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Emmitsburg, MD — Sixty-two firefighters died while on duty in 2019 – the fewest since the U.S. Fire Administration began tracking such data in 1977, according to an annual report recently released by the agency.

This total marks a 26% decrease from the 84 on-duty firefighter fatalities recorded in 2018. In 2016 and 2017, that figure was 92 and 88, respectively.

The report, released Nov. 6, classifies “on-duty” as “being involved in operations at the scene of an emergency, whether it is a fire or non-fire incident; responding to or returning from an incident; performing other officially assigned duties such as training, maintenance, public education, inspection, investigations, court testimony or fundraising; and being on call, under orders or on standby duty (except at an individual’s home or place of business).”

Thirty-seven of the firefighters died while responding to emergencies, while 33 of the deaths resulted from heart attacks.

“An individual who experiences a heart attack or other fatal injury at home while they prepare to respond to an emergency is considered on duty when the response begins,” the report states. “A firefighter who becomes ill while performing fire department duties and suffers a heart attack shortly after arriving home (or at another location) may be considered on duty since the inception of the heart attack occurred while the firefighter was on duty.”

Other findings:

● 18 of the firefighters died while on the scene of a fire.
● 38 were at least 45 years old, including 19 who were past the age of 61.
● 34 were part of the volunteer ranks, 25 were career firefighters and three represented wildland agencies.
● No multiple fatality incidents were recorded for the first time in at least 10 years.
● New York had the most deaths among states with seven, followed Florida and Pennsylvania, each of which had five.

“The ultimate objective of this report’s effort is to reduce the number of firefighter deaths through an increased awareness and understanding of their causes and how they can be prevented,” the report states. “Firefighting, rescue and other types of emergency operations are essential activities in an inherently dangerous profession, and unfortunate tragedies do occur.

“These are the risks that all firefighters accept every time they respond to an emergency incident. However, the risks can be greatly reduced through efforts to improve training, emergency scene operations, and firefighter health and safety.”


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The simple answer is to make sure the measuring is done correctly

EN 60079-29 series standards specifies general requirements for construction, testing, performance, selection, installation use and maintenance for flammable gases and oxygen gas detection and measurement systems. It also describes the test methods that apply to portable, transportable and fixed apparatus for the detection and measurement of flammable gas or vapour concentrations with air.

This standard is applicable to flammable gas detection systems intended to provide an indication, alarm or other output function for the purpose of warning of a potential explosion hazard. These systems are expected to initiate automatic or manual protective actions in case of any potential hazard. Hence generating alarms and providing outputs in correct level is very important.

EN 60079-29-1 is intended to provide for the supply of apparatus giving a level of safety and performance suitable for general purpose applications which known as performance approval. Basically it will provide trust to you when asked “are you sure the correct gas concentration is displayed?”. It also provides metrological compliance for the gas detection system. Metrological compliance is necessary for all measurement systems.

According to the ATEX directives any gas detection system that used as safety device to reduce the risk of explosion has to be performance approved. This approval includes detectors and control panels as well. The EC type test certificate must show compliance according to EN 60079-29-1 for ATEX. As the standards are continuously evolves, earlier version of standard’s (EN 60079-29-1:2007) harmonization is expired at December 2019 and gas detection systems must comply to latest harmonized version of standard EN 60079-29-1:2016.

Prosense closely monitors the industrial standards, apply rules into devices and always comply them. You can be sure with Prosense what your detector is measuring. Prosense provides performance approved gas detectors to make life safer.


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Depending on the parts of the oil and gas industry your company operates in, you’ll be well aware of the ever-changing hazards that your workers face.

Although there are many trends that impact health and safety efforts, from an ageing workforce and generational divide to a greater reliance on the ‘gig economy’ moving forward, there are also steps that all businesses can take to bring greater protection to their strategy right now and to enlist new tools dedicated to looking after their lone workers specifically.

Here we cover the five fundamental steps organizations can take towards achieving a greater health and safety strategy for their employees.

1.Identify your lone workers

The first and perhaps most important thing you need to do when in the planning stages is to identify who your lone workers actually are.

According to the HSE, lone workers are “those who work by themselves without close or direct supervision”, so these employees could just as easily be workers who do not operate within sight of anyone else as much as those who operate out on the roads.

