As statistics show, fall hazards should be a major concern in all industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 601 workers died of work-related falls from heights in 2003. And, from 2000 to 2003, nearly 3,000 fatalities were caused by falls from heights in the workplace. The construction industry is especially affected, as falls regularly account for one out of every three fatalities in the construction industry - more than any other type of construction-related fatality. Despite the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) introduction of Subpart M regulations to establish fall protection system requirements in 1994, the BLS has seen no reduction in fall-related deaths in the proceeding decade. See Exhibit 1.

Exhibit 1. Fall fatalities have not declined since the introduction of Subpart M regulations (available in full paper).

Despite its obvious importance, mitigating existing fall hazards can be an overwhelming task. A company's resources of time, money and knowledge must all be invested in order to properly abate fall hazards.

The first step in minimizing hazards is to identify all hazards to determine the scope and magnitude of a fall hazard control program. Hazards should be assessed in terms of risk, possible means of abatement and number of occurrences. This assessment provides a basis for the content of training programs for at-risk workers, competent persons1 and qualified persons2. Outside consultants are often used to conduct the fall hazard identification audits and help quantify the magnitude of existing hazards. Much like financial auditors, outside professionals offer an unbiased perspective of a company's facilities.

For example, qualified and competent persons often conduct fall hazard identification audits by identifying and quantifying hazards that need to be eliminated, prevented, warned of or protected from. Qualified and competent persons then use their assessments as the foundation for complete fall hazard control programs. These assessments, combined with OSHA regulations and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, allow companies to determine training, equipment, financial and company resources, and timelines necessary to abate the hazards.

The goal of this proceeding is to explain fall hazard identification audits and the importance of these audits within a managed fall protection program. Please refer to Session 614-2 from the 2004 Professional Development Conference Proceedings for more information about managed fall protection programs.

Reasons for Conducting Audits

Even though new buildings are designed and constructed with a major emphasis on safety, this emphasis is typically limited to general public safety-which is addressed through the International Building and Life Safety Codes-and safety associated with frequent preventative maintenance tasks. Hazards associated with infrequent tasks, such as exterior building maintenance, roof maintenance and access, and maintaining machinery only needing repairs every few years, are often overlooked.

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