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Mastering the Heights: Your 5-Step Guide to OSHA’s Fall Protection Regulations in 2024

Osha Regulations Standards 2024

OSHA’s fall protection regulations have remained mostly consistent over the past few years, but there are a couple of key changes in 2024 to be aware of. Use this five-step guide to make sure your workplace is up to code with regulations old and new.  

1. Submit Annual Injury and Illness Reports 

Effective January 1, 2024, employers with 100 or more employees in certain high-hazard industries must annually submit electronic illness and injury data from their Form 300-Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, and Form 301-Injury and Illness Incident Reports.  

This is data that employers are already required to keep; changes in the new requirements allow OSHA to publish some of the collected data on its website to promote transparency and inform decisions about workplace safety. While information like the full legal name of the company will be publicly available, any personal employee information will be censored.  

Learn more about this new requirement and see a full list of impacted industries here.  

2. Know What Elevations Require Fall Protection 

OSHA’s fall protection standards differ depending on the type of work environment in question. Fall protection equipment such as guardrails, overhead fall protection, or safety nets is required at different walking surface elevations in relation to the surface directly beneath them.  

In general industry workplaces, fall protection is required on any elevated workspace over four feet. This is extended to five feet for shipyards, six feet in the construction industry, and eight feet in longshoring operations. Some specialty work environments such as rail yards should receive custom considerations depending upon the variables present.

It’s also crucial that you conduct adequate anchor inspections & testing regularly.

3. Ensure Holes on Walking Surfaces are Guarded 

The OSHA official definition of a hole is “gap or void two inches or more in its least dimension in a floor, roof, or other walking/working surface.” With this specification, it requires that employees be protected from falling through holes (including skylights and roof hatches) at elevations at or above six feet by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrails. Fall protection must be in place immediately after the hole is created in order to comply with OSHA’s standards.  

4. Provide Protection Around Dangerous Equipment 

Regardless of elevation, OSHA does require fall protection around dangerous machines and equipment (such as a conveyor belt). If the hazard is less than six feet below the work surface, protection in the form of guardrails or specialized equipment guards is required. If the machine or equipment is more than six feet below the work surface, a guardrail, personal fall arrest system, or safety net is already required.

Fall Protection For Ladders

OSHA has a separate set of fall protection regulations for fixed ladders. In 2018, it established standards for fall protection surrounding fixed ladders in the workplace that must be in place by 2036.

This new regulation states that fixed ladders over 24 feet are required to have fall protection in the form of a personal fall arrest system.

Formerly, ladders over 20 feet were required to have a cage system in place, but OSHA has since revised its stance, stating that cages do not provide adequate fall protection. This new rule also requires ladders with fall protection to have rest platforms at least every 150 feet, and grab bars that extend at least 42 inches above the access level or landing platform.  

To learn more about OSHA’s fixed ladder requirements and options for compliant fall protection, check out our previous blog

5. Check the Fit of PPE 

OSHA’s current regulations regarding personal protective equipment (PPE) do not require construction industry workers to have access to properly fitted PPE (though the standards for general industry and maritime workers do). However, a proposal was put into action in July 2023 to amend the regulation and standardize PPE requirements across industries.  

Improperly fitting PPE has long been a health and safety concern in the construction industry, as standard-size PPE often fails to properly protect physically smaller construction workers, especially some women. While this is not yet an official OSHA ruling, it’s best practice to get ahead of the game and ensure that properly fitting PPE is available for all workers.  

How to Check the Fit of a Safety Harness 

  1. After putting on the harness and fastening it to your body, stand upright and relaxed. If there is any slack in your chest, shoulder, or leg straps, tighten them using the harness’ buckles until it fits snugly.  
  2. Move your body to check that the harness does not impede your range of motion.  
  3. Check the adjustment of the chest, shoulder, and leg straps by placing your hands flat and sliding them beneath the strap. Your fingers should fit snugly between the harness and your body without too much extra room, but you should not have to force your hands beneath the straps.  

If, when tightened to its smallest size, the safety harness shifts on your body or does not fit snugly, it is not the right size PPE for you, and it will not offer the same level of fall protection that properly fitting PPE will.  

Staying up to date with OSHA’s fall protection regulations is crucial for maintaining a safe workplace. By following these five steps, you’ll be well on your way to ensuring you meet OSHA’s standards and protect your employees from fall-related hazards. Reading from California? Be sure to Cal-OSHA’s additional requirements.

If your fall protection system is in need of an update, Edge Fall Protection has a team of experts ready to help you navigate these regulations and ensure your workplace is safe and compliant. Call us today at (844) 314-1374. 

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