Nailing down this information from the start means you can effectively identify and mitigate the risks they might face.

2.Plan to mitigate basic risks

No matter the industry, some of the health and safety basics remain the same. Employers are legally required to identify and mitigate hazards in the workplace as much as possible. Some of the most common causes of accidents at work include:
● Slips, trips and falls on the same level (29%)
● Handling, lifting or carrying (20%)
● Being struck by a moving object (10%)
● Violence (8%)
● Falls from height (8%)

In order to identify the risks that your workers may face, a thorough risk assessment must be performed. This can be completed through a mixture of speaking with employees, observing day-to-day operations and analysing which environmental and social hazards may be relevant to your workforce.

3.Offer the correct PPE

Some PPE can be obvious, including protective headgear and gloves that protect vulnerable areas of the body while working.

But if employees regularly find themselves working in environments that contain dangerous substances or are potentially explosive, then it absolutely essential that they are also given the correct equipment and PPE for these situations. Without it, the consequences could be catastrophic.

This equipment can include everything from anti-static clothing and shoes, to electronics and devices that will not cause a spark when knocked or dropped.

4.Protect workers on the road

A huge part of work in the oil and gas industry involves workers spending long stretches of time out on the road. This can cause a number of problems for worker wellbeing, including risks brought on by fatigued drivers, loss of communication with supervisors and head office, or unexpected illness, vehicle breakdowns and accidents at locations where assistance is not immediately available.

Where possible, employees asked to travel long distances should be accompanied and appropriate shift patterns decided.

When this is not possible, organizations should equip those working alone with lone worker alarms that ensure the user can raise an alert or get in touch with relevant people should an incident occur. These devices will also allow organizations to track the driver’s whereabouts while they are on the road.

5.Incorporate digital solutions

One of the biggest issues identified in ISHN’s report on health and safety trends in 2020 was the need for greater automation.

By enlisting technology such as mobile workforce management software and the aforementioned lone worker alarms, companies can have greater control over how they keep track of their remote workforce.

Lone workers, especially, benefit for the digital transformation of health and safety, as systems that can be used anywhere remotely allow them to feel safe even when they are not physically close to their teammates or supervisor.

As the industry continues to shift and change, it’s never been more important for health and safety leaders to not only ensure that the basic needs of their lone workers are met but to also look outside of the norm for new and innovative solutions.


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When choosing a glove for protection against viruses like the one that causes COVID-19, it’s important to know which regulatory standards exist to help ensure proper protection.

In the European Union, the EN ISO 374:2016 standard measures the ability of gloves to protect users against dangerous chemicals and micro-organisms. Part 5 of the EN ISO 374 standard outlines the terminology and performance requirements for micro-organisms risks (including viruses). Gloves featuring the EN ISO 374-5 VIRUS pictogram on packaging are proven to prevent the penetration of viruses through the glove material when tested in accordance with ISO 16604*.

In North America, the ability of gloves to protect against micro-organisms is defined by ASTM F 1671, a similar test to ISO 16604, whereby a sample of glove material is placed in a test cell with a bacteriophage under pressure one side. The glove is only confirmed as protective against viruses if there is zero penetration of bacteriophage into the other side of the test cell.

*ISO 16604:2004: Clothing for protection against contact with blood and body fluids – Determination of resistance of protective clothing materials to penetration by blood-borne pathogens – Test method using Phi-X 174 bacteriophage.

Protective gloves against micro-organisms

In the European Union, a glove claiming to offer a level of chemical protection must comply with the new EN ISO 374 standard. The standard consists of five parts, Part 2: Determination of resistance to penetration, determines the gloves ability to resist the penetration of chemicals. Part 5 – EN ISO 374-5:2016 Terminology and performance requirements for micro-organisms risks, specifies the performance requirements for gloves that protect the user against micro-organisms. There are two classifications:

a. Protection against bacteria and fungi

b. Protection against viruses, bacteria and fungi

A glove claiming protection from bacteria and fungi must carry the following pictogram and warnings;

All gloves claiming micro-organism protection must have been penetration tested as outlined in Part 2 of the standard. Gloves claiming protection from viruses require additional penetration testing according to ISO 16604:2004 – Clothing for protection against contact with blood and body fluids — Determination of resistance of protective clothing materials to penetration by blood-borne pathogens — Test method using Phi-X174 bacteriophage. The detection of any penetration constitutes a test failure. A glove claiming protection from virus, bacteria and fungi must carry the following pictogram and warnings;

n North America, gloves must pass ASTM F 1671 – Standard Test Method for Resistance of Materials Used in Protective Clothing to Penetration by Blood-Borne Pathogens Using Phi-X174 Bacteriophage Penetration as a Test System.

