Falls are a leading cause of workplace injury and death. Fall protection also routinely makes OSHA’s Top 10 Violations list every year.
Employees fall for many reasons: unstable working surfaces, improperly positioned ladders, misuse of fall protection, and unprotected sides and edges of working surfaces.
OSHA says that you must set up your worksite to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated workstations, or into holes in the floor and walls. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of 4 feet in general industry workplaces, 5 feet in shipyards, 6 feet in the construction industry, and 8 feet in longshoring operations.
Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt), you must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
In order to properly protect employees at risk of falls, you must:
- Assess the worksite for fall hazards.
- Develop, implement, and commit to a fall protection program
Falls are a major cause of work-related injuries and fatalities. Now OSHA is proposing new rules for fall protection in general industry workplaces. BLR’s upcoming live webinar will bring you up to speed on what could change and suggest some key opportunities for improving your fall protection program. Click here for details.
- Provide training on the program and in the proper selection, use, and maintenance of fall protection.
- Select fall protection systems appropriate for given situations.
- Use proper construction and installation of safety systems.Supervise employees properly.
- Evaluate your fall protection program regularly to make sure it is effective and determine if changes or updates are needed.
Fall Protection Systems
When employees are exposed to falls from heights, one of the following is required:
- Using guardrail systems
- Using safety net systems
- Using fall arrest systems
- Covering or guarding floor holes as soon as they appear, and assuring that covers will support twice the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any time
- Immediately covering or guarding any openings or holes through which an employee could fall
Generally, OSHA prefers fall prevention systems such as guardrails, to fall protection systems such as nets or fall arrest devices.
Join us on February 13 for an in-depth webinar in which our speaker, a seasoned safety professional and an expert in developing and implementing comprehensive fall protection programs, will help you evaluate your existing program to determine improvement opportunities based on best practices, ANSI Z359, Version 3, and the proposed OSHA rules. Learn More.
OSHA permits alternatives to the fall protection it identifies in its standards as long as the alternative provides adequate protection. For example, OSHA permits the use of warning lines and safety monitoring systems during roofing work on low-sloped roofs. An effective fall restraint system may be used in lieu of a personal fall arrest system as long as the system is rigged to prevent a worker from reaching a fall hazard and falling over the edge.
If you can show that the use of conventional fall protection methods is infeasible or creates a greater hazard, a qualified person must create a written, site-specific fall protection plan. The plan should document why conventional systems are not being used.