Our world is one of industry, and it is constantly in motion. Around the clock the world excels at producing, shipping, and packaging a variety of goods across the world for sale on the global market. The material handling industry represents a 20% contributing force towards the global economy, without the effort of these trained and skilled workers many of the goods we take for granted every day would not be present. Naturally, in order to keep industry moving forward, some big equipment is needed. Workers must constantly work at heights and with powerful equipment — thus the need for safety is a point that cannot be overstressed.
Plan, Provide, and Train for Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was founded in 1970 in order to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for men and women by setting and enforcing standards. A major part of these standards include OSHA’s three-part process to prevent dangerous falls and save lives. The first step is to plan accordingly: workers should be able to adequately determine how a job should best be done, what tasks are involved, and what safety equipment ought to be used to complete each task effectively. The second step is for employers to provide: since different ladders, scaffolds, and tools are appropriate for different jobs, employers ought to always have the right tool for the right job to keep employees safe. The final step in OSHA’s process is to train: everyone must be trained on the specific equipment they will regularly use to complete the job, this includes safety equipment. By following this three-step process employers and employees alike can ensure that their job is as safe as can be.
Fall Protection Systems
When working in heights, by far the most dangerous threat is the risk of falling. According to OSHA, workers who are over six feet or higher above lower levels face a potential risk for serious injury or even death if they were to fall. In order to protect these employees, employers must offer some kind of personal fall protection — OSHA requires that fall protect be provided at elevations exceeding four feet in general industrial workplaces, five feet for shipyards, six feet for construction industries, and eight feet for longshoring operations. There are two major types of fall arrest equipment: general fall arrest equipment such as nets, and personal fall arrest equipment such as lifelines. Safety nets can be used to lesson the impact of a fall and are suitable in areas where temporary floors and scaffolds are not used — keep in mind that net should not be used in the fall distance exceeds 25 feet. Personal lifelines should be anchored accordingly: anchorage must be able to support 5,000 pounds for a single tie-off point per individual and should be tested regularly using a test weight of 300 pounds according to OSHA. With these precautions in place, OSHA has successfully reduced the number of workplace injuries and accidents since its induction: in 1972 there were 10.9 incidents per 100 workers; in 2011 this figure is down to just 3.4 per 100.
Workplace injuries can not only come from personal falls, but the falling of equipment, especially in the material handling industry. Lifting slings are used regularly by the material handling industry for industrial lifting of various items, so it is pertinent that the slings be inspected each year for normal service use, and every month or quarter of a year in the case of severe service use. In order to ensure the effective use and safety of a sling, always follow manufacturer recommendations, especially when working at temperatures above 400 degrees Fahrenheit to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. As OSHA continues its commitment to make a safer work place for all employees in the material handling industry, it is up to employers to ensure that their equipment is up to code and in compliance with the latest assessments from OSHA. Rest easy knowing that certified safety equipment can and has saved lives in the past.