Safety Focus: Protecting Workers from Falls From Elevations

Safety Focus: Protecting Workers from Falls From Elevations

Falls from elevations are among the highest incurred of all types of injuries in maritime facilities, and they are 100% preventable. Many times, workers that fall from elevations suffer not just a single body part injury but an injury to multiple body parts, further adding to the difficulty in recovering from injury. This is another reason that injuries resulting from falls from elevation have the highest total incurred costs.


Focusing on falls from elevation leads to lower costs and fewer injuries

There are tremendous financial and people-based rewards for implementing or improving incident prevention controls that address falls from elevations. It is truly an area that can be controlled and provide measurable benefits.

Focusing on fall prevention would not only lead to lower injury-related costs, but from a humanistic standpoint, fewer workers would suffer on-the-job injuries. Injuries to multiple body areas are more difficult to treat, rehabilitate, and recover from, further adding to the time away from work and difficulty the worker may face. Employers care about employees and want to see employees succeed at work. Providing workers with a safe job is a sign of a caring employer and allows workers to have long-term careers.


Understanding Exposures to Fall Hazards

Fall hazards that cause workers to fall from elevated surfaces within the maritime industries covered by USL&H are numerous. From shipyards constructing and repairing vessels, longshore workers atop cargo in a ship’s hatch, or marine construction and oilfield workers adjacent to an unguarded edge, the type of exposures (and controlling them) require specific engineering, administrative, and personal protective equipment methods.

Providing simple fall arrest systems isn’t enough to keep workers safe. There are so many different types of equipment, work environments, and processes; also, work is often performed on vessels owned by other parties. 

While some hazards are easily corrected, some do require additional study and planning to eliminate. Employers must put in place solutions for many types of exposures to falls from elevated levels. 

Photos illustrating some exposures that result from falls from elevations can be found on the Safety Focus: Falls From Elevations page on the ALMA member resource website.


OSHA Rules Related to Falls From Elevations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency that enforces safety and health regulations in the United States, has set forth requirements to protect workers from fall hazards in all industries. These requirements are set by requiring employers to develop and implement comprehensive fall protection programs. The intent of this requirement is to eliminate falls from elevated surfaces. These requirements are mandatory and must be implemented anywhere fall hazards exist.

Management is required to:

  • Develop, implement, and commit to a fall protection program
  • Provide training on the fall protection program
  • Evaluate the program on a regular basis to ensure the program’s effectiveness and determine whether it needs to be changed or updated

Specific OSHA rules for both shipyards and marine cargo handling facilities are listed on the Safety Focus: Falls From Elevations page on the ALMA member resource website.


Exclusive for ALMA Members: Falls From Elevations Resource Site

As part of our monthly Safety Focus initiative, the ALMA member resource website has a page providing safety resources related to falls from elevation. Resources include:

  • OSHA rules related to falls from elevations
  • Understanding exposures to fall hazards
  • Safety rules for preventing falls from elevations
  • Fall protection guidance document
  • Toolbox talks
  • Safety bulletins
  • Videos
ALMA members may access that page by clicking here (login required). If you have not yet registered for access, click here to do so.
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