basis. Thus, a utility company could contract that work when necessary.� The only aspect one must keep in mind is to ensure the contractor’s engineers have had qualified training.

LEVELS OF FALL PROTECTION TRAINING
Program Administrator
Program administrators are responsible for development, implementation and monitoring of the managed fall protection program. The training for program administrators focuses on developing a working knowledge of current fall protection regulations, standards, fall protection equipment and systems.� A majority of training time is spent in a classroom setting. According to ANSI Z359.2, section 3.3.2.3, topics that will be covered in program administrator training include:
• Developing and maintaining a managed fall protection program.
• Fall hazard surveys.
• Selection and appointment of safety committee personnel.
• Fall protection system selection.
• Development of approved equipment purchase lists.
• Selection and appointment of competent and qualified people.
• Writing fall protection procedures.
• Development of engineering system standards.
• Development of written fall protection procedures, rescue procedures and training programs.
• Accident/incident/near-miss investigations.

Competent Person and Competent Rescuer1
The competent person is directly involved in immediate supervision, implementation and monitoring of the managed fall protection program. It is important for competent person trainees to spend a significant amount of time on physical demonstrations of how to properly select, inspect, anchor, assemble and use fall protection equipment. A key element to a competent person’s training is the use of all types of equipment and systems, with special emphasis on inspection, installation and component compatibility. Estimating free fall distances, total required clearance, dismantling, storage and common hazards associated with each system and component is the foundation for a successful fall protection program.
According to ANSI Z359.2, section 3.3.4.4, topics that will be covered in competent person training include:
• Fall hazard elimination and control methods.
• Applicable fall protection regulations.
• Fall hazard surveys and fall protection procedures.
• The responsibilities of designated persons under this standard.
• Detailed inspection of equipment components and
systems.
• Fall protection system assessments and determining when a system is unsafe.
• Fall protection rescue procedures.
• The selection and use of non-certified anchorages.
The competent rescuer is responsible for anticipating the foreseeable potential for planned rescue and for developing appropriate rescue procedures and methods before the authorized persons start their workplace activities. Training sessions for a competent rescuer include all of the above-mentioned topics as well as knowledge of applicable rescue regulations, assessment of fall hazards to determine rescue methods, detailed inspection of rescue equipment and determining when it is unsafe, and development of written fall protection rescue procedures.
As a general rule, the competent person should attend an update training session every two years. The competent rescuer should attend an update session every year and review any applicable rescue plans annually.

Authorized Person and Authorized Rescuer2
An authorized person is any employee who uses fall protection equipment to protect him or herself against falls. They need to have a good understanding of proper use, inspection, maintenance, storage and care of their fall protection equipment and systems. Trainees should get hands-on demonstrations of how to inspect, anchor, assemble and use fall protection equipment on location.
According to ANSI Z359.2, section 3.3.6.3, topics that will be covered in authorized person training include:
• Fall hazard recognition.
• Fall hazard elimination and control methods.
• Applicable fall protection regulations.
• The responsibilities of designated persons under this standard.
• How to use written fall protection procedures.
• Inspection of equipment components and systems before use.
• Fall protection rescue procedures.
An authorized rescuer is responsible for performing or assisting with workplace rescues. The training course covers all of the topics mentioned above along with a review of applicable rescue regulations and how to use written rescue procedures.
As a general rule, the authorized person and authorized rescuer should attend an update training session every two years.

KEYS TO SUCCESS
The key element for a successful fall protection training program is hands-on demonstrations and practice. OSHA calls for fall protection training to simulate the use of fall protection equipment in real-world scenarios.
Although a portion of training courses will be in the classroom, physical demonstrations are invaluable. An e-learning course or a video demonstration of how to properly use fall protection equipment may not be enough; a worker should strap into a harness, connect to an anchor and experience wearing fall protection equipment in controlled conditions. This way, the trainee will learn what it feels like, familiarize him or herself with proper use of equipment and know
how to inspect that piece of equipment before use.
Training should not be something that you participate in once and forget about. It should be a part of your safety culture and continually evolve to meet changing needs. iP

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Guest Thursday, 23 October 2014

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