Falls are the number one killer in construction, in both the United States and Canada. Yet, falls are readily preventable.
OSHA has a construction standard and a resource page devoted to fall prevention in construction. Generally, the standard requires an employer to provide one of three kinds of fall prevention/protection – guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems (harnesses) – to every worker exposed to a possible fall of six feet or more. Fall prevention is required on scaffolds ten feet or taller. All workers on a roof must have warning lines, guardrails or lifelines.
The risk of falls can be lowered by implementing a fall prevention/protection plan in the company safety program. Good housekeeping also reduces the chance of slips, trips and falls. The LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division can conduct worksite audits to develop site-specific programs for fall prevention/protection. The Division has collected a set of other fall prevention/protection resources.
The Construction Roundtable of OSHA’s Alliance Program – unions, employer associations, contractors, insurers and manufacturers – developed the following fall prevention/protection guidelines:
- Develop a written fall prevention/protection plan.
- Identify potential fall hazards prior to each project and during daily walk-arounds. Pay attention to hazards associated ith routine and non-routine tasks.
- Eliminate the need for fall protection where possible by rescheduling the task, isolating the task or changing the task.
- Ensure that fall protection equipment is appropriate to the task, in good condition and used properly.
- Conduct general fall prevention training on a regular basis.
- Train workers on the specific, identified fall hazards and on the required personal protective equipment.
- Conduct regular inspections of fall protection equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and OSHA’s requirements.
- Emphasize fall hazards unique to the site, such as open floor holes or shafts, riser penetrations and skylights.
- Team up with other construction employers and employees to identify best practices and share fall prevention solutions.
- Get more information from OSHA or call 800-321-OSHA.
- Understand your company’s written fall prevention plan.
- Attend and participate in fall prevention training.
- Use fall protection equipment if required for the job. Be sure the equipment is right for the task, fits properly and is in good condition.
- Inspect fall protection equipment and devices before each use.
- Make sure that floor holes, open shafts and riser penetrations are protected by sturdy guardrails or covers.
- Get specialized training before working on scaffolds, lifts or ladders.
- When using scaffolds, make sure there is proper access, full planking, stable footing and stable guardrailing.
- On a boom lift, keep your feet firmly on the platform and tie-off at all times.
- Chose the correct ladder for the task, read the instructions and be sure the ladder is in good condition. Check for surrounding hazards, stable footing and the proper angle.
- Identify skylights and make sure they are properly protected.
- Contact your supervisor if you see fall hazards or have any questions about fall prevention. Do not work until unsafe conditions have been corrected.
- Get more information from OSHA or call 800-321-OSHA.
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Health & Safety Headlines
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Message from the Co-Chairmen (Summer 2014)
Message from the Co-Chairmen (Fall 2014)
Fall Prevention Online Resources
PEST (Photo Enforcement Safety Tip) Sheet Scaffolds
American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) SH&E Digest
California Health Department
Don't Fall for It! (Video; English; 81MB; high-resolution file to download or view)
Don't Fall for It! (Video; Spanish; 81MB; high-resolution file to download or view)
Don't Fall for It! (Video; English; 27MB; medium-resolution file to download or view)
Don't Fall for It! (Video; Spanish; 27MB; medium-resolution file to download or view)
Labor Occupational Health Program (UC Berkeley)
Massachusetts Department of Public Health Ladder Safety for Residential Contractors
Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) Portable Skid-Mounted Fall Protection System
Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) reports (search Falls in Construction)
NORA Goals on Fall Prevention (see page 15)
National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) Building Design Elements for Enhanced Fall Protection for Construction and Maintenance Personnel
1926 Subpart M - Fall Protection
1926.500 - Scope, application, and definitions applicable to this subpart.
1926.501 - Duty to have fall protection.
1926.502 - Fall protection systems criteria and practices.
1926.503 - Training requirements.
1926 Subpart M App A - Determining Roof Widths - Non-mandatory Guidelines for Complying with 1926.501(b)(10)
1926 Subpart M App B - Guardrail Systems - Non-Mandatory Guidelines for Complying with 1926.502(b)
1926 Subpart M App C - Personal Fall Arrest Systems - Non-Mandatory Guidelines for Complying with 1926.502(d)
1926 Subpart M App D - Positioning Device Systems - Non-Mandatory Guidelines for Complying with 1926.502(e)
1926 Subpart M App E - Sample Fall Protection Plan - Non-Mandatory Guidelines for Complying with 1926.502(k)
OSHA Alliance Program’s Workplace Design Solutions to Prevent Falls in Construction
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
Construction Safety Association of Ontario
Special Issue on Falls in Construction (Summer, 2009)
Falls from the Top Plate (WorksafeBC video)
British Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Fall ProtectionNew Data Shows Fatalities Among Construction Laborers Increased in 2019 (February, 2021)
Preventing Falls Through the Hierarchy of Controls (September, 2020)
Annual Fatality Data Shows Uneven Results for Construction Workers (February, 2020)
Let There Be Light (on Your Site) (August, 2019)
Protect Workers from Falling Tools and Other Dropped Objects (August, 2019)
Are Safety Helmets Coming for Your Hard Hat? (July, 2019)
Even Mild Head Injuries Can Affect Your Mental Health (June, 2019)
Fatal Falls More Likely Among Non-Union Workers (May, 2019)
Examining On-the-Job Falls and How to Prevent Them (May, 2019)
Fighting for All Workers on Workers’ Memorial Day (April, 2019)
Fatality Data Sheds Light on Occupational Safety and Health Trends (March, 2019)
OSHA’s Top 10 Violations of 2018 Suggest Enforcement Isn’t Slowing Down (February, 2019)
Shutdown Impacts Workers and Their Families (February, 2019)
The Top 10 LHSFNA Articles of 2018 (January, 2019)
Using Aerial Lifts Safely (January, 2019)
LHSFNA Toolbox Talks Promote Safety, Health on the Job (July, 2018)
As National Stand-Down to Prevent Falls Approaches, the Need for Unions Is Clear (May, 2018)
Safety and Health Conversations: An Interview with Dr. Christine Branche – Part Two (May, 2018)
Spring Brings Additional Hazards, But the LHSFNA Is Ready to Help (May, 2018)
OSHA 10 & 30-Hour Courses Changed to Meet Safety Objectives (April, 2018)
- 81 stories
Fatalities Map to Lend Focus to OSH Advance (May, 2012)