Fall protection seen as likely to become industry standard or mandate
Originally published January 29, 2013
Talk to utility workers about the need for more protective fall arrest equipment and you’ll hear a familiar refrain: "Heck no. We know what we're doing. Please don't tell us how to do our jobs."
However, that could change, reports William Atkinson in an article for Public Power magazine. Utilities are edging more and more toward preparedness.
There was a proposal to add fall arrest to the American Public Power Association Safety Manual in 2012, according to APPA Engineering Services Senior Vice President Michael Hyland, but the task force reviewing manual revisions was divided on the issue, so it was not included in the manual’s 15th edition. But Hyland believes utility leaders should look at professional sports, such as football, hockey and NASCAR, and realize how protective equipment and other measures have gradually been added over the years and eventually become accepted.
Fall arrest is garnering greater attention in the utility industry. "Even up until five years ago, you had about 5 percent or fewer of utilities looking at fall arrest systems, but this number is increasing," said Hyland.
While falls may not be common, those that occur can be extremely serious, both in terms of injuries to employees and costs, both for the utility and the employee.
"Some utilities train their apprentices in full fall arrest, but don't require that they wear the equipment after training," said Hyland. "However, they find that a lot of the people coming out of apprentice school continue to wear it voluntarily."
Some utilities, however, just want to be prepared. They recognize that fall protection will either become an industry standard, in which case the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration would likely create a regulation; or OSHA will create a regulation first and then it will become an industry standard.
Just how utilities are preparing for or leading this change is detailed in an article, "Fall Arrest Equipment Requirements Are Coming, Eventually." The article is posted on publicpower.org.
Subscriptions to the electronic and print editions of Public Power and all other APPA periodicals are free to all employees and governing board members of APPA member utilities and associate members. An online subscription signup form is on publicpower.org.
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