When a worker on the rooftop of a skyscraper clips a safety harness onto the point that anchors him to the building, there’s a one-in-three chance the anchor itself is unsafe. This unsettling fact comes from an audit conducted by the Working at Heights Association (WAHA) in Australia, which recently sent a call to action to the Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) demanding urgent action from governments.
As the president of the International Society for Fall Protection, I work to understand fall protection trends around the world. Not surprisingly, many of the struggles we have in the United States are also issues abroad.
Similar to what I witnessed at OSHA public forums in January 2011, practitioners in the fall protection industry can be more focused on when and how regulations apply than on truly improving safety for workers. Their focus is on fixing issues related to anchors and personal protective equipment (PPE), rather than alternative solutions that truly reduce risk.
While I can’t comment directly on the situation in Australia, I do know some of the folks involved. But, I know that putting the burden of improving safety on regulatory bodies (like OSHA or HWSA) is shortsighted. Regulators don’t have the time or expertise to scrutinize every fall protection anchor or piece of equipment.
Regulations can help with establishing guidelines and minimum thresholds for testing, training and mitigation measures. But, the assurance that fall protection solutions are practical, functional and compliant falls to the employer.
Employers can require a certain level of experience, training and certification of the fall protection installers and users on their facilities. Rather than relying on regulatory bodies, take the safety of your employees, contractors and visitors into your own hands.