This test method is based on Test Method F903 used to evaluate the barrier effectiveness against penetration of liquids through materials, seams, closures or other planar assemblies used in protective clothing and specimens from finished protective clothing. Finished items of protective clothing include gloves, arm protectors, aprons, coveralls, suits, hoods and boots. Body fluids penetrating protective clothing materials are likely to carry microbiological contaminates and visual detection is not sensitive enough to detect minute amounts of liquid containing microorganisms. This test method is used to measure the resistance of materials used in protective clothing to penetration by blood-borne pathogens using a surrogate microbe under conditions of continuous liquid contact. Protective clothing material pass/fail determinations are based on the detection of viral penetration. Passing results indicate that no liquid penetration was observed over the duration of the test exposure.

What is Penetration, Permeation and Degradation?


Penetration is the movement of a chemical and/or micro-organism through pinholes or other imperfections in a protective glove material at a non-molecular level.


is the process by which a chemical dissolves and/or moves through a protective glove material on a molecular level.

Permeation can occur without damaging the material or by damaging the material by degrading it. Permeation is measured in the amount of time (minutes) it takes for a chemical to pass through the barrier at a determined permeation rate, which is referred to as Chemical Breakthrough Time; and the Permeation Rate which is the rate (volume over time) at which a chemical passes through the glove material.


Sometimes chemical protective gloves can act as sponges, soaking up the liquids and holding them against the skin. This degrades the glove. Degradation is the change in one or more physical characteristics of a glove caused by contact with a chemical or bodily fluid. Indications of degradation are flaking, swelling, disintegration, embrittlement, colour change, dimensional change, appearance, hardening, softening, etc.


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The FDA announced on November 17 that it had approved the first diagnostic at-home self-administered coronavirus test, according to NPR.

The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit will be sold for $50. The molecular single-use test works by being swirled in a swabbed sample and placed in a hand-held test unit. Results are available in 30 minutes, with the unit’s display lighting up to inform users of a positive or negative test result.

“While COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been authorized for at-home collection, this is the first that can be fully self-administered and provide results at home,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn.

The test will be available via prescription to people who are 14-years-old and older. Younger patients must receive the test from a health care professional.


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Falls from heights don’t have to happen. Learn how to protect your workers and your company in this Fall Protection eBook.

One of the main causes of workplace fatalities is fall from heights. Often this is due to inadequate solutions, especially when workers don’t have access to fall protection equipment or are not using it properly. Part of it is due to a lack of training, as one out of five fatalities occur during the victim’s first two months on the job.

The costs to a company when a fall occurs – hospitalization, worker’s compensation and lost productivity - are just some of the liabilities - and they have the potential to be overwhelming and catastrophic.

These accidents and deaths don’t have to happen, and this eBook will explain the best practices your company can and should follow to prevent injuries and fatalities due to falls from heights. Having a fall protection safety plan will not only save lives, but will also pay off in improving a company’s bottom-line. Follow the guidelines in the eBook as you learn how to comply with OSHA standards as you take action to protect your workers and your company from falls that don’t have to happen.


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What began as an outbreak of serious illness caused by a novel coronavirus in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, quickly spread around the world and was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020.

In the United States, the first laboratory-confirmed case was diagnosed in the state of Washington on January 20, 2020. Within two months, hospitals in numerous states were overwhelmed with cases of critically ill COVID-19 patients.

