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Fall Protection. An Overview of Washington State Requirements. September, 2010. This module will cover: What is fall protection? What type of work requires fall protection? At what height is fall protection is required?. 4 foot? 6 foot? 10 foot?.

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fall protection

Fall Protection

An Overview of Washington State Requirements

September, 2010


This module will cover:

What is fall protection?

What type of work requires fall protection?

At what height is fall protection is required?

4 foot? 6 foot? 10 foot?


The purpose of fall protection is to either prevent a fall before it occurs or stop a fall after it occurs.

There are 3 categories of fall protection:

  • Restraint systems – prevents a fall from occurring
  • Arrest systems – stops a person after falling
  • Positioning device systems – keeps a person in position and stops fall within 2 feet

What is fall protection and when is it required?

  • “Fall protection” means personal fall protection equipment worn by employees working at heights, safety nets, catch platforms, warning lines, and guard rails along elevated surfaces.
  • Fall protection of some type (usually guardrails) is required when employees work at a height of 4 feet or more in all workplaces.
  • In construction, personal fall protection equipment or equivalent protection is required when workers are at heights of 10 feet or more.
  • In some types of work or industries, fall protection is specified at different heights.

Depending on the circumstances or type of work, fall protection may be required when workers are exposed to falls of:

  • Zero feet - above or adjacent to dangerous equipment, pickling or galvanizing tanks, degreasing units, or similar hazardous equipment
  • 4 feet or more (all workplaces)
  • 5 feet (ship building and repair)
  • 6 feet (concrete and masonry work)
  • 8 feet (longshoring)
  • 10 feet or more for employees engaged in roofing work or leading edge work, steel erection, working on scaffolds and for firefighters and ski lift workers
general 4 foot fall protection requirement
General 4 foot fall protection requirement

Open-sided floors, platforms, runways, or wall openings 4 or more feet above adjacent floor or ground level must be guarded by a railing (except where there is an entrance to a ramp, stairway or fixed ladder).

This is true in general industry, in agriculture and in the construction industry, except for leading edge work or roofing work.


Core Rule, WAC 296-800-26010(1)

Construction Rule, WAC 296-155-505(6)(a)

Agriculture Rule, WAC 296-307-25015(1)

General Safety Rules, WAC 296-24-75005

specified 4 foot fall protection requirement
Specified 4 foot fall protection requirement

Longshore/stevedoring – requires guardrails or an alternate method, such as nets, when employees are exposed to a fall of four or more feet from floor or wall openings or waterfront edges.

Reference: WAC 296-56-60123(2)

Trenching and excavation work – requires guardrails where walkways are four or more feet above lower levels.

Reference: WAC 296-155-655(12)(a)

specified 4 foot requirement continued
Specified 4 foot requirement (continued)

Electrical workers – Fall arrest equipment, work positioning equipment or travel restricting equipment must be used by employees working at elevated locations more than 4 feet above the ground on poles, towers or similar structures if other fall protection has not been provided.

Reference: WAC 296-45-25510(12)

Note: Unqualified employees (including trainees) are required to use fall protection any time they are more than 4 feet above the ground.


Fall Protection in Construction

Required when employees are exposed to a hazard of falling from a location 10 feet or more in height by one of the methods listed below:

Reference: WAC 296-155-24510


Roofing work & leading edge work – 10 feet

Employees engaged in leading edge work and general roofing work, must be protected by fall restraint, fall arrest systems or positioning device system when they are exposed to a fall of 10 feet or more in height.

Reference: WAC 296-155- 24510


9’ 6”

Fall protection required at gable end, but not horizontal roof edge.

Note: Warning lines and safety monitoring systems in lieu of personal fall protection are allowed in certain situations.

See 155-24515 , 155-24520 & 155-24521


Steel Erection – fall protection at 10 feet

Source: OSHA

Leading edge control zones or perimeter safety cables are allowed on decking work.

Reference: WAC 296-155-716

scaffolding 10 foot requirement
Scaffolding - 10 foot requirement

Employees on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protected by either a personal fall arrest system or guardrails.

Reference: WAC 296-874-20052

other specified 10 foot requirements

Fire fighter training – when fire fighters are engaged in training above 10 feet level where life lines are used, they must be protected by a safety net or fall restraint or arrest in lieu of nets.

Reference: WAC 296-305-05501(4)

Ski lifts – whenever employees are working in locations which expose them to a fall of ten feet or more, safety belts, lifelines and lanyards must be provided and used.

Reference: WAC 296-59-050(5)

Other specified 10 foot requirements
ladders 25 ft

When working on a ladder over 25 feet and doing work with both hands, or wearing eye protection or a respirator, a safety belt and lanyard secured to the ladder must be used.

Ladders - 25 Ft.

