Making Sense of OSHA Guidelines for Fall Protection

OSHA has strict standards and guidelines for fall protection to ensure that workers aren’t injured by a fall. Unfortunately, falls are still one of the most common causes of workplace injuries — accounting for 38% of the total construction-related deaths in 2015 according to OSHA. To protect your employees and your bottom line, you’ll want to invest in OSHA-approved fall protection systems. The first step in ensuring you’re getting the right solution is to fully understand the existing OSHA guidelines for fall protection.

When is Fall Protection Required by OSHA?

As a general rule for construction sites, OSHA guidelines for fall protection require protection when working above six feet (6′) above a lower level. However, for the general industry, OSHA guidelines require systems that offer protection when working above four feet (48”) above a lower level. These standards apply to any type of place where a potential hazard might take place. This includes places like loading docks, roofs, mezzanines, or around equipment and machinery. OSHA standards also require fall protection systems to be installed to prevent workers from falling into or onto hazardous machines or other equipment — such as conveyor belts or storage vats.

What OSHA guidelines for fall protection are employers required to follow?

OSHA’s guidelines require employers to keep workplace safety a top priority regardless of the fall distance. This includes three key steps:

  1. Providing conditions that are free of known dangers and setting up fall protection systems before work begins
  2. Providing personal protective equipment to workers for no cost
  3. Training workers about potential workplace hazards in a language they can understand

What kinds of fall protection do my workers need?

Because every job site is different, it’s worth investing in customized fall protection systems. Complex areas like industrial platforms, wall openings, skylights, and ladders all require fall protection. It’s best to have a safety expert guide you through what products work best for your particular job-site safety needs. Some types of safety products, like the 360 mobile safety rail system, can be adapted for multiple uses. Other types of products are made specifically for a single type of fall protection, like skylight screens.

Most Overlooked Situations That Require Fall Protection

It’s easy to remember that areas like rooftops require fall protection, but OSHA standards also apply to many other types of situations. A study in The Journal of Safety Research found that about 30% of fall fatalities were a result of roof-related falls, the highest single cause, and about 25% of fall fatalities were attributed to ladder misuse (SOURCE).  This means that, not only is being on the rooftop is a serious fall protection issue, the most common process of getting to the rooftop – the ladder – is incredibly concerning as well.

Take a look around your workplace to see where additional fall protection solutions might be needed. For example, stairways are required to have handrails to provide balance. Unoccupied loading docks need gates that protect workers from falls but also open and close easily for shipping and receiving. Ramps require fall protection guardrails on any exposed sides.

Whatever your working environment may be, there’s an OSHA-compliant solution waiting for you! For questions and quotes, please reach out to the EDGE Fall Protection team. 844-314-1374