There was a huge surge in demand for PPE like gowns and masks, but supply chains were disrupted and stockpiles were quickly depleted. The situation became dire. Medical isolation gowns and masks were in such short supply that healthcare professionals were re-using these single-use items for days or even weeks at a time, putting themselves at increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Rising to the Challenge

Driven by a common desire to do whatever it would take to supply the necessary PPE to protect frontline workers exposed to this deadly virus, many companies—including materials suppliers, convertors and garment manufacturers—quickly acted to find solutions.

Some of the companies had no prior experience supplying PPE but saw the critical need and rose to meet the challenge. They pivoted from their usual business, adapted their expertise, collaborated with materials suppliers and convertors they had never worked with before, innovated designs and processes and began supplying medical isolation gowns and masks in record time.

From Fashion Apparel to PPE

Located in New York City’s historic Fashion District, Ferrara Manufacturing has been producing Olympic uniforms for Team USA, runway garments and formal suiting for several major luxury brands since 1987. In March 2020, however, Ferrara Manufacturing shifted its garment production from high-end fashion to medical isolation gowns for frontline workers.


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Hearing loss can't always be prevented, but hearing loss due to exposure to loud noises is completely avoidable. Even a low level of noise can be hazardous to the human ear and may have serious consequences.
There are some simple things you can do to help stop loud noises from permanently damaging your hearing, no matter how old you are.

1. Avoid loud noises

The best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to keep away from loud noise as much as you can.

Generally, a noise is probably loud enough to damage your hearing if:

● you have to raise your voice to talk to other people
● you can't hear what people nearby are saying
● it hurts your ears
● you have ringing in your ears or muffled hearing afterwards
● Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB): the higher the number, the louder the noise. Any sound over 85dB can be harmful, especially

if you're exposed to it for a long time.

To get an idea of how loud things are:

● whispering – 30dB
● conversation – 60dB
● busy traffic – 70 to 85dB
● motorbike – 90dB
● listening to music on full volume through headphones – 100 to 110dB
● plane taking off – 120dB
You can get smartphone apps that measure noise levels, but make sure they're calibrated properly to get a more accurate reading.

2. Take care when listening to music

Listening to loud music through earphones and headphones is one of the biggest dangers to your hearing.

To help avoid damaging your hearing:

● use noise-cancelling earphones or headphones – don't just turn the volume up to cover up outside noise
● the volume up just enough so you can hear your music comfortably, but no higher
● don't listen to music at more than 60% of the maximum volume – some devices have settings you can use to limit the volume automatically
● don't use earphones or headphones for more than an hour at a time – take a break for at least 5 minutes every hour

3. Protect your hearing during loud events and activities

To protect your hearing during loud activities and events (such as at nightclubs, concerts or sports events):

● move away from sources of loud noises (such as loudspeakers)
● try to take a break from the noise every 15 minutes
● give your hearing about 18 hours to recover after exposure to lots of loud noise
● consider wearing earplugs – you can buy re-usable musicians' earplugs that reduce the volume of music but don't muffle it

4. Take precautions at work

If you're exposed to loud noises through your work and are not given proper hearing protection, speak to your human resources (HR) department or manager.

Your employer is obliged to make changes to reduce your exposure to loud noise – for example, by:

● switching to quieter equipment if possible
● making sure you're not exposed to loud noise for long periods
● providing hearing protection, such as ear muffs or earplugs

5. Get your hearing tested

Get a hearing test as soon as possible if you're worried you might be losing your hearing. The earlier hearing loss is picked up, the earlier something can be done about it.

You might also want to consider having regular hearing checks (once a year, for example) if you're at a higher risk of noise-induced hearing loss –if you work in noisy environments.

Forms and options of hearing protection

● Earplugs are made from either foam or plastic and are usually intended as disposable products after single use. But there are also washable products as more cost-effective solutions.
● Ear molds are more comfortable to wear for long periods of time, because they can be individually adjusted.
● Clamp ear protectors (available as in-ear or on-ear products) are suitable for anyone having to or wanting remove them at frequent intervals. Whenever the wearer doesn’t need them, they can put them round their neck like a pair of headphones.
● Earmuffs are suitable for short jobs in noisy environments. If the noise level is extreme, they can also be combined with earplugs. The lighter they are, the more pleasant they are to wear.


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Launching its Know Your Building campaign, data from the Fire Protection Association (FPA) reveals the huge financial impact of fires on businesses and services in the UK over a ten-year period.

