Prevention, Protection, Rescue—The Fall Safety Pyramid
Our mission at Malta Dynamics is to eliminate the number of injuries and fatalities that falling from heights causes to workers each year. We work every day to educate and encourage our customers to pursue a total fall safety solution that will allow all of their employees to go home safely.
It’s useful to think of fall safety as a pyramid, with the foundational level being fall prevention, then fall protection, and the tip of the pyramid being fall rescue. You can think about building your safety systems the way you would build a pyramid—from the bottom up.
The First Line of Defense is Fall Prevention
Whether you’re talking about your health or your safety systems, prevention is always best. We recommend taking a proactive approach and identifying areas where an ounce of prevention can save you and your workers a lot of energy and unnecessary risk.
Fall prevention is designed to make falls impossible by blocking access to areas where a fall risk occurs. Guardrails are one obvious example where a physical barrier blocks access to ledges or hazardous areas. Other examples include horizontal lifelines with fall restraints that provide continuous protection.
How can you build up this base of the fall safety pyramid? A hazard assessment of your facility or jobsite can help you determine which areas pose the greatest risk, and you can decide where it makes the most sense to install and use fall prevention measures.
Where You Can’t Prevent—You Must Protect
Sometimes preventing falls entirely simply isn’t possible. Some jobs will require a worker to step out of the safety of your fall prevention systems and into a location where a fall becomes a possibility.
If there is any chance of danger, fall protection must be used every time. This protection represents the middle layer of your fall safety pyramid, built upon your fall prevention systems.
Fall protection can take many forms, including harnesses, lanyards, and SRLs. These life-saving pieces of equipment are designed to arrest falls and absorb the impact of a worker falling from height. In order for these devices to do what they’re intended to, however, they must be provided to the workers and worn correctly every time. This can sometimes require changing habits and attitudes toward wearing PPE, but it is well worth taking the time to train workers on the importance of fall protection and how to use the gear properly. It’s not an exaggeration to say that lives can be at stake.
Have a Rescue Plan—Just in Case
Adequate fall prevention and fall protection should make a fall event unlikely. Once you’ve built up the base of your pyramid, most events should be prevented entirely or alleviated by your fall protection systems. But it’s still a smart idea (and a requirement) to have a rescue plan in place, just in case a rare event does occur. You know what they say about our “best laid plans.”
Even when fall protection successfully arrests a fall, once the worker is hanging suspended, a rapid rescue is essential for preventing secondary injuries and even death that can occur. Serious adverse health effects that require medical intervention can occur in as little as 12 – 15 minutes while awaiting rescue, according to an Air Force study on suspension trauma.
Once a worker is hanging suspended, it is too late to come up with a rapid rescue plan. Minutes and seconds matter.
Having a written rescue plan before your team needs to respond to a fall is the key to preventing secondary injuries. We provide a free template for creating a customized rescue plan for your team. It’s worth taking the time to think through your plan now—better to have a plan that you never need to use than to need a plan and not have one prepared.
Where to Start?
If you aren’t sure how to assess your facility or jobsite, or if you need help with any of these stages, please give us a call. Malta Dynamics has expertise in all stages of the fall safety pyramid and it’s our mission to help you keep your workers safe.