Falls are commonplace on construction sites. Roofing professionals are especially familiar with the dangers associated with falls, which result in hundreds of thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths every year.
If your projects have been targeted by inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), you should consider meeting with an OSHA defense attorney to reestablish your commitment to workplace safety. If you want to maintain the health of your workforce, it’s imperative that you understand how dangerous the risk of falling is and how the distance of a fall can affect workers’ safety.
Total Fall Distance
The total fall distance is determined by the distance between a worker and the lower level. Therefore, if a roofer is working on a one-story home that has a roof height of 12 feet and the next lowest level is the ground, the total fall distance is 12 feet.
However, if the same roofer was working on a two-story home, but the distance between the second floor and the roof was only 8 feet, the total fall distance would be 8 feet despite the roofer working at a higher elevation. Understanding the total fall distance is integral for selecting the proper fall protection equipment for your project site.
These two examples are correct when working in a vacuum, but there are other factors that can affect total fall distance including: free fall distance, deceleration distance, D-ring shift, Back D-ring height, and safety margin.
Free Fall Distance
Free fall distance measures the distance a worker falls before the personal fall arrest system (PFAS) begins to reduce the speed of the fall. In order for the PFAS to qualify with current OSHA standards, the fall distance must be six feet or less. (29 CFR 1926.502(d)(16)(iii))
Deceleration distance measures the distance the safety lanyard of the PFAS stretches before halting a fall. According to OSHA (29 CFR 1926.502(d)(16)(iv)), the lanyard can stretch no more than 3.5 feet or less depending on your specific PFAS equipment.
D-Ring shift measures the degree of stretching experienced by the harness when it is tasked with supporting the full weight of a roofer. This value considers the weight of the tool belt and other equipment, too. D-ring shift is generally 1 foot.
Back D-Ring Height
The distance between the D-ring and the sole of a worker’s footwear is the back D-ring height. This distance is typically 5 feet for a worker 6 feet tall. Workers taller or shorter than six feet must make adjustments accordingly.
The safety margin is a distance of around 2 feet that is used to ensure an appropriate level of clearance between the worker and the lower level.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.