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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Once you have identified the hazards on a jobsite, your next job is to choose the safest means of protecting workers from the hazard. I know, that’s a pretty obvious statement, but there’s a bit of nuance involved that is worth thinking about.

In general, I’m distrustful of one-size-fits-all solutions. When the answers to different questions/problems all start to sound the same, I start to doubt their veracity, and this applies in spades to fall protection. If I asked 100 people to name a fall protection solution, I’d bet a majority would mention a harness and fixed-length lanyard or self-retracting lanyard. And they’d be right. Those are perfectly valid fall protection solutions. But at the same time, just because it is a valid type of fall protection doesn’t mean it is the most appropriate for a given situation. Again, throwing the same solution at different problems might be easy and expedient, but sometimes keeping safe takes a bit of extra work – and that’s OK. Solving fall protection problems is really a matter of matching the right type of equipment to the hazard. And in all cases, the safest option should be your first choice.

 


I’m going to lay an acronym on you – EPRA. I know, fall protection is riddled with acronyms, but you can handle one more, right? EPRA is designed to help you remember the Hierarchy of Fall Protection, from safest to highest risk solution. Here it is:

EPRASmall.jpg

EPRA word

The Hierarchy of Fall Protection is intended to act as a constant reminder that the goal in fall protection isn’t just to catch the fallen, but to prevent the fall in the first place. The first, and safest option - the E - is to eliminate the risk entirely. Is there a tool (say a pole extension), that keeps you from using that ladder? If so, use it! It might not always be possible to eliminate the risk, but you have to try!

The next option – the P – is for prevent.  While this option does not remove the hazard, it DOES prevent access to the hazard by means of a physical barrier. Probably the most common fall protection solution that falls into this category is guardrails.

When a hazard can’t be physically blocked, we need our next option – the R – to restrain the worker from reaching the hazard. The most common forms of restraint are a harness and lanyard (either static or self-retracting), or perhaps a VLL (vertical lifeline). The crucial component of a restraint option is to ensure your lanyard or VLL is shorter than the distance to the hazard. I know this sounds obvious, but in the midst of work, it can be easy to grab the wrong piece of gear and inadvertently put yourself in greater danger.

For those times when you can’t avoid working next to a fall hazard, your best option is the Aarrest. While this option does not prevent you from accessing the hazard, it WILL prevent you from falling to the next lower level by arresting the fall before you reach it. The most common components of Fall Arrest are self-retracting lanyards and shock-absorbing fixed-length lanyards. These are designed to absorb the forces of impact as the fall is arrested, preventing them from transferring to the worker. Additionally, if you will be working in a leading edge application, make sure you are using the proper SRL with a shock-absorber attached to the worker’s back – more on leading edge here.

So there you have it! A new acronym to tell all your friends about, EPRA! And just as a test, without scrolling back up, what do the letters stand for again?