Boeing’s Environmental Health Services organization is sending notifications to employees about new weight-limit standards for those wearing safety harnesses because their jobs require them to work high up -- on wings, fuselages, horizontal stabilizers, etc. -- where a tumble means a drop of as much as 65 ft. to a concrete floor.
Last year, an employee was killed in a fall so there is a reason for the emphasis on harness safety. But Boeing's push goes beyond harnesses.
The March issue of the company’s Frontiers” magazine features a story about new tools and techniques that improve shop floor safety.
EHS Vice President Kim Smith reports that every year 1,500 to 1,600 Boeing employees miss work because they are hurt on the job.
The company's safety push is shared by its unions.
The current issue of Aero Mechanic, the monthly newsletter of IAM Local 751, highlights the remarkable return to work (on a half-time basis) of machinist Josh Divers, who lost both legs below the knee a year ago during a routine move of a 787 on the factory floor.
When his return to work was celebrated, Divers walked across the floor on a set of prostheses.
So the push for safety is no laughing matter.
But some of the specifics associated with the new safety harnesses are enough to raise an eyebrow.
Not just anyone is allowed to strap on a harness and venture aloft. The workers receive safety training that leads to a “fall-protection certificate.” The Boeing safety push includes weight reviews of these certificated personnel.
Boeing says the full body harnesses it uses are pretty standard for industry and include straps about the torso and thighs. A lanyard is clipped to a ring in the back.
A notice circulated to employees says that anyone using the harnesses must declare if they weight more than 225 lb. When they fess up, it is done confidentially.
If they exceed that weight, EHS will arrange for them to be weighed by Boeing Medical so they can receive “extra protection,” according to a notice that SPEEA circulated to the company's unionized technicians and engineers.
The SPEEA notice says employees WEIGHING MORE THAN 375 lb. will be excluded from using the harness-protection system.
The company is not commenting on the weight issue, except to note that safety is a priority and that its safety harnesses “are designed with established weight limits. To ensure the safety of employees, Boeing adheres to the weight limits of safety harnesses.”