Duty to Have Fall Protection

Duty to Have Fall Protection

Not-So-Great Moments In Safety

Jill James

Jill James

Chief Safety Officer

Jill James brings an unrivaled perspective on risk, regulation and liability. With 14 years of experience as a Senior OSHA Safety Investigator with the State of Minnesota, and nearly a decade in the private sector as a safety program manager, Jill is a passionate advocate for training ROI.

Demo our Personal Fall Arrest Systems Course

What’s the hazard? Use your laser focus and zoom in on the person working at the top. Do you notice that he is wearing a body harness? Do you also see his lanyard coming from the D-ring at his back, wrapping around to his front? That lanyard is unfortunately not connected to anything. The same is true for the other employees in this photo.

All of the employees pictured here are working 4-feet or more from the ground on a surface with open sides and edges—they are not protected from falling.

The high visibility garment won’t protect them from the falling hazard (but will make it easier to spot the bodies). The hard hats are unlikely to protect the skull from a fall of that distance. The un-tethered lanyards on the body harnesses would absolutely not prevent a fall. And the fact they are working from ladders only increases the fall distance.

Sigh. Sad, isn’t it? Don’t blame the worker; blame the lack of training, failure of accountability, and absence of follow-through to ensure these workers were working safely.

How can this hazard be corrected? Use of a rated anchorage point for the lanyards would be one method. Also, a guardrail system or safety net system.

Any laws around this? 29 CFR 1910.28(b)(1)(i) states: “...the employer must ensure that each employee on a walking-working surface with an unprotected side or edge that is 4 feet (1.2 m) or more above a lower level is protected from falling by one or more of the following: Guardrail systems; Safety net systems; or Personal fall protection systems, such as personal fall arrest, travel restraint, or positioning systems.

Conversation Starters:  When you are doing safety audits, meeting with your safety committee, or talking with employees who use PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) like the type we see in this photo, i.e., body harnesses, personal fall arrest systems, high visibility garments and hard hats, ask if the employees know why they are wearing the equipment, if they know how to use it, and in what scenarios is the gear required. In this example, asking those questions may have uncovered a lack training on PPE equipment, and on how to use a rated anchorage system to actually use the gear they were wearing which could have protected them.