Reference: WAC 296-876-40040

Note: a safety belt and lanyard secured to the ladder is not technically fall protection because if the ladder is not set up correctly or secure from displacement, it will fall and so will the person attached. It is an added safety requirement for persons working at those heights on a ladder who are using both hands. It essentially provides the third point of contact needed for working on ladders.

longshoring 8 feet

Longshore/stevedore employees doing maintenance on cranes, spouts or similar types of equipment 8 feet or more above the ground and not in an area that is protected by standard safeguards such as walkways with standard railings, or ladders with protective cages, must wear a safety belt and lanyard which can be attached to the structure.

Reference: WAC 296-56-60119

Longshoring - 8 feet
concrete masonry work 6 feet

Concrete and masonry operations – employees placing or tying reinforcing steel at 6 feet or more above any adjacent working surface must be protected by one of the following methods:

    • personal fall arrest system
    • safety net system
    • positioning device systems
  • Reference: WAC 296-155-680(10)(b)
  • Concrete and masonry operations–employees on the face of formwork or reinforcing steel must be protected from falling 6 feet or more to lower levels by any of the methods listed above.
  • Reference: WAC 296-155-680(10)(c)
Concrete & Masonry Work - 6 feet
shipbuilding and repair 5 feet

Shipbuilding and ship repair – employees exposed to unguarded edges of decks, platforms, flats and similar flat surfaces more than 5 feet above a solid surface, the edges must be guarded by adequate guardrails

Reference : WAC 296-304-05005

Shipbuilding and ship repair – whenever employees work aloft or elsewhere at location more than 5 feet above a solid surface, the employer must provide and ensure the use of fall protection.

Reference: WAC 296-304-05013(2) and WAC 296-304-09019

Shipbuilding and repair - 5 feet
some fall protection always required

There are some instances in which fall protection (guard rails) is always required, no matter what the fall distance is.

For example, regardless of height, all open-sided floors, walkways, platforms, or runways above or adjacent to dangerous equipment, pickling or galvanizing tanks, degreasing units, or similar hazardous equipment, must be guarded with a standard railing and toe board.

This is true in general industry, agriculture and in the construction industry.


Core Rule, WAC 296-800-26010(1)

Construction Rule, WAC 296-155-505(6)(e)

Agriculture Rule, WAC 296-307-25015(3)

Some Fall Protection Always Required
tree trimming fall protection always required
Tree trimming: fall protection always required

Electrical workers doing line clearance tree-trimming – each employee must be tied in with a climbing rope and safety saddle when the employee is working above the ground in a tree, unless he or she is ascending into the tree.

Reference: WAC 296-45-45530

warehouse order pickers always
Warehouse order-pickers: Always

Order pickers (forklifts) – must be equipped with either standard guardrails on all sides or a safety harness and lanyard that are connected to a tie off point that has been approved by the PIT manufacturer.

Reference: WAC 296-863-20025

window washing always

Window washing – workers suspended from a boatswain’s chair or rope descent system must use an independent fall arrest system where the fall arrest anchorage is separate from the suspension system anchorage.

Workers operating powered platforms must wear and use a fall arrest system.

Window washing - Always

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Workers must be connected at all times to the fall arrest system while they are suspended.

Reference: WAC 296-878-15025

Source: Oregon OSHA

elevated work platforms aerial lifts always

Boom supported elevating work platforms – Safety harness and lanyard devices fixed to attachments points provided and approved by the manufacturer must be used by all occupants, regardless of the height.

Elevated work platforms(aerial lifts): Always

Reference: WAC 296-869 - 20045

fall protection always required

Employees must be protected from falls through any skylights, roof openings or floor openings by installing either a standard guardrail system along all exposed sides or a cover that is marked, secured and is capable of supporting at least 200 pounds.

Fall protection always required

Cover for floor opening


Core Rule, WAC 296-800-26010(1)

Construction Rule, WAC 296-155-505(6)(e)

Agriculture Rule, WAC 296-307-25009


Construction fall protection rules are being revised

WAC 296-155-245 Fall Protection for construction:

This is a clear rule writing effort and combines two parts of the construction safety code for clarity and ease of use. In addition, the department intends to clarify current language which has created confusion at worksites with respect to walking-working surfaces on roofs as recommended by a business and labor ad hoc committee.

To find out the status of the new rule, click on:

Link to new rule activity webpage

To view proposed new rule requirements and wording, click on:

Link to proposed new rule

additional resources
Additional Resources

Pocket Guide to Safety - for roofing

Fall Protection Work Plan Requirements – L & I - DOSH requirements

OSHA Construction eTool – personal fall arrest systems

Fall Protection for the construction industry – Oregon OSHA

Fall Protection Comparison Chart – DOSH

Fall Protection: Responding to Emergencies

Sample Fall Protection Work Plan