Proceedings of XVIIth World Congress on Safety and Health at Work, September 16-20, 2005, Orlando, FL. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council, 2005 Sep; :1-18
Fall-related occupational injuries and fatalities are serious problems in the U.S. construction industry. An important sub-set of falls-to-lower-level incidents is when workers fall through holes, collapsing surfaces, or skylights. OSHA regulations require that roof holes must be protected by a guardrail or cover and nearby workers must use personal fall-arrest systems. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Division of Safety Research, Morgantown, WV initiated a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of guardrail systems. Two commercial edge-protection products were evaluated as perimeter guarding around a hole in a wooden simulated roof deck. Installation methods for the edge-protection products, which had not been designed for use as guardrails for holes, are compared to job-built guardrails constructed of 2-in x 4-in lumber. To evaluate how well the edge-protection products comply with existing OSHA regulations as a hole guardrail, an experimental hypothesis and a laboratory-based testing system were developed. OSHA regulations require that "a force of at least 200 pounds" shall be supported by the top rail of the guardrail system. The governing variable (200-lb force) was generated by using a weighted rescue manikin mounted on a specially designed hinged steel frame. By adjusting the manikin's fall distance, a dynamic 200-lb force was generated at the top rail. Five different guardrail configurations were built using the two commercial products and the job-built guardrail. Test subjects were nine carpenters. Each subject constructed the five different configurations. Because of adequate fasteners and quality of construction, all 45 configurations met the 200-lb OSHA requirement. Installation time for one of the commercial products was 30% quicker than the normal job-built configuration (27.6 min versus 39.6 min). Even though a substantial initial outlay is required for that commercial product, after about 40 separate uses, the break-even point will be reached, where the initial cost will be repaid and that commercial product will begin to save money for the purchaser.