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Fall Protection

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the reasons that use of fall protection equipment and training on that use are required in the construction industry
  • Identify the requirements for equipment used in work positioning, fall restraint, and fall arrest systems
  • Identify the requirements for proper use of work positioning, fall protection, fall restraint, and fall arrest systems
  • Identify the hazards posed by falling six feet (1.85 m) or more, with and without a personal fall arrest system
  • Identify the components of a personal fall arrest system and how they work together to arrest a fall
  • Identify the steps for properly inspecting and donning a full-body harness
  • Identify the criteria for properly attaching the connecting device to an anchorage connector, and a vertical or horizontal lifeline

Available in English

30 minutes


Falls from heights are the single-greatest source of injury, accounting for thirty-eight percent of all construction fatalities.

Labor Statistics, National Safety Council


It happens too frequently to ignore, even to seasoned professionals in the construction industry. Falls from scaffolding, ladders, beams, and residential frames carry the potential for fatal injury. Many falls are preventable if the right safety precautions are taken, so why are falls occurring with such frequency? Workers, usually for the sake of expediency, sometimes cut corners and work without fall protection equipment to accomplish little tasks here and there, removing the systems when they present an inconvenience, or dispensing with them altogether. And when that happens, risk is invited and bad accidents can happen.

Falls are one of the major sources of injury to the American workforce. Falls, along with electrical, caught-in, and struck-by hazards account for the majority of the injuries and fatalities in construction and are collectively known as the "Fatal Four" hazards. Falls from heights are the single-greatest source of injury, accounting for thirty-eight percent of all construction fatalities. According to recent statistics, falls from heights attributed to 348 fatalities in construction and utilities-related accidents, and 10,150 non-fatal injuries. Fall-related violations made up at least three of the top ten most frequently cited construction violations.  

Where employees are exposed to serious fall hazards, and protection by other means such as guardrails or nets are not used, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to establish a personal fall arrest program. These programs typically identify common hazards and offer solutions for mitigating them, usually by instructing the use of fall protection systems, outlining situations where fall arrest devices are appropriate for use. Bypassing personal fall arrest systems is a bad idea, regardless of how time consuming these systems may be to deploy.

Recognizing and correcting unsafe conditions results in more than creating a safer work environment. Keeping your jobsite free of fall hazards reduces the likelihood of receiving a citation when inspected by OSHA.

Common Construction Fall Hazards

  • Leading edges on roofs or levels of a constructed building or around open excavations;
  • Scaffold systems that lack proper guardrail protection;
  • Open holes in floors that are improperly guarded;

Fall protection is required by law, and is considered a horizontal regulatory standard because these requirements span across nearly every industry activity. However, the requirements can vary depending on the situation, even in the construction industry. As a result, contractors must address fall exposures of six feet for most work.

For example, fall protection is required when working:

  • From self-supporting scaffolding at heights of 10 feet (3.05 m) or greater
  • On steel erection 15 to 30 feet (4.6 to 9.1 m) off the ground
  • On almost all other types of construction when a fall hazard of 6 feet (1.83 m) or more exists

Fall protection is not required for self-supporting step ladders or extension ladders, erecting or dismantling scaffold, performing certain steel erection work operations, or working from a scissor lift (with integral fall protection in the form of a guardrail.

Fall prevention barriers are used to minimize employee exposure to fall hazards. Guardrail systems may be used extensively throughout the work site. Permanent guardrails can be placed on stairways, landings, work platforms, and equipment access platforms. Temporary guardrails are used on scaffolds and at construction sites, excavation sites, and other areas where a temporary fall hazard exists.

 Warning Line Systems

  • Used at construction sites and excavation sites when exposure to fall hazards will be for a short time;
  • Consist of ropes, wires, or chains, and supporting stanchions;
  • Must be flagged at least every six feet with high-visibility material;
  • Signage may be posted indicating controlled access during construction;

Perimeter Safety Cables

On multi-story structures, perimeter safety cables installed at the final interior—around shaft openings—and exterior perimeter of each floor prevent you from being exposed to fall hazards.

Safety Monitors

  • Competent personnel assigned to keep others away from a fall hazard;
  • Must not perform  any other duties;
  • Should only be utilized when all other means of fall protection are not possible;
  • Circumstances for using warning monitors must be specifically described in your company’s fall protection requirements .

Fall Restraint Systems

As its name suggests, a fall restraint system restrains an employee to prevent them from falling to a lower level.  Fall restraint systems consist of anchorages, connectors, body belts/harnesses, lanyards, lifelines and rope grabs.  Anchorage points used for fall restraint must be capable of supporting four times the intended load, and must be ridged so there is no vertical free fall if the employee slips.

Fall Arrest Systems

Fall arrest systems are designed to minimize injury from a fall.  It is important that fall arrest equipment is used correctly to prevent injury as much as possible.  Fall arrest equipment includes body support devices (harnesses), lanyards and anchorages.

Lanyards

Lanyards hook to the body support device and are designed to stretch when loaded.  The stretch decelerates impact speed and arresting force when the wearer falls. A typical lanyard harness is rated for a total capacity of 310 pounds.

Employers should choose the proper length lanyard for the job; too long and it may not prevent the fallen individual from striking surfaces or objects below them. As for the lanyard’s snap-hook device, only self-enclosing and self-locking types should be used, and two lanyards should never be connected together.

Anchorages

Personal fall arrest equipment is attached to an anchorage point, which ultimately supports the equipment and the individual in the event of a fall. OSHA requires that any anchorage used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment must be independent of any anchorage being used to support or suspend platforms.

Types of anchorages include cross-arm straps for wrapping around approved structural members, driven anchorage points that affix temporarily or permanently to the structure, concrete anchors that are drilled into the concrete floors or walls, and bar anchors that span an opening.

Course Outline
  • Introduction
  • Fall Protection Systems
  • Fall Dynamics
  • Fall Arrest System Components
  • Inspecting, Donning, and Connecting the Harness
Regulations
  • 29 CFR 1926.104, Safety belts, lifelines, and lanyards
  • 29 CFR 1926.105, Safety nets
  • 29 CFR 1926.500-503, Fall Protection
  • 29 CFR 1926.760(a)(2)
  • 29 CFR 1926.1423(j)