Industrial Safety regulations and best practices are always changing. This little piggy breaks down all the safety dos and don’ts you’ve been afraid to ask. Or, maybe you didn’t even think to ask.
Under ANSI standards you can mix and match your fall protection equipment if a competent person deems them compatible. Why? Because if a piece of equipment is considered a harness, it’s a harness despite what manufacturer makes it. It’s important to remember not all components are interchangeable, however. Any changes should be evaluated and tested by a competent person.
The biggest reason for the confusion is the litigation nightmare that can happen in the event of an accident. If for some reason a fall protection system fails and it’s made up of parts from various manufacturers, no one really knows who is to blame. And that can make any potential lawsuits or settlements a giant pain in the rear end.
Do you know the ABCD’s of fall protection?
Personal Fall Arrest Systems (PFAS) are made up of 4 major components:
Best practices recommend that you use the same manufacturer for all components to make sure they are compatible. Just remember you need them checked out by your competent person.
"If your system fails to perform and it’s made from various manufacturers, you’ll be dealing with a bunch of suits. And that’s about as fun as a slap in the face."- Bacon
Here's the full list of qualifications you need within your company to be in compliance:
Now you know the different levels of expertise when it comes to compliance, let’s touch on a few other things you need to have in place.
Not only do you need to have the right person making the calls, you need a written program in place that clearly details the fall protection plan.
One of the most overlooked aspects of that plan is the rescue procedure. No one ever wants to think about a worst-case scenario, but you can bet your sweet
In fact, training is one of the most important parts of a fall protection plan.
That along with providing the right PPE is the only way you can be sure you are keeping your crew safe. And if you plan on taking shortcuts to save a couple bucks, you can be sure you will pay tooth and nail in the long run.
"If you don’t know what a competent person is, we need to talk. "- Bacon
Alright, let’s have a little straight talk. The rule of thumb is 5 years, as long as it’s checked out annually by a competent person.
The reality is that even if your equipment isn’t involved in a fall or showing any visible wear and tear, you may not want to go by the manufacturer expiration date.
Why? Think about what you do every day. You’re likely not working in optimum conditions, are you?
You use your fall protection equipment in the sun, the rain and maybe snow? Your equipment may be exposed to harsh chemicals, oxygen or sunlight. Exposure to these conditions all play a role in the breakdown of the integrity of your equipment.
And remember that you share some of your equipment with Darrell. Do you really trust that he is properly maintaining and inspecting that equipment?
I told you it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.
Make sure you regularly inspect every piece of equipment for wear and tear. And if it’s been involved in a fall, retire it and order new equipment. Take risks somewhere else, not on your fall gear.
"You’re looking for a one-size-fits-all answer? Good luck with that. Nothing lasts forever."- Bacon
Everyone wants to personalize their hard hats, especially if they need to wear them every day. And, sometimes companies use decals for identification.
Here’s the skinny on hard hat decals: they should be used sparingly, if at all.
Who really knows what that adhesive on the back of those stickers can do to the integrity of your hard hat?
Do you have any idea what chemical compounds are in the adhesive? How will it react with the plastic of your hard hat?
And here’s another thought, if your hard hat did sustain any damage, would you be able to see it? No, because the decal would be covering that damage.
If you are going to use decals, try to keep it at a minimum. You need to be able to inspect your gear regularly. You can’t do that if you can’t see it.
Pro tip: Keep stickers about a ½ inch away from the base of the hard hat.
"You could put pretty little stickers on your hard hat …but, you may not want to."- Bacon
We’re just messing with you, many professions like welding actually need to be able to reverse don their hard hat.
The answer to this one is fairly simple. If you aren’t specifically required to wear as front-facing hard hat for safety reasons, you can turn it backwards (reverse donning) — if the suspension can also be properly reversed.
So, check underneath the hat and look for little arrows that indicate that it can be worn frontwards or backwards. If you don’t see the circle of arrows, just continue to wear your hard hat forward, according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
"You trying to make a fashion statement or do your job?"- Bacon
At least once a year, your respirator should be checked for proper fit and seal.
The reason why we say ‘at least’ is because an annual test may not be enough. Changes in weight, surgery, scarring, eyewear and facial hair can all play a role in the effectiveness of your
There two kinds of fit tests: Qualitative and Quantitative:
Qualitative testing uses four types of chemicals for testing and includes Saccharin, Bitrex, Irritant Smoke and Banana Oil (Isoamyl Acetate). This test is a pass/fail with no in between. It detects any kind of leakage into the respirator facepiece.
