Stop Falling ~ fall prevention equipment and training

Stop Falling ~ fall prevention equipment and training

While there may be a rush of adrenaline in bungee jumping, sky diving and parachuting, and an extreme thrill in the most extreme sport of B.A.S.E. jumping, most people do not enjoy the sensation of falling through the air. Down. That’s gravity in full force. It’s what makes water run down hill and brings us down when we lose our footing. Albert Einstein once quipped: “You can’t blame gravity for falling in love.” True enough and profound perhaps for a theoretical physicist. Probably the other startling sensation is the element of surprise. Falls, like most accidents, happen fast and unexpectedly, and many do not end well. The ground is unforgiving to the human body, whether it is thrown downward off a building, off a horse, off a train or off scaffolding or as a result of a clumsy step or tripping over something as simple as a trowel, dog leash or electric cord.

In fact, falling on the same level surpasses falling through the air from above. They are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury and second only to automobile accidents for fatalities. The older population is often cited for falling injuries, but the construction industry is right up there for fall volume. In fact, the rate of non-fatal fall injuries in construction is 50% higher than all industries combined.

Fatalities ~   from roof, 31%

from ladder, 24%

from scaffold and staging, 15%

Non-fatal ~    same level, 40%

from ladder, 23%

from roof, 7%

from scaffolding, 4%

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] may rank up there with the IRS and “60 Minutes” for a dreaded visit, the organization, established in 1970 within the U.S. Department of Labor, it has had a positive impact on workplace safety.

1972    —         10.9 incidents (aka injury or illness) per 100 workers

2015    —         3.0 incidents per 100 workers

The fall statistics may be grim, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s the fact that many, many, many falls can be prevented. And here is the real kicker:

The most-violated OSHA standard is fall protection.

(Source: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration)

Grainger, the Fortune 500 industrial giant with 2016 revenue topping $10 billion, stocks 1.6 million products and employs around 25,000 team members around the world. Sally Smart, Grainer Technical Safety Specialist, offers this simple review:

For background, the Construction duty to have fall protection standard is found in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1926.501 and the revised General Industry duty to have fall protection and falling object protection is found in 29 CFR 1910.28:

  • 29 CFR 1926.501 – “Duty to have fall protection. Unprotected sides and edges. Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.”
  • 29 CFR 1910.28(b)(1)(i) – 1910.28(b)(1)(i)(C) – Employers must ensure that each employee on a walking-working surface with an unprotected side or edge that is four feet (1.2 m) or more above a lower level is protected from falling by guardrail systems; safety net systems; or personal fall protection systems, such as personal fall arrest, travel restraint, or positioning systems.
OSHA defines fall protection as “any equipment, device, or system that prevents a worker from falling from an elevation or mitigates the effect of such a fall.” Under the final rule, employers can choose from a variety of fall protection options, such as guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, positioning systems, travel restraint systems and ladder safety systems.

In response to construction workers, masons included, falling on the job, myriad products have been introduced to protect the individual as well as create a safe work environment. In addition to personal protective equipment (PPE), many requirements are in place regarding footing, scaffolding, guard rails, decking and job site obstacles and hazards. Besides complying with work environment rules, employers are also charged with training and sometimes outfitting stone masons and other construction subcontractors and employees in all facets of safety and PPE appropriate to the job and working conditions. There may also be local and state regulations to know and understand.

Cutting through the chase, however, it is every person’s responsibility to be aware of job site hazards, obey rules and be especially cognizant of the uses and benefits of personal protective gear. “To achieve our goal of developing and manufacturing the highest quality products, Malta Dynamics has hired some of the best fall protection experts in the field, holds an active seat on the ANSI Standards Committee and sits on multiple ANSI-subcommittees taking part in the evaluation and development of testing procedures and standards,” relates Ken Hebert, National Sales Manager. “We have also created an external product development team of safety directors who guide our product development based on real world needs and applications.”

Located in the tiny southeastern Ohio Village of Malta, population right around 675, Malta Dynamics was created to develop and manufacture the highest quality fall protection and safety products while making them available at the most affordable prices possible. Damian Lang started as a mason in the region more than three decades ago. Across the years, he invented several products that make life better for him and his workers. His philosophy of developing products for the worker is evident in all aspects of his business from grout delivery systems pioneered in the ’90s to fall protection systems he has developed under the brand name Malta Dynamics.


“As a leader in safety services and solutions,” Smart points out, “Grainger offers customers a complete line of fall prevention and protection equipment for employers covered by OSHA’s Construction and General Industry standards. Head-to-toe personal protective equipment includes:

  • hard hats
  • eye and face protection
  • body belts with anchor points
  • lifelines – horizontal, vertical and self-retracting
  • footwear and workwear
  • harnesses and harness systems
  • positioning and restraint lanyards
  • rope grabs … and more

One of the two trends that Hebert observes is an increased interest in self-retracting lifelines. “Self-retracting devices are being built better, lighter and more compact. New designs with fewer and less complicated internal components are being made and this helps, which in turn simplifies maintenance.”


The warthog is the most common wild pig seen in the African Bush and is a much loved creature, immortalized in Hollywood with movies like “The Lion King”. It is primarily an herbivore and generally a social creature among its own. The Warthog® series of body harnesses from Malta Dynamics are among its best-selling products. Variations include sizing, padding, side D rings and a belt. “Self-retracting lifelines work similar to car seat belts,” writes Abigail Sweeney, Marketing Coordinator at Malta Dynamics. “They retract and give slack through the housing coil easily under normal conditions, but during a sudden quick jerk, they lock up. Unlike car seat belts, self-retracting lifelines typically have either brakes, an incorporated energy absorbing lanyard or a combination of housing with a locking and braking mechanism that includes an incorporated lanyard. All of these are designed to take force away from the fall.”

