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What are OSHA’s Fall Protection Requirements?
One of the most frequent reasons for fatal and catastrophic workplace accidents is falls. Employers are required to set up the workplace so that no one can fall off of raised workstations or into gaps in the floor or walls. Fall protection is required by OSHA in general industry workplaces at altitudes of 4 feet.
Here are four OSHA requirements employers must follow:
- Maintain clean and dry floors in a work area
- Provide safe working environments free from recognized hazards
- Supply employees with personal protective equipment at no personal cost
- Inform staff members about occupational dangers in a language they can understand (OSHA)
Employers are required to take every precaution to stop employee falls. Posting a designated guard at every floor opening that a worker might unintentionally enter (using a railing and toeboard or a floor hole cover) will stop largely preventable accidents. Another method would be to give every elevated open-sided platform, floor, or runway a guard rail and toe board. Guardrails and toe boards, regardless of height, should be installed if there is the possibility a worker can fall into or onto hazardous machinery or equipment (such as an acid vat or a conveyor belt). Lastly, employers should supply safety harnesses and lines, safety netting, stair railings, handrails, and any further fall prevention tools that may be needed for a job.
Scissor Lift Fall Protection
Scissor lifts are work platforms employed in industries such as construction, retail, entertainment, and manufacturing, to transport personnel vertically. A scissor lift raises the work platform straight up and down utilizing crossed beams that act like scissors. The lifting mechanism of scissor lifts classifies it as scaffolds rather than aerial lifts.
While vital to many workplaces, the scissor lift, like any other piece of equipment, can be dangerous. Most injuries and deaths that occur while using a scissor lift boil down to three main causes: falls, improper stabilization, and positioning. Scissor lifts should be stable and unable to tip over or collapse. The following are some protective procedures to guarantee a safe environment for using scissor lifts:
- For safe movement, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, which forbids moving the lift while elevated.
- Choose work areas that are free from danger and have firm, level surfaces. Avoid terrain such as drop-offs, holes, slopes, bumps, ground obstructions, or other debris.
- To prevent other equipment from coming into contact with the scissor lift, isolate it or put traffic control measures in place.
- Only use the scissor lift outside in favorable weather. Wind speeds under 28 miles per hour are typically the limit for scissor lifts authorized for outdoor use.
Scissor lifts must be routinely maintained by employers to ensure user safety. Preemptive measures will often prevent the lifting mechanism from collapsing. The maintenance and inspection guidelines provided by the manufacturer will typically explain how controls and components should be tested before each use. Before starting work, make sure the guardrail systems are functioning properly. Lastly, confirm the brakes will hold the scissor lift in place after they are set.
OSHA Scissor Lift Safety Requirements
When it comes to scissor lifts, OSHA’s top concern is that only workers who have undergone the necessary training and certification be permitted to operate different types of Advanced Work Packagings (AWP). According to an OSHA-conducted study, the majority of scissor lift accidents occur in workplaces where employers have neglected the proper prevention and safety training. Employers are required by OSHA’s regulations to instruct operators on the proper safety procedures. Any employee who uses a scissor lift must get the appropriate training.
OSHA mandates that operators renew their scissors lift training and certification every three years. It is the employer’s duty to ensure that every operator receives OSHA-aligned instruction and certification. This is done to make sure operators learn the safety guidelines for scissor lifts, such as how to inspect and maintain the machinery and adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. The appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) must also be covered in the training.
Scissor lifts must always be provided with guardrails that are in place at all times in accordance with OSHA rules. This is mandated for anywhere that scissor lifts are used, including interior and outdoor construction, sign maintenance, and shipyard operations. Workers should always wear fall protection harnesses that are firmly connected to the lift if the platform is more than 10 feet above the ground or a platform directly below if guardrails aren’t accessible. Workers should never stand on, lean against, or use the guardrails of a scissor lift for stability purposes.
Is a Safety Harness Required for a Scissor Lift?
Although harnesses can’t stop someone from falling off a lift or platform, they are made to “catch” people who do. In addition, they can reduce the risk of slips and trips, which is crucial for OSHA harness standards. The question of whether a harness is necessary when using a scissor lift is still up for debate. Personal fall restraint systems (PFRS) and other personal protection equipment (PPE), such as safety harnesses, are considered as obstacles rather than tools that help avoid injuries from falls by certain aerial lift operators.
Others believe that the only people who should wear harnesses and other fall protective gear are aerial lift operators. Employees should uphold OSHA regulations when it’s required to wear a scissor lift harness since both aerial lift employees and workers on the ground have a right to a safe working environment.
Is a Safety Harness on a Scissor Lift Required by OSHA?
Scissor lift harnesses are not required by OSHA if there is a suitable guardrail system in place. But personal fall restraint systems are necessary for all other circumstances. OSHA regards guardrails as part of scissor lift fall protection.This is because scissor lifts are seen as scaffolding rather than necessary aerial lifts in OSHA’s eyes.
Fall protection safety systems should be employed whenever possible. In most cases, a strong guardrail system is enough to prevent scissor lift operators from slipping off the platform. However, when using a scissor lift, it’s always a good idea to wear PPE even if a harness is not required.
A worker simply has to be protected from falling by a properly constructed and maintained guardrail system when working from an elevated scissors lift. However, an extra fall prevention device would be needed if the guardrail system is insufficient or the person escapes the security of the work platform.
Should Employees Always Wear Harnesses When Using Scissor Lifts?
Whether workers should always wear harnesses when operating scissor lifts is a question that gets thrown around often. While businesses aim to meet OSHA’s standards for scissor lift harnesses, workers are understandably concerned about restrictions that could limit their productivity.
In order to reduce falls and serious injury, OSHA harness regulations were implemented. According to OSHA, a worker only needs to be protected from falling when operating from an elevated scissor lift by a guardrail system. As long as it is properly installed and maintained there is no need for further fall protection. However, an extra fall prevention device would be needed if the guardrail system is inadequate.
What Safety Harness should a Scissor Lift Operator use?
Operators of scissor lifts can use a full-body harness with a fall restraint or a self-retracting lifeline or lanyard system. A lanyard can be used to secure the harness to a scissor lift. The harness allows a scissor lift operator to work at heights while remaining mobile. If a scissor lift operator wearing a fall restraint harness falls from their lift, he or she cannot drop. This is because the operator is connected to the lift.