Quantitative testing uses a machine that attaches to any
It may seem like an inconvenience, but what’s the point of wherever any kind of safety gear if it doesn’t fit? And if an employer isn’t doing these regular fit tests, they better be ready for some hefty fines.
The medical costs and lost production
"Are you looking for some generic baseline answer like once a year? Or, do you want the truth?"- Bacon
If your workers are exposed to dangerous airborne contaminants they need a respirator.
And that doesn’t mean grabbing any old mask and handing it off to them with hopes that it does the job.
First, you need to perform a hazard assessment to figure out what the heck they need protection from. An industrial hygienist can perform this or you can refer to OSHA tables to identify hazards that require protection.
Then compare these levels to the permissible exposure limits a worker can safely inhale.
If hazards levels are above the safe zone, respirators are required. Once you document these hazards and their levels, you need to create written respirator program.
This program should cover things like:
You are also required to let your crew know what they are working with. And guess what? It’s not ‘set it and forget it.’
Any time there is a change in hazard levels or
"No, wearing a bandana over your mouth is not a respiratory program. There’s much more to know."- Bacon
Any NIOSH approved or two-strap respirators (8210 and 8511) are required to be fit-tested.
You still need to make sure the disposable dust mask that you use is providing effective protection. And you need to check it for proper fit and seal every year.
Tossing any type of protective gear in a toolbox or on the rearview is just wasting money and ruining the product.
"Yep. Even those disposable dust masks need to fit a worker’s face. Imagine that. "- Bacon
It’s probably a good thing to know this stuff— especially if you are working with dangerous substances or in confined spaces.
Most people get these confused and that could cost a person their life.
So let's talk about each one individually.
It also helps you know that your monitor and sensor are actually working and haven’t degraded over time. If you don’t know the accuracy of your reading, what good are they?
If your instrument fails a bump test or calibration check, try performing a full calibration. If it fails that, it’s time to toss it in the trash.
"You don’t think they are the same thing, do you?"- Bacon
Confined spaces aren’t always obvious. So you definitely want to make sure you do a thorough hazard assessment on any new
Typically, a confined space has limited entry or exit, unguarded machinery, exposed wires, has limited airflow or has dangerous substances.
Here are a few examples:
So, if you have what we consider a permit-required confined space, you need to pull a permit. This lets everyone know there is going to be a confined space entry, including supervisors or plant managers.
So, before you jump in with guns a-blazing, you may want to make sure your confined space doesn’t have hazardous gases or vapors, dangerous oxygen levels, combustible gases, engulfment hazards or fall hazards.
Use a gas detection device that has been bump tested and calibrated before entry. And do this every time!
That ain’t it.
You better make sure you have a written confined space program. Train your crew and have the right people assigned to the right posts. You need someone on the outside as a point guard.
Your attendant will monitor air prior to entry and during to make sure there
They will install early warning systems that continually monitor the atmosphere. They also need to be able to retrieve the inside worker in the event of an emergency.
The most important part of going into a confined space is being able to come out alive.
"You kinda want to know that you won’t blow up or breathe in poison."- Bacon
No.The biggest reason for this is to prevent the substance you are trying to keep out of your respirator, from getting into your respirator.
The temples of safety glasses or prescription glasses may break the seal in your respirator. If that happens, your respiratory protection is worthless.
You’re wondering why contact lenses aren’t recommended, aren’t you?
"Nope. Hope you don’t need your vision to do your job. ... Just kidding."- Bacon
You can use all of the above when it comes to
These are some of the requirements for using warning-line systems made of rope, wires, chains and supporting stanchions OSHA 29 CFR 1926.502(f):
"These are not really used in leading edge work, but you can use them to keep you from approaching the edge. But, you better make sure it fits within the standards. Don’t just toss something up there and hope for the best."- Bacon
Yes and no. There are some pennant flags and barricade tapes that have a 500 lb. tensile strength.
But, your regular tapes don’t have the strength requirements to use in a leading edge situation.
In order to be allowed for leading edge work, the material needs to be made from heavy-duty specialized materials that are approved by OSHA 1926.502 (f)(2)(iv) and allow it to take up to 500 lbs. of force without breaking or tearing.
"Kinda. But, you better make sure they are rated with the correct strength requirements. "- Bacon
If you’re working with any personal fall arrest system (PFAS), you don’t want just anyone making that call.
You need someone who has advanced knowledge of those known systems, which would be a Qualified Person (QP).
OSHA came up a little short with its definition of what constitutes a QP; you don’t necessarily have to be an engineer. But, you have to be able to show a “demonstrated ability to solve or resolve problems”.