According to Smart, all Grainger’s fall prevention and fall protection equipment meets and/or exceeds all of the latest innovations and equipment design requirements. “Because OSHA standards set minimum requirements,” she continues, “all fall prevention and protection equipment offered by Grainger meets and/or exceeds the most current voluntary American National Standards Institute (ANSI) certified standards – ANSI/ASSE A10 Construction and Demolition Standards Package and ANSI/ASSE Z359 Fall Protection Code Package.” Among the current trends Grainger is embracing are:

  • Lighter, more compact personal fall arrest system (PFSA) designs with the comfort of the user in mind;
  • Use of anchorage connectors with 100 percent tie-off fall protection capability that allows workers to move without ever being disconnected;
  • Sharp edge and leading edge applications present unique risks due to the potential for the lanyards and lifelines to be cut, severed, frayed or otherwise compromised and the best protective equipment and training is needed; and
  • Customized training that is specific to users’ needs.

“The Warthog Comfort Maxx from Malta Dynamics has a cutting-edge back belt designed to specifically support the lumbar region of the worker’s back, thus allowing for a safer, more comfortable (and content) employee,” Hebert states. “Another innovation we have brought to market is our newly designed rescue trauma strap which includes a wider strap for superior foot placement. This makes it easier for the worker to find a place to perch his or her feet which makes all the difference in the world during an emergency.”

Another innovation in Malta Dynamics’ line-up of products is the Grabber Mobile Fall Arrest System. This product is revolutionary and provides OSHA compliant, ANSI tested fall protection for up to two workers any place, at any time.


In the construction industry, any individual performing work on a jobsite is considered an “Authorized Person”. The law states that an Authorized Person shall have a working understanding of and follow the employer’s policy and procedures and the instructions of a “Competent Person” regarding the use of fall protection and rescue systems. “Employers should also consider Competent Person training for those employees responsible for the immediate supervision, implementation and monitoring of a fall prevention/protection program,” says Smart.

The other trend that Hebert points out is training. “Training has become much more widely practiced over the last two decades. Owners and safety managers of roofing and masonry companies – two subcontracting categories notorious for violations — are aggressively pursuing training for their employees. Employers have become much more willing to provide training and create a culture of safety on their jobsites. We have noticed an increase in customer’s reaching out to us for technical help.”

“OSHA requires by law the proper training of use and inspection of all the products workers use on their jobsites, and this is especially true for fall protection. To help our customers achieve this mandate, Malta Dynamics offers full training and product orientation options to our customers. That said, the vast majority of our products is already used, and the average masonry subcontractor is very familiar with them. Because all of our products are OSHA compliant and built to the strict ANSI standards, they are universal in their use,” Hebert explains.

Smart addresses equipment training: “If covered by the Construction Fall Protection standards, users must be trained in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.503 and General Industry users must be trained in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.30. Grainger offers a comprehensive array of supporting resources, services and training. Safe operation, maintenance and care of all equipment is also vital, so all users should read and follow the equipment manufacturer’s instructions for use.”

Once a solid training program is in place, then the job gets so much easier to maintain a healthy work environment. “Choices of processes and products become simplified because Authorized Persons (the workers) and Competent Persons (the leaders) on the jobsite know what to look for, know how to spot hazards and know how to handle them,” Hebert offers. “Once a company makes a decision to develop a culture of ‘safety first’, it will be in a position to save time and money, adding to the always important bottom line.”

There are many pieces of gear and equipment that complement the worker’s PPE. Guard rails, safety matting, fall arrest posts and extensions, specialty anchors and vacuum anchors, skylight guards, carabiners, concrete anchors, temporary and permanent anchors and rescue equipment are available for jobsite safety. Training must include being vigilant for potential fall hazards as well as understanding all the components on the body and on the building or crane or scaffolding and decking to prevent or arrest falling.

Personal Responsibility

With OSHA, leadership in the construction industry and companies like Grainer, Malta Dynamics and Arbill continually designing innovative equipment to protect workers, it then falls to the mason and all construction workers to take seriously valuing their own safety and that of co-workers alongside them. Among the obvious of eye and face protection, hand and foot precautions, harnesses, nets, clips, guard rails and other fall prevention equipment, each individual can advance his or her own personal fall prevention plan by:

  • getting a good night’s sleep
  • staying home when ill with Rx that may cause drowsiness
  • eating a nutritious breakfast and lunch
  • focusing on the job at hand
  • coming to work sober all day
  • leaving personal problems out of the workplace
  • embracing all the safety resources available
  • attending every required training session
  • viewing all fall prevention equipment available as necessary, not optional
  • wearing sturdy work boots and appropriate clothing
  • being alert to jobsite and weather hazards
  • reporting carelessness or negligence that may enhance fall potential
  • suggesting safety equipment to coworkers who may choose not to wear it.

“OSHA requires that all employers assess the workplace to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, and then take actions to control those potential hazards,” Smart declares. “Contractors should do an in-depth analysis of the work to be done, assess the risk (risk = likelihood x consequence) and use the protective measures or solutions that eliminate or reduce the risk to an acceptable level.”

Further Information (The Center for Construction Research and Training)

Words: Joanne M. Anderson
Photos: Ercanozay, lawcain, Malta Dynamics, mihalec

Joanne M. Anderson is a freelance writer with more than 1,000 blogs and feature articles in print.

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