The hierarchy of fall protection is a tool used to rank the most effective and safe methods of reducing the risk and consequences of a fall from heights.
Often when discussing fall protection people jump right into tying off, there are many options to choose from that protect a worker by eliminating or controlling fall hazards.
The following steps are ranked in the order that they should be considered.
Eliminate the hazard
- Change procedures
- Redesign work process
- Relocate work area
- Design out the risk
- Not always feasible or cost effective
Guard the hazard
- Permanent or temporary barriers such as guardrails and handrails
- Does not require user training
- Does not require user participation
- Worker cannot reach the hazard
- Eliminates the possibility of a fall by restricting movement or body positioning
- May prevent a worker from completing a task
Fall arrest system
- Engineered so a fall is arrested within acceptable forces and distance
- A fall is still possible, but a worker is prevented from contacting the ground or objects below.
- Injuries can still be sustained
- Requires worker training and competency
- A comprehensive rescue plan is needed
- Work practices or procedures
- Brings awareness to the hazard through warning signs or demarcation systems
- Hazard is still present and unguarded