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Fall Protection for Construction A Survival Guide Georgia Tech Statistics Falls are the number one cause of fatalities in the construction industry. 150-200 workers are killed each year and more than 100,000 injured as a result of falls.

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Fall Protection for Construction A Survival Guide

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  • Falls are the number one cause of fatalities in the construction industry.
  • 150-200 workers are killed each year and more than 100,000 injured as a result of falls.
  • Overall (including general industry) falls are the number two biggest cause of fatalities in the U.S. (motor vehicle accidents are number one).
  • Falls 33%
  • Struck By 18%
  • Electrical 17%
  • Caught In 18%
  • 40% of the fatalities were from heights over 40 feet
  • Most falls occur on scaffolds or roofs
  • 25% of fall fatalities were from heights of 11-20 feet
  • 25% of fall fatalities were from heights of 20-30 feet
most frequently cited
Most Frequently Cited

Unprotected sides & edges - Fall protection

Fall hazards training program

Fall protection - Residential construction 6’ or more

Fall protection - Roofing work on low-slope roofs

Fall protection - Steep roofs

physics of a fall
Physics of a Fall
  • A body in motion (free fall) can cover vast distances in a short period of time. Consider this:
    • A body in free fall can travel 4 ft in 0.5 seconds
    • A body in free fall can travel 16 ft. in 1 second
    • A body in free fall can travel 64 ft. in 2 seconds
application of regulations
Application of Regulations
  • Subpart M (1926.500) applies to fall protection during construction activities.
  • There are a few exceptions from this rule for the following activities:
    • Inspection
    • Investigation
    • Assessing conditions prior to or after the work is performed
application of regulations8
Application of Regulations
  • Other existing standards for fall protection are discussed in different standards (subpart M would not cover the following items):
    • Scaffolds (subpart L)
    • Cranes (subpart N)
    • Steel Erection (subpart R)
    • Stairs and Ladders (subpart X)
    • Power Transmission (Subpart V)
contents of subpart m
500: Scope, Application and definitions

501: Duty to have fall protection

502: Fall protection systems

503: Training Requirements


A: Roof widths

B: Guardrail systems

C: Fall arrest systems

D: Positioning device systems

E: Fall Protection Plan

Contents of Subpart M
duty to have fall protection 1926 501
Duty to Have Fall Protection1926.501
  • Fall protection is required when one or more employees have exposure to falls of six feet or greater to the lower level.
  • Surfaces must be inspected before the work begins.
  • Employees are only permitted to be on surfaces that are strong enough to support them.
duty to have fall protection
The following areas require fall protection when employees are exposed to falls (six feet or greater):

Leading edges


Residential construction

Hoist areas

Wall and floor openings

Unprotected sides and edges

Above dangerous equipment (any height)

Overhand brick laying

Steep or low slope roofs

Walking surfaces

Form work and reinforcing steel

Excavations, wells, pits

Precast concrete

Duty to have Fall Protection
duty to have fall protection low slope roofs
Low slope roofs (under 50 feet in width):

Fall protection systems or

Safety monitor (with elements required in this subpart)

Low slope roofs (50 feet width or greater):

Fall protection systems (safety nets, guardrails, PFAS) or combination of

Warning lines and safety monitor or

Warning lines and guardrails or PFAS

Duty to have Fall ProtectionLow Slope Roofs
protection from falling objects 1926 501 c
Protection from Falling Objects1926.501(c)
  • Protection from falling objects is a requirement.
  • Employee working in an area where there is a danger of falling objects must wear a hard hat.
  • Employer must take steps to protect employees from hazards (establish barricades or build canopies).
types of fall protection
Types of Fall Protection
  • Passive are protective systems that do not involve the actions of employees.
  • Active includes systems and components that require manipulation by employees to make them effective in providing protection.
examples of fall protection
Passive system include:


Safety nets




Active systems components (personal fall arrest system-PFAS) include:

Anchorage points


Snap hooks

Life lines

Body harness

Examples of Fall Protection
active systems
Active Systems
  • Designed to operate in free fall situations.
  • Must be connected to other systems/components or activated to provide protection.
  • Active systems are designed to protect employees from the following items:
    • Falls
    • Forces that can cause injury
guardrails 1926 502 b
Guardrails are the most common form of fall protection.

