Fall Protection: Know The Laws


Whether you went rock climbing once as a kid at the local rec center, or work in elevated heights every day, you are aware that fall protection is required to ensure safety. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction industry, according to OSHA. It does not require excessive heights to cause severe injury or even death. In fact, many deaths occur from falls from less than five feet. Protecting employees with fall protection is as simple as ABC.

A – Anchor points: These are the exclusive secured points of attachment for equipment to be tied off to. Anchor points must be capable of sustaining 5,000 lbs., or at least a safety factor of two when installed in accordance with OSHA’s requirements, per person.

B – Body Harness: is a form of secured straps that fit over the user’s body to distribute force over the whole body rather than a single source (such as a belt).

C – Connecting Devices: any rated strap that is designed specifically for and used for connecting the body harness to the anchor point. Some connecting devices may have built-in shock absorbing or decelerating devices.

The ABCs of fall protection must be utilized whenever there is a risk for falling, that is whenever someone is working near a leading edge, on top of, next to, or near anything that is not properly guarded without a fall net present, in order to be in compliance with OSHA. Both OSHA and MIOSHA utilize 29 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 1910 and 1926 regulations for basic fall protection requirements. When it comes down to needing fall protection, you must remember zero-four-six-ten-fifteen (0, 4, 6, 10, 15).

ZERO – If there is any dangerous equipment or significant hazard immediately below (0 feet) where there is potential for employees to fall on or into, then that employee must have a form of fall prevention that does not allow that employee to be exposed to the contact of that hazard. (Ref. 1910.28(b)(6)(i))

FOUR – For all general industry-related activities, if employees are working on a surface four feet or higher off the ground with unprotected edges, they must have fall protection. General industry-related activities may include but are not limited to the following: changing out lights inside or in parking lots, working on HVAC units on roofs, nearly any kind of maintenance, and anything that does not involve maritime, construction or agriculture. (Ref. 1910.28(b)(1)(i))

SIX – For all construction-related activities, if employees are working six feet or higher off the ground with unprotected edges, they must have fall protection. Construction-related activities may include but are not limited to the following: painting, remodeling, installing, or any other related duties that involve constructing something. (Ref. 1926.501(b)(1)).

TEN – For those working from scaffolds, fall protection must be worn when working 10 feet or greater, whenever there is no means of adequate protection from falls. (Ref. MIOSHA R 408.41213(3) and 1926.451(g)(1))

FIFTEEN – For all leading edges that are not guarded, fall protection does not need to be worn if employees are at least 15 feet away from the edge of a roof. The 15 feet away from an edge rule must be implemented and enforced. (Ref. 1910.28(b)(13)(iii)(B)). For low slope roofs, workers who are within 6 to 15 feet from the edge, more specific rules take place (Ref. 1910.28(b)(13)(ii)). For workers who are within 6 feet of the edge, then the duty to have fall protection comes into play for that industry.

Exceptions: there are several exceptions for unique operations, such as certain aerial lifts used in certain ways, using ladders (which have a wide range of rules on fall protection), certain pitches in roofs for construction-related work, initial ascend to install fall protection equipment, or very specific situations where fall protection creates a greater hazard. While this can be used as reference, it is always best to read through all applicable OSHA regulations to ensure you are not only working safely but also within full compliance!

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