Fall Protection in Construction


Fall protection systems and procedures are intended to prevent employees from falling off, onto or through working levels and to protect employees from being struck by falling objects. Injuries and fatalities continue to occur at construction work sites, as a result of falls, despite the development of OSHA construction standards.

The new OSHA fall protection standard sets a uniform threshold height of six feet to provide consistent protection. So, if a laborer is exposed to falling 6 feet or more the employer must select either:

• A guardrail system,
• Safety net system, or 
• Personal fall arrest system.

Under the new standard, employers are able to select fall protection measures that are most compatible with the type of work being performed.

These are detailed on OSHA’s fall protection standard, 1926 subpart M. Fall protection requirements when working on scaffolds and ladders and in steel erection are covered under their related subparts.


Fall from elevation are the leading cause of death in construction. In fact, falls account for:

• One third of construction fatalities 
• 1000,000 injuries annually 
• 150 deaths each year

By following the fall protection standard most, if not all of the deaths or injuries could be prevented.


Whenever working at an elevated level determine:

• Are you protected against a fall 
• What actions must be taken to protect those workers

A number of issues need to be addressed to protect employees from fall hazards. These issues are:

• Knowing where fall protection is required (heights over 6 ft ;)
• Using the right fall protection systems for given situations
• The proper construction and installation of safety systems
• Supervising employees 
• Following safe work practices
• Training in fall protection systems

Before participation in ay work that involves the use of fall protection systems make sure that you receive training. This training, taught by a competent person, must include:

• Any fall hazards in the work area
• Procedures for setting up, maintaining, tearing down, and inspection fall protection systems 
• The use and operation of the fall protection system 
• The correct ways to handle and store materials and equipment and to set-up overhead protection systems
• The employees roll in fall protection plans

Retraining must be provided by the employer if:

• Workplace changes introduce new/different hazards,
• The fall protection systems in use change, or
• An employee does not demonstrate an understanding or skill of the previous training

Note: Effective January 1, 1998 the use of body belts for personal fall arrest is prohibited; a full body harness must be used.