The Basics of Fall Protection

On December 15, 2016 the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the statistics for the leading causes of the 4836 work related deaths in 2016. Once again falls are the second leading cause of fatal accidents with 800 workers dying as the result of a fall with 648 falling from one level to another. Of the 648 deaths there is complete information for 548 deaths which shows that 82% or 449 workers died falling from less than 30 feet. The information also shows that of these 548 workers 2 out of 5 fell from 15 feet or less. So it is not the workers on towers, bridges, and high rise buildings that are falling but rather workers at heights we see in every day construction and industrial work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has taken note of falls continuing to rank in the top four causes of worker deaths for many years and as a result issued the revised Walking and Working Surfaces Regulation on November 18, 2016 and it will become effective January 17, 2017. Included in this is a new section 1910.28 which requires employers to provide protection for each employee exposed to fall and falling object hazards. 1910.30 was added and requires that before any employee is exposed to a fall hazard, the employer must provide training for each employee who uses personal fall protection systems. With the addition of 1910.140 the General Industry Standards now establishes performance, care, and use criteria for all personal fall protection systems and no longer relies of reference to the Construction Standards. This new standard also provides clarification of methods that can be used on Low Slope Roofs by workers other than roofers and leading edge workers for the first time.

Given the facts that workers are dying from falls to a lower elevation at the rate of almost 13 per week and that OSHA has now issued new rules for fall protection in General Industry it seems like a good time to review fall protection needs by going back to the basics. This presentation will address the basics including anchorage requirements, fall clearance requirements, harnesses, connecting means, rescue, fall restraint, and administrative controls. Highlights of the new Standards will also be pointed out.


Richard Vaccaro