When I talk to people about fall protection, I usually get comments that fall into one of the following categories: Hassle, Limited Time on Task, Fall Protection is Hazardous, Track Record of No Injury Without Fall Protection. I want to give you responses to each of these types of comments, so that you can help your team develop safe habits that make sure everyone who works at heights goes home safely at the end of every day.
It’s a Hassle, aka “Time is money and it’s too much bother to take 15 minutes to put fall protection gear on to do 10 minutes worth of work.”
Keep your reply to this focused on money, “I’d rather you take 15 minutes to put on fall protection instead of falling and getting seriously injured so that you can’t work or earn a living for the rest of your life.”
Limited Time on Task, aka “I’ll only be up there for a minute.”
A great response to this is “A fall takes less than a second, so you can fall a LOT in a minute.” Then follow this up with, it does not matter how long you will be working at heights, you need the same protection every time. In fact,
Fall protection equipment is hazardous aka “Putting on the gear and stumbling around the rope is more dangerous because it restricts my movement.”
Habit formation is the key point to emphasize here. “You’ve gotten used to working without fall protection; so you have the ability to get used to working with it, it’s like getting used to using a seat belt in a car.”
Track Record of No Injury Without Fall Protection, aka “I’ve done this a thousand times with no problems without fall protection – why would I need it now?”
This is a longer conversation where I start by telling people that no one goes out the door thinking “this is a good day to fall”, and that what happens in many cases is that there was a change in the routine of the worker, causing them to fall. For example, putting a hammer down where you normally don’t, and tripping over it or reaching for it awkwardly can cause a fall. Fall protection is there to keep you safe even when your routine changes! I also compare not using fall protection to driving a car accident free for 30 years; it’s great that you’ve been accident free, however odds of having a worksite incident (fall) are ever present and need to be managed to keep you safe. Complacency is not your friend on a worksite.
Bottom line, it’s okay to complain about having to use fall protection equipment, as long as it is actually being used!
Your job as the team leader is to make sure everyone has access to properly fitting fall protection that they know how to use, and that you have policies and procedures in place governing the use in your workplace.