If you can prove your ability through past work and through certification testing that meets 1910.27, you will be considered capable to perform the required functions.
Recent updates have required that qualified persons be responsible for several things regarding fall protection.
A Qualified Person is now responsible for training workers, rather than a competent person.
They are also responsible for correcting or repairing areas of walking-working surfaces that involve structural integrity.
Other tasks which must be performed by a Qualified Person:
"Maybe. If you're a Qualified Person. If not, you’re not the one to make that call. Better luck next time, buddy."- Bacon
Before you go slapping any old face shield on your mug, you may want to have an idea what the heck you need protection from. What kind of material are you trying to avoid? How fast will it be hitting you in the face? If this material hit you square in the face, could the impact hurt you?
So, obviously, you need to do a full hazard assessment to find out what you’re working with before you can decide what kind of protection you need.
Depending on the application will determine the level of protection you need. Brazing, torching, welding, cutting, impact and chemical splash all require specialized protection.
Most of the time ANSI standard Z87.1 will provide adequate protection, but there are times when ballistic rated safety eyewear is required.
Military standard MIL-PRF-31013 testing procedures produce about 7 times more impact energy than Z87.1, so extreme impact potential means you need extreme protection.
Different types of materials offer different levels of protection:
Don’t forget that protective eyewear should always be worn to prevent hazards from entering from under or around the face shield.
"You could, but you might not be too thrilled with the outcome. If you want to protect that pretty mug, use the right equipment."- Bacon
First, you need a full hazard assessment to determine the hazards that are present on the jobsite.
An industrial hygienist can do surveys that can help you identify what’s in the air. You really want time-weighted data to fully understand the degree of hazards that are present and what you need to do for employees to work safely.
Teams of scientists and experts have performed endless hours of research to find out which materials provide protection against which specific hazards.
Obviously, a dust mask isn’t going to protect you against acid gas or organic vapor. So, experts created an easy to follow color-coded chart to help you pick which respirator cartridge will get the job done.
It doesn’t get any easier than that. So, unless you have an advanced degree in chemistry—stick to the chart and its change out schedule.
Don’t forget that conditions can change at any time. Regular hazard assessments should be performed, so you always know what you are up against.
Make sure you care for and clean your respirator the right way or it’s about as useless as trying to breathe underwater through a straw.
Take care of your gear and it will take care of you.
"What do you think this is? A game of eenie meenie miney mo!? There’s a science behind choosing the right respirator cartridge or filter. "- Bacon
Change out your cartridges according to manufacturer’s instruction. Unless you’re a scientist, you shouldn’t be making this call just by eyeballing it.
There are plenty of factors that could alter the effectiveness of your cartridge. By following the manufacturer’s suggestions, you can create a change out
You should also take into account any additional chemicals or hazards that could interfere with the level of protection it provides.
In addition, you need to regularly inspect your equipment. It doesn’t make any sense to change out filters if your respirator isn’t working.
Here are some things you want to inspect:
An easy rule of thumb to remember:
If it becomes a challenge to breathe, it’s probably time to get some new filters or cartridges.
"When they aren’t protecting you anymore, genius!"- Bacon
All protective footwear manufactured to ASTM specifications (F 2412-05 & F 2413-05) must be marked with the standard that it complies with.
You can find the markings either on the tongue, gusset, shaft or quarter lining.
The tags are basically a cheat sheet so you know what the shoe will protect you from. Remember: US standards are going to vary from Canadian and European standards.
Also, puncture-resistance requirements are going to fall under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.136(a).
Want to know what the symbols mean?
"If the safety shoe is a legit safety shoe, it’ll be branded better than your favorite sports team. A tag on the tongue will tell you almost everything you need to know. "- Bacon
First, you need to look at the entry and determine what kind of entry you will need to plan for.
You will want to identify if there are ways to avoid having to enter the confined space at all.
Can engineering methods be used that alleviate the need for workers to enter a confined space? Can hazards be eliminated?
When all else fails, it’s important to speak with other professionals that have encountered these situations before. Tap into the tribal knowledge that they have. This valuable information isn’t often found in a manual or online.
In vertical applications, it’s not uncommon to attach a gas monitor to a long pole in order to test air quality because other means may not exist.
When you don’t take all the possibilities into account, workers can die. There’s no nicer way to say it.
Employers and contractors need to thoroughly inspect confined spaces and be honest to their workers about the hazards.
It’s necessary to have a rescue plan and procedures in place. Workers must be trained, equipped and practiced for safe entry into a potential confined space. If for any reason rescuers will be unable to respond to a rescue summons, entry shall not be authorized.