May be made of wood, pipe, structural steel, or wire rope.

Flags must be provided on wire rope to increase visibility

Must have top rail, mid rail, posts and toe board

System must be strong enough to support 200 pounds of force applied to the top rail

Steel or plastic bands are not acceptable

Guardrails 1926.502(b)
guardrails design criteria 1926 502 b
Guardrails-Design Criteria 1926.502(b)
  • The top rail must be elevated above the surface 39-45 inches and must be free of jagged edges.
  • The mid rail must be located between the top rail and the walking surface.
  • Posts must be spaced no greater than 8 feet.
  • Toe boards must be made of a solid material with no openings greater than one inch and be 3.5 inches high.
  • Chains or movable rails must be used near hoists.
safety net systems 1926 502 c
Safety Net Systems1926.502(c)
  • Placed beneath the working surface (not to exceed 30 feet) to catch personnel or falling material.
  • Must be placed as close to the hazard as possible.
  • Equipment must be drop tested and certified.
  • Must be inspected weekly and after impact.
  • Openings can not exceed six inches.
  • Defective equipment can not be used.
  • Safety nets must extend outward from the outer most projection of the work surfaces.
pfas 1926 502 d
PFAS 1926.502(d)
  • PFAS shall not be tied to a guardrail system or hoists
  • All components of a fall arrest system must be inspected before each use and after impact.
  • Action must be taken promptly to rescue fallen employees.
pfas 1926 502 d21
PFAS 1926.502(d)
  • When stopping a fall, a PFAS must:
    • Limit the arresting force to 1800 pounds.
    • Be rigid so that an employee can not fall more than 6 feet of contact a lower level.
    • Bring an employee to a complete stop and limit maximum deceleration distance an employee travels to 3.5 feet.
    • Strength to withstand 2X potential impact of employee falling 6 ft. or permitted fall distance.
inspecting equipment 1926 502 d
Equipment must be inspected before each use for:

Degradation due to ultraviolet light

Any other condition that is not normal

The following items must be inspected:

