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Hierarchy of fall protection in Texas oil fields

On Behalf of | Dec 18, 2020 | Firm News |

Fall protection is crucial for workers in the oil and gas industry in Texas. While harnesses, lanyards and anchor points are all important, preventing fall accidents is still the primary goal. Even if a harness arrests a fall, the potential harm caused by being suspended and the procedures used to bring the worker to safety are also significant risks.

Adequate fall arrest training is essential. The training must cover the proper and safe way to use the system and get a suspended worker to safety without adding to the risk of further injuries.

Standards set out by the American National Standard Institute

  • The minimum ANSI requirements involve a hierarchy of steps, starting at the first option, and if that is not possible or practical, the next precaution must be evaluated and put in place:
  • Eliminate: Removing a fall hazard completely by initial design or subsequent process, like using a drone to perform routine visual inspections instead of risking a worker’s life on a ladder.
  • Barrier: If eliminating the hazard is not feasible, installing barriers like guardrails around the edge of a platform can prevent workers from falling.
  • Fall restraint: A third option involves keeping employees from coming closer than 1.5 feet from the edge, thereby removing the fall risk.
  • Fall arrest system: As mentioned, the last resort. This system will not keep workers away from the edge, but incorporates a harness to arrest the fall instead.

The reason for the fall arrest option being the last resort is the life-threatening hazards of workers suffering suspension trauma due to blood circulation problems. While suspended, blood will collect in their legs and starve other organs. Victims of fall accidents in the Texas oil and gas industry are typically eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical bills and lost wages.