Basics of Fall Protection

Falls are the leading cause of worker fatalities in the U.S. construction industry. Each year, on average, between 150 and 200 workers are killed and more than 100,000 are injured as a result of falls at construction sites. OSHA recognizes that accidents involving falls are generally complex events frequently involving a variety of factors. Consequently, the standard for fall protection deals with both the human and equipment-related issues in protecting workers from fall hazards. For example, employers and employees need to do the following:
Where protection is required, select fall protection systems appropriate for given situations.
Use proper construction and installation of safety systems.
Supervise employees properly.
Use safe work procedures.
Train workers in the proper selection, use, and maintenance of fall protection systems.

OSHAs revised construction industry safety standards for fall protection is designed to prevent workers from falling off, onto, or through working levels and to protect employees from being struck by falling objects. The rule covers most construction situations; however, workers on scaffolds, ladders, and those engaged in steel erection of buildings are covered by other OSHA regulations.

The rule identifies areas or activities where fall protection is needed: 
Ramps, runways, and other walkways;
Excavations, hoist areas, and holes;
Formwork and reinforcing steel;
Leading edge work and unprotected sides and edges;
Overhand bricklaying and precast concrete erection;
Roofing work and wall openings;
Various other walking/working surfaces.

OSHA requires construction employers to protect their employees from fall hazards and falling objects whenever an affected employee is 6 feet (1.8 meters) or more above a lower level. Protection also must be provided for construction workers who are exposed to the hazard of falling into dangerous equipment.

Under the standard, employers are able to select fall protection measures compatible with the type of work being performed. Fall protection is generally provided through, but not limited to, the following methods:
Guardrail systems
Personal fall arrest systems
Positioning device systems
Safety monitoring systems
Safety net systems
Warning line systems

Source: OSHA