The construction industry has historically addressed safety concerns primarily as a behavioral issue, with each stage of a project determining the specific hazards that might be encountered during that stage. For example, the construction phase of a facilities life cycle would typically have different workers and hazards than the operations phase, etc. As facility owners become more aware of the soaring cost of workplace injuries and are held more accountable for all phases of a project life cycle, enlightened organizations are acknowledging that certain hazards are indeed present throughout all phases of a project or facilities life cycle.
“Constructability” is a project management technique that reviews a project’s processes from start to finish, during the pre-construction phase. As the chart shows, the cumulative value of constructability (the curved line) increases over time, particularly during the latter stages of a building’s O&M phase and renovation phase.
Fall hazard control is increasingly recognized as uniquely able to prevent significant potential injury cost. When implemented and planned into the design of facilities as part of a constructability analysis, it will spread its value across all phases of a building’s life cycle.
A core concept in the use of constructability to address fall hazard control is an understanding of the hierarchy of preference of controls. This refers to the overall value and effectiveness of the three types of fall hazard control: elimination, prevention, and protection from the effects of a fall.
Here are a couple of examples of how fall hazard control might be included in a constructability analysis:
- The installation of strategically-placed fixed anchorage points (that can be used for both fall prevention and fall protection) can reduce costs throughout ALL phases of a building’s life cycle.
- Properly designed parapet walls (minimally 39 inches in height and enclosing the entire rooftop) is ultimately the most effective way of reducing potential fall hazards by enabling fall prevention for all future work or equipment repairs and additions.
Over the course of the next three posts we will discuss each of the three types of fall hazard control; here is a brief overview:
This is the first and most effective line of defense against falls from heights. To do it requires a careful assessment of the workplace and the work itself. The “who, what, when, where, why, how, and how much” of each exposure is considered. This pre-consideration of the work and site often not only leads to eliminating the hazard altogether but also identifies alternative approaches to the work that can measurably enhance productivity.
The second line of defense and often the most realistic when fall hazards cannot be entirely eliminated, is prevention. This also requires assessment of the workplace and work process. It involves making changes to the workplace so as to preclude the need to rely on the worker’s behavior and personal protection equipment to prevent falls.
Protection from the effects of a fall is the last line of defense. It should be considered only after determining that the fall hazard cannot be eliminated or the possibility of falling prevented. This is the domain of fall protection and calls for equipment such as safety nets or harnesses, lanyards, shock absorbers, fall arresters, lifelines, and anchorage connectors.