It’s also important to take into account the risk of lifelines or lanyards getting snagged or obstructing the space, making horizontal non-entry rescues more dangerous than vertical spaces.
Never take chances.
"Tap into the tribal knowledge of other professionals to find a safe and effective means of entry."- Bacon
If a space is identified as a permit-required confined space and employees need access to this space, you need to have a written program that complies with OSHA 1910.146 (c)(4).
When you have multiple people in a confined space, you need some kind of self-contained breathing apparatus to enter immediately dangerous to life or health in order to do a rescue.
You need a means of rescue for each person who is in a confined space. Non-entry rescue is preferred and must not create an additional hazard to the entrance.
These are the requirements for non-entry rescue:
"Well, if that’s the route you are going - you better have a rescue plan in effect for each member. "- Bacon
If you are on a site with a DOT (Department of Transportation) requirements, traffic cones must have stripes.
If you are in a regular construction site, then the cones don’t need to have stripes.
But, if you are working on roadways or horizontal construction sites then you must meet the classifications set forth by the DOT, and those can vary by state. Make sure you check with your state’s requirements.
Cones should be predominantly orange, red-orange or fluorescent yellow. They should follow basic principles for evaluating traffic control devices for streets and highways laid out by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).
Here are some requirements:
"If you’re in a DOT area, then yes. In a regular construction zone, then no."- Bacon
"Have you asked the person who runs your fall protection program? Start there."- Bacon
This isn’t always an easy answer. Manufacturers will say that the shell needs to be replaced every 5 years (rule of thumb, not set in stone) and the suspension changed out every 12 months. But, that doesn’t take into account things like contamination, damage, dirt, grime, chemical exposure, sunlight, extreme temperatures and use.
The only way to be sure your hard hat is in good shape is to inspect it every day. Check for things like cracks, pliability, dent, cuts and frayed or damaged suspension. Also, make sure your hard hat hasn’t degraded from the elements. If a hard hat is faded, chalky or dull—it’s probably time for a new one.
Check for things like:
Also, make sure your hard hat hasn’t degraded from the elements. If a hard hat is faded, chalky or dull—it’s probably time for a new one.
And, never, ever, ever use a hard hat that has been involved in an impact. Toss it out and get a new hard hat shell and/or suspension. Any impact can destroy the integrity of the head protection.
It’s not worth taking the chance that there could be invisible damage, especially over a couple bucks.
"If it’s old, cracked, damaged or exposed to impact, it’s time to chuck it in the garbage. "- Bacon
What class of high visibility apparel you choose depends on the work that you do. And it should follow ANSI/ISEA 107-2015 standards. The classes are decided based on the level of risk and the complexity of risk to provide the worker with the right amount of protection.
But first, you need to know the types of garment categories that exist before we talk about the classes.
There are 3 garment categories:
There are 3 performance classes and one supplemental class that you can choose from for hi-viz gear. Who would’ve thought?
Performance Class 1: Type O only
Minimum amount of hi-viz material. There’s low risk in these scenarios for struck-by hazards at roadway speeds and chances are that the work environment is not complex.
Performance Class 2: Type R & Type P
Uses additional amounts of hi-viz materials compared to Performance Class 1. These garments allow more design opportunities to better define the human form. Class 2 also provides detection and identification at longer distances.
Performance Class 3 Type R & Type P
This class provides the highest level of visibility of the wearer in complex backgrounds. Visibility is achieved throughout a full range of body movements because of strategic and mandatory placement of retro-reflective and performance materials on the sleeves and pant legs. Just remember that sleeveless vests alone are not considered Performance Class 3.
This class covers pants, overalls, bibs, shorts and gaiters. They must be worn with Class 2 or Class 3 garments to be considered Class 3 compliant.
Supplemental Class E
"It’s about more than bright neon vests. Each type has a specific job to do, so don’t think you can use any old vest in any application."- Bacon
Cut resistant gloves are not all created equal. They’re designed for certain applications and the risks associated with that job. Not choosing a safety glove based off of the level of protection it provides is like using a hammer to do the job of a hacksaw. Come on, you know better than that!
Pick a glove that matches the risk. Ask yourself these questions:
Once you know what you are working with, check out ASTM F2992/F2992M-15 to learn what level of cut resistance you need.
There are updated cut levels that range from A1 (light protection) to A9 (extreme protection). So, make sure you aren’t using outdated cut level standards to choose your cut gloves.
If you have to take your gloves off to do your job, you’re wearing the wrong glove, genius. Save your hands by wearing the right safety gloves.
"The one that keeps your fingers from being cut off. Match the glove to the risk."- Bacon