I recently learned of a market study that indicates significant growth for the North American fall protection equipment market through 2017. It’s encouraging to think that more workers at height will be protected by this influx of equipment, but more equipment doesn’t necessarily mean safer workers.
The research, published by Frost & Sullivan in North American Fall Protection Market Study, predicts an increased demand for fall arrest equipment. The main drivers for the predicted growth are a renewed emphasis on fall protection regulations and standards, higher penalties for noncompliance and fear of liability.
Unfortunately, the reality is that more equipment doesn’t necessarily mean better protection. Too many times I have seen workers take on a false sense of security because they have equipment and a tie-off point. There are so many variables to consider when using fall protection equipment: compatibility, anchorage strength, available fall clearance, equipment inspection, proper procedures and training. Just like the links of a chain, if only one isn’t right, the entire system can fail.
Even if you see more equipment coming on the market—or increased competition lowers prices—please remember that personal protective equipment (PPE) should be the last resort for protecting workers at heights. With so many links in the chain, PPE systems are the most defeatable forms of fall protection.