The analysis of 4,782 major UK fires between January 2009 and December 2019 where the financial loss was £100,000 or more, revealed a mean average loss of £657,074 per incident. The analysis focuses on fires in buildings used by private and public sector organisations, and residential and mixed multiple occupancy shared ownership buildings.

Overall, loss values account for several areas including damage to buildings (43% of the average value), interruption to business or services (18%), damage to contents (7%), damage to machinery or plant equipment (5%), loss of stock (5%) and loss of income or rent (2%).

Retail buildings were those most affected by large losses (15% of cases), with 14% of all cases in industrial processing and manufacturing, 13% in accommodation buildings, 11% of all cases in in pubs, bars and restaurants, 6% in the professional services sector, and 3% relating to education buildings.

Key figures

● £657,074: The average monetary cost of a major UK fire;
● Accommodation buildings accounted for 13% of major fires;
● 55% of fires were caused accidentally;
● 31% of fires were caused by arson;
● Fire and rescue services were impeded in their ability to put out 12% of fires surveyed.

Industrial processing and manufacturing buildings witnessed the largest overall financial impact through fires over the 10-year period, with losses totalling £808m.

Know Your Building campaign

The findings were collated and analysed by RISCAuthority, which is administered by the FPA, and mark the launch of the FPA’s Know Your Building campaign – aimed at improving levels of knowledge among building owners and managers to enable them to improve their organisational resilience to fire.

Jonathan O’Neill, Managing Director of the FPA, said: “These findings reveal the significant risk that fires pose not only to lives but also to livelihoods.

“It is not just the direct financial impact that organisations need to consider – the loss of critical assets and data, ability to supply critical services including housing, reduced working hours, sourcing replacement premises and materials, brand damage, loss of customers to competitors as well as the general stress and knock to staff morale is equally costly. These factors can jeopardise the survival of businesses and essential services, and the people that rely on them.”

Commenting on fire protection and prevention, Jonathan added: “Many organisations wrongly assume that the law is there to protect their assets in the event of fire, but this is not the case – once fire services have evacuated building occupants they are not obliged to prevent loss of a building and its contents. We are urging organisations to go above and beyond their legal requirements in order to ensure they are more resilient to fire. This involves having a sound knowledge and understanding of a building including how it is constructed, the fire protection systems that are required and the competency of individuals responsible for installing and maintaining them.”

Causes of major fires

Over half of all fires analysed (55%) were caused accidentally, but nearly a third were a result of arson (31%) – highlighting the vulnerability of buildings to factors beyond the control of those who manage them.

In 12% of cases, fire and rescue services were impeded in their ability to put out fires – including poor vehicle access to the front of a building, and absence of on-site water supply. In almost half of cases (47%) where there was an impedance, it was judged that improving fire and rescue service access to the building could have reduced the severity, and therefore the financial impact, of the fire.

Commenting on the causes of fire and fire damage, Jonathan O’Neill said: “While fires are generally caused accidently, organisations don’t anticipate arson being such a large factor. We also know that in times of recession arson rates tend to increase markedly – highlighting the importance of having proper systems in place to mitigate fire risk.

“The number of cases where fire and rescue services were prevented from carrying out their role properly is a major cause for concern. Aside from requiring good access to the front of a building and a reliable on-site water supply, firefighters need to judge the ability of a building to withstand collapse – allowing them to enter it to tackle fire from the inside. Buildings that have been designed to contain and withstand fire, and that have fire suppression systems such as sprinklers in place, help the fire services significantly and this can mean the difference between a building being saved or not.

“We urge all organisations to ensure they have a robust fire strategy, with measures in place so that in the event of a fire the risk of entire building loss, and the financial and business impact that has, is reduced as far as possible. We have seen the lengths organisations have gone to make themselves COVID-19 secure, and fire protection requires the same level of attention as the risks are just as severe.”


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Approaching Controls Holistically

11/15/2020 10:26 AM

Acrophobia ranks third on the list of things people fear the most, so why is it often so hard to get people to comply with the regulation that they must tie off while wearing an approved fall arrest harness? Well for starters, no such regulation exists. Now, before you get all self-righteous and belligerent, let me explain.

