A simple and effective system for ensuring proper fall protection.
The development of an effective fall protection program has long been a tough issue to deal with. Many of the hazards that utility workers face often seem impossible to provide adequate protection for without introducing some other unsafe condition. And once systems are developed, getting workers to use them is another problem.Through the '80s and '90s, fall protection systems have evolved to provide protection for most work-from-height scenarios and may be used in some combination to eliminate any fall hazard. It is important to keep it simple and remember the numbers six, 200 and 5,000.
DON'T FORGET THE BASICS
To design an effective fall protection system it's important to remember the basic rules: don't allow a worker to fall more than six feet, make sure that the connection point can handle 5,000 pounds for each worker (separately connected), and a guardrail must withstand 200 pounds of side strain.
A big challenge has always been working on station transformers. There are many fall protection schemes available, but setting up these systems often increases the risk of damaging bushings, resulting in sharps hazards, equipment damage and costly shut-down time. Considering the risks should be part of your plan. A few options for worker protection while working on a transformer or other elevated equipment include: setting up aerial lifts above the equipment to connect a retractable lanyard (with vehicle shut down and tagged out); setting up temporary guardrails; setting up an arm fastened to a pre-welded plate on the working surface; using a hook with an insulated stick to connect a vertical lifeline or retractable lanyard to the structure above the transformer (provided clearance is maintained from any energized parts); or require working from ladders only (OK for smaller equipment such as breakers or regulators).
Emergency rescue systems should follow the same fall protection program. The only addition to this system may be the use of a backup or belay system. These systems can be very elaborate and technical. To design a system effectively, try to envision yourself in an emergency scenario with a co-worker or friend. Ask yourself, what would you honestly use to get that person safely down to the ground? The NFPA follows a Static System Safety Factor of 15:1. However, in the utility industry, realistically, a worker will grab a rope, tie up his buddy and lower him to the ground to get CPR going ASAP. Follow the minimum design fall protection criteria of 5,000 pounds, add a belay line for additional safety, and you can effectively design a rescue system. You may want to consult with a professional rescue expert to design the system best for you. Be sure to practice rescue training at least annually for transmission towers, substation structures, poles and wind towers.
Fall hazards will always exist and often result in the most serious injuries in the utility industry. We can prevent these injuries by designing and implementing an effective fall protection program using a wide array of new systems now available. Let the employees help with the program development to get ultimate buy-in. Detail and train affected employees in the use of fall protection systems needed for each job as well as work procedures, including use and inspection of all equipment. Always consider the safety numbers of six, 200 and 5,000 to keep it as simple as possible. ip
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