Working in the safety industry, I often come across news stories that remind me that working for ORR Safety goes far beyond just selling a product.
One such news story comes out of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Last month, Tanner Kane, a worker with Apollo Incorporated, was using a bar to provide leverage for popping forms off the top of a retaining wall in Kennewick, WA. One minute he was working alongside his partner, the next, he'd vanished, catapulted clear over the thirty foot wall. Fortunately, Tanner was using his company-issued fall protection system and survived without significant injury. In fact, he was even able to make his son's baseball game that night, no worse for the wear. Just one week prior, Apollo had requested an on-site consultation regarding their fall protection and had responded to areas for improvement. Their commitment to worker safety paid off almost immediately.
Stories like Tanner's aren't hard to find. That same week in Lynchburg, VA, another worker was saved from a tumble off the roof of a college dormitory by his fall protection system. In 2011, two workers survived after their scaffolding collapsed beneath them while they worked 13 stories above Yonkers, NY. In 2003, two workers renovating Lambeau Field slipped from beams six stories off the ground just a month apart from each other. Both were back to work the next day thanks to their fall protection. Each of these stories has a happy ending because two parties worked together to ensure a positive outcome: Company management took worker safety seriously enough to provide the right equipment for the job & train their employees to use it properly. Likewise, the workers themselves took their own well-being seriously and didn't cut corners or blow off their training. That synergy prevented potential tragedy and gave yet more ammo to those of us who are boisterous advocates for safety in our workplaces: preparation and training work!
This is especially true in the world of fall protection. Using the right tool for the job makes a world of difference. For your worksite, have you considered whether you need a freestanding counterweight anchor or a fixed beam anchor? Could a tie off adapter work for your unique circumstances? Fall protection doesn't just end at equipment, either. According to Occupational Health & Safety Online, a rescue plan is the most overlooked aspect of a robust program for worker fall safety. ANSI standards require a worker be rescued "promptly", although that term is not defined. A good rule of thumb is to just imagine how long you'd like to be suspended thirteen stories above a New York city sidewalk and plan for your workers accordingly. According to the above article, a military study was conducted on subjects suspended motionless in the air. The tests were stopped at an average of around 17 to 28 minutes to prevent serious injury to the volunteers, subjects who were in top military shape, so that tells you how important a quick response is. When ORR Safety staff conduct fall protection training, we suggest the OSHA-recommended "buddy system", where all workers using fall protection have a partner with them to observe and assist in the event a rescue is needed.
Protecting your staff from dangerous falls doesn't require you to be a physics genius. It just takes a commitment to educating yourself or your management about the right tools for the job, reaching out to state and local agencies offering inspections & consultations, having an action plan, and training your crew to use the equipment they've been provided in a safe way.
I think it's also important to remember that what we do, whether as safety managers. procurement agents, distributors, or conscientious workers, isn't just about risk management or company liability. It's also about a little league baseball diamond outside of Kennewick, Washington where Tanner Kane is giving his son a hug after the game, saying with a smile, "Wait 'til you hear about my crazy day!"