While it is true that there are in fact, many regulations that require employers to protect workers from falls from height, none (at least that I can find or know of) specifically require that a harness be worn. It makes no sense to me that safety professionals who are well-versed in the hierarchy of controls ignore them when they are looking at fall protection. The typical first response is to insist on Personal Protective Equipment – the lowest control in the hierarchy of controls and by far the least effective.

Fascination with PPE

So many safety professionals tend to throw the hierarchy of controls out the window when it comes to working at height. You don’t believe me? Do a Google search on “Working at Height protection” and you will see page (and Advert) after page extolling the virtues of the fall arrest harnesses. That’s swell, but Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is at the bottom of the hierarchy of controls. So, why this fascination with PPE? when the hierarchy of controls tells us plainly and succinctly that this form of protection isn’t all that effective chiefly because it depends on the, often reluctant, cooperation of the worker.

There are plenty of reasons why workers resist wearing fall arrest harnesses, but my favorite one was the cases (no that is not a typo this has happened multiple times over the years) where the safety department required workers who worked at height (which they defined as anything higher than two metres) and yet the harnesses they gave them had lanyards that were just a touch over three metres. One does not have to be a genius to know that if one falls two metres and the lanyard is three metres you are going to end up on the floor in a bloody heap. People, by and large, will follow the rules provided that the rules make sense, and many people will ignore rules that don’t make sense.

Another factor that causes resistance to harnesses is fit. One size does NOT fit all when it comes to fall arrest harnesses. Very large or obsese workers may find it difficult to find a harness that fits comfortably and because of this discomfort the workers are highly likely to wear the harness inappropriately. Additionally, all harnesses have a weight limit and that limit can be compromised after multiple uses or because of inappropriate storage of a harness. Very small workers may find it difficult to find a harness that will prevent them from slipping out of it during a fall. There are harnesses specifically designed for men and women of slight frame or build.

“it’s important to have the right harness for the employee and the right harness for the application; if you do not you are putting your workers at risk”

In short, it’s important to have the right harness for the employee and the right harness for the application; if you do not you are putting your workers at risk. Too often harnesses are issued without these considerations in mind, what’s worse is that many companies have a small number of harnesses that are issued before a job.

Without proper training in how to adjust the harness workers may be put at substantial risk. The following is the correct procedure for adjusting a harness for proper fit:

1. Shake the harness, while holding it by the dorsal ring (d-ring) – ensure the harness itself is right side up, and that the straps hang straight.
2. Put your arms through the shoulder loops and leg straps, making sure both shoulder loops are vertical and spread evenly across the chest.
3. Attach the waist belt by inserting the male connector into the female connector. Do the same for each of the shoulder straps.
4. All straps should be snug and pulled tight. Adjust the straps until the harness fits comfortably on the body. Make sure both leg straps have been secured properly.
5. Once you’re wearing the harness and all buckles have been attached, stand up and try moving in any direction. The harness should feel centered and snug without limiting your range of motion.
6. If there are any loose straps or buckles, use keepers or tie-down straps to keep them secure and out of the way, otherwise these straps may get caught in moving parts or machinery.

You should never walk around with your buckles or straps undone. There’s always a chance you could forget to reattach your buckles or straps, leaving you vulnerable in the air.

Beyond the battle to get people to wear PPE like safety glasses or hard hats, when it comes to fall arrest systems some of the objections you will hear from workers are valid, so whenever possible use the hierarchy of controls to guide your thinking about protecting workers from falling from heights.


I work in the movie business and have for about ten years – first in production safety, and most recently as a COVID Compliance Supervisor – and have encountered situations too numerous to mention where tying off just wasn’t an option. Unfortunately, too many people see fall arrest harnesses as the only option and where that isn’t possible they default to no protection whatsoever.

The best way to eliminate a fall from height hazard is to not work at height. In film production many otherwise dangerous scenes are shot in front of a green screen – literally a “digital green” backdrop that allows filmmakers to drop in a photo realistic background. So while the actors are actually standing on a soundstage with a few props, when the film is finished the actors appear to be dangling off a cliff or jumping across rooftops.

“whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”

Some of you may rightfully thinking, that’s great, but I don’t work in the movies, I work in construction, or manufacturing, or slaughterhouses, and I can’t “make pretend” that I am working at heights. I have to actually DO the work at height. If my years of experience have taught me anything it’s that if you only see one solution you will believe there is only one solution. As Henry Ford said, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” This quote is completely applicable to fall protection. If you think there isn’t a better way, you’re never going to find one.

A common practice in the construction business is to build substructures on the ground and then hoist them onto the point of the structure where it will eventually be installed. This eliminates the risk of a fall from height while adding minimal risk (assuming good crane safety discipline is observed.)


Sometimes whether we like it or not, we are forced to work at heights, but that doesn’t mean we have to bury our heads in the sand.

Once I was watching the rehearsal of a scene that had people running at a height of about four metres. I was concerned because obviously you can’t have actors in safety harnesses, so I set out to use the hierarchy of controls. I looked at the situation and came up with an idea that I suggested to the Assistant Director. What, I asked, would it do to the artistic vision if we were to shoot the scene from a different angle? He said it didn’t make a difference and asked me why I wanted to know. I explained that by moving the angle of the shot if an actor were to walk off the platform he or she would only fall about half a metre. Now I know that a fall from that distance may well have caused an injury, but it was far less risky than a four metre fall that was almost certain to be fatal. So while I was unable to eliminate the hazard entirely I was able to substitute one condition for another to mitigate the severity of the injury. The scene was shot with minimal disruption and without incident.

Engineering controls

Another control that can be very effective in protecting workers from a fall from height is engineering controls. These can range from netting designed to catch a falling worker, to guard rails to arrest belts (an anchored tether that extends short of the fall zone.) These engineering controls are surprisingly inexpensive and easy to install.

I was once on a construction site when I saw a crane hoisting a window to be installed onto the top floor of a third story building. I was horrified to see the workers reaching out to grab the suspended window and leaning precariously out of the building. A couple of the five or so struggling to get the window into place were literally kneeling on the opening and leaning out.

I walked over to the foreman and before I could speak he said “I know, I know, they need to be tied off.” I explained to him that the building had no appropriate tie offs and if they were to drive anchors into the ageing concrete ceiling there was a good chance the anchor would fail, or worse yet were the worker to fall that a large chunk of concrete would come loose and land on him.

He asked what I suggested and I asked him why they didn’t use a manlift? He cursed and I thought he was mad at me. I asked if I said something wrong, and he just scowled at me and pointed to five unused manlifts and grumbled about the exorbitant fee he was paying to have them sitting there. He stopped work and had one worker in the man lift working to put the window in from the outside while another worked on the inside to secure it. Not only did the job become exponentially safer, it lowered the risk of damaging the window AND now the job required only two workers instead of five. There was an added benefit: the foreman and the crew saw that I was there to enable safe production – I wasn’t a cop, or someone to be feared or hated, but someone who was genuinely looking for safer ways to do the job.

“PPE is completely useless without other controls to support it”

Personal Protective Equipment

Knowing that a good share of those reading this either sell or buy personal equipment, what I am about to say is likely to go over like a fart in church. But I have to risk it. PPE is completely useless without other controls to support it. I have seen road patching crews bedecked in high-viz apparel, and wearing gloves, hard hats, steeltoed boots literally stepping into rush hour traffic from a blind spot. Even knowing of this possibility I have almost hit several workers – not with my car mind you, I was angry enough to put out a hit on them for their wanton disregard for their safety and the safety of drivers, but I don’t know that many contract killers and the ones I do know charge too much.

The worst part about this situation was that they were following the rules given to them by their employers (although what they were doing is, in fact, against the law). All the PPE in the world won’t save people who put themselves in the line of fire because their stupidviser told them to do so.

Approaching controls holistically

Contrary to what many people – both in safety and in Operations – seem to think, there is no hard and fast rule for applying a particular control. Each job and each circumstance needs to be carefully assessed before deciding that a particular control is acceptable and appropriate. The key is to approach the situation sensibly – start at the top of the hierarchy of controls and work from there. But really take a hard and serious look at implementing the controls and work hard to make it happen. Be creative and remember, as Henry Ford said, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.


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