Reducing Fall Hazard Risk: Apply Prevention through Design

Fall protection is a complex and challenging safety issue. When addressed well, workers at height—who perform the tasks that keep our businesses and communities running—are able to go home safely each day.

Over my more than 25 years of providing fall protection consulting to folks around the world, including performing fall hazard risk assessments and designing and inspecting fall protection systems, I’ve found that five techniques have had the most impact on reducing fall hazard risk.

For this year’s National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, I’m sharing these top five ways to reduce fall hazard risk—one each day this week.

The first: Apply Prevention through Design.

While it may be easy to spot fall hazards in an existing structure, it’s safer and more cost effective to implement fall protection before structures or processes are built.

That’s what the Prevention through Design (PtD) concept is all about. When you apply PtD, you evaluate and implement safety measures during the programming and design phases of a project. That decreases risk because you’re eliminating hazards before they’re created and applying safer solutions from the outset.

Incorporating safety at this stage saves money, too. In fact, when considering whether to evaluate fall protection during design, your question should not be: How much will it cost if we wait until the end? It should be: How much can we save if the hazards are abated at the beginning?

Since safety aspects are simply included in the design, designers don’t need to rework existing elements or create new solutions. They simply add, erase or change lines on their drawings or building models. And, by getting ahead of risk, you minimize injuries, reduce claims and decrease lost production time.

Management backing is essential to developing and maintaining a PtD program. When managers hold design teams accountable for minimizing risk, everyone is more motivated to ensure that safety is considered early and often.

For help implementing PtD principles, including details and guidance on roles, responsibilities, review processes and documentation, take a look at ANSI/ASSP Z590.3-2011(R2016) Prevention through Design Guidelines for Addressing Occupational Hazards and Risks in Design and Redesign Processes.

Questions or observations? Comment below.

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