SAN ANTONIO — Data and technology have a place to help employers manage the risks of falls from heights, which have not decreased since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted rules for those who work at height, according to a safety expert.
Kevin Wilcox, Dayton, Ohio-based principal and safety practice leader at LJB Inc., a construction engineering consulting firm, told attendees Monday at Safety 2023, the American Society of Safety Professionals’ annual conference, that employers need to think beyond ropes, platforms and holsters .
Annual sales of personal protective equipment have gone from $300 million in 1995 to $800 million in 2021. In 1995, there was one OSHA regulation that addressed falls — today there are four, Wilcox said. The American National Standards Institute, which helps employers create safety plans, has at least 1,000 pages devoted to fall protection, he said.
“It’s not enough,” he added. “The old way doesn’t work.”
The next frontier is using technology to assist with data collection and interpretation to develop and manage a fall protection program.
By using technologies such as drones, laser scanning and building information modeling – already found on many construction sites – employers can identify hidden fall hazards and track measures to reduce the risk. Mobile applications can help them with tasks such as tracking how many employees are working at height, who is trained to use PPE, where the PPE is located and how it can be used.
On the business side, money spent on personal protective equipment can also be better tracked, giving employers an idea of where more money may be needed to reduce risk and where in the workplace materials need to be used.
“It’s not just about collecting data, it’s about using it,” Wilcox said. Such programs can also assist with the documentation and certification of security programs that are often required.