Tears or other wear

Deformed eyelets, D rings or other parts


Dirt, grease, and oil

Inspecting Equipment1926.502(d)
pfas harness 1926 502 d
PFAS (Harness) 1926.502(d)
  • Harness systems consist of either nylon or polyester and the best system will encompass the entire body (full body harness).
  • Body belts can not be used for fall protection.
  • A full body harness will evenly distribute weight across the waist, pelvis, and thighs.
pfas lanyard 1926 502 d
PFAS (Lanyard) 1926.502(d)
  • Lanyards connect the harness to the anchorage point.
  • Must have a minimum breaking strength of 5000 pounds.
  • Should be attached to a D ring between the shoulder blades above the employee.
  • There are several types of lanyards that include: synthetic webbing, synthetic rope and shock absorbing.
types of lanyards
Types of Lanyards
  • Self retracting
    • Eliminates excess slack in the lanyard (cable, rope, or web)
  • Shock absorbing
    • Device slows and eventually stops decent and absorbs the forces (i.e.: rip stitch controlled tearing)
  • Synthetic rope
    • Absorbs some of the force by stretching
  • Synthetic webbing
    • Strong but not flexible (absorbs little force)
pfas life lines 1926 502 d
PFAS (life Lines) 1926.502(d)
  • Life lines consist of flexible material connected at one or both ends to an anchorage point.
  • There are two types of life lines:
    • Vertical:hangs vertically (5000 pound minimum breaking strength)
    • Horizontal: connects at both points to stretch horizontally (serves as connection point for other components of PFAS-total system must have safety factor of two).
pfas snap hooks 1926 502 d
PFAS (Snap hooks) 1926.502(d)
  • Used to connect lanyards to D rings on a body harness.
  • D rings must be compatible. Must be connected to harness or anchorage point only.
  • Snap hooks must have 5,000 tensile strength and be proof tested to 3600 pounds.
  • When using snap hooks:
    • Use only one snap hook per D ring to prevent rollout
    • All snap hooks must have a locking mechanism
pfas anchorage points 1926 502 d
PFAS (Anchorage Points) 1926.502(d)
  • The anchorage point is most effective when it is above the employee’s head. Located as to not allow an employee fall more than 6 feet.
  • All anchorage points must be a solid immovable object that is capable of supporting 5000 pounds.
  • Must not be used to support anything else.
positioning device systems 1926 502 e
Positioning Device Systems1926.502(e)
  • Allows employee to be supported from a vertical surface (i.e.: wall or telephone pole).
  • Must be inspected before each use for defects.
  • Must be rigid for no more than a 2 foot free fall.
  • Not a fall arrest system!
  • The anchorage point must be capable of withstanding twice the potential impact of an employee’s fall or 3000 pounds, whichever is greater.
warning line system 1926 502 f
Warning Line System 1926.502(f)
  • Rope, wire, or chains are used to warn employees of an unprotected edge.
  • Used mainly on roofs , where PFAS- impractical.
  • Established not less than six feet from the edge.
  • Materials must have sufficient strength and complete structure must withstand 16 pound tipping force.
controlled access zones caz 1926 502 g
Controlled Access Zones (CAZ)1926.502(g)
  • Only qualified personnel involved in the operation are allowed to enter the zone.
  • Ropes, wires, or chains are used to designate the area.
  • Must be erected not less than six feet nor more than twenty five feet away from edge.
  • Shall be connected on each side to wall.
controlled access zones caz 1926 502 g32
Controlled Access Zones (CAZ)1926.502(g)
  • CAZ must be defined by a control line (strength of 200 pounds) erected 10-15 feet from the edge
  • Lines must be flagged at six foot intervals.
safety monitoring system 1926 502 h
Safety Monitoring System1926.502(h)
  • Uses a monitor (competent person) to patrol the area and warn employees of the dangers.
  • All safety monitors must comply with the following criteria:
    • Be on the same level the work is being performed
    • Be close enough to orally communicate
    • Have no other assigned duties
safety monitoring system 1926 502 h34
Safety Monitoring System1926.502(h)
  • Employees must comply with all instructions from the monitor.
  • The full attention of the monitor must focus on protecting the employees.
  • It is recommended that you have a written plan for using the safety monitoring system to address:
    • Identification of the monitor
    • Roles of employees in a monitoring system
    • Training for using the monitoring system.
covers 1926 502 i
Covers 1926.502(i)
  • Used to protect personnel from falling through holes in walking surfaces.
  • Covers must be secured in place and the word “Hole” must be written on the cover.
  • Covers must have sufficient strength to support:
    • Twice the weight to be imposed upon it for pedestrians
    • Twice the largest axle weight of vehicle traffic
falling objects 1926 502 j
Falling Objects 1926.502(j)
  • Employers are required to protect their employees from falling objects.
  • Some methods that might have to be used (when necessary) consist of:
    • Installation of toe boards (at least 3.5 inches wide)
    • Building barricade and restricting entrance
    • Installation of screens
fall protection plan 1926 502 k
Fall Protection Plan 1926.502(k)
  • Fall protection plans are allowed for the following operations:
    • Residential construction
    • Leading edge construction
    • Precast concrete erection
  • The plan should be strictly enforced.
  • The employer must demonstrate that it is impractical to use fall protection before a fall protection plan can be used as an alternative.
fall protection plan 1926 502 k38
Fall Protection Plan 1926.502(k)
  • Plan must be developed by qualified person and made specific for each site (also must be up to date).
  • Only as qualified person can make changes to a plan.
  • A copy of the plan must be maintained at the site.
elements of a fall protection plan
Statement of Policy

Fall Protection Systems to be Used

Implementation of Plan


Accident Investigation

Changes to the Plan

Elements of a Fall Protection Plan
training 1926 503
Training 1926.503
  • All employees exposed to fall hazards must receive training by a competent person that addresses:
    • The nature of fall hazards in the work area
    • Procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling and inspecting fall arrest equipment
    • Use and operation of fall arrest equipment
training 1926 50341
Training 1926.503
  • Training elements:
    • Role of employee in a safety monitoring system (when used)
    • Limitations on the use of mechanical equipment for low slope roofs
    • Role of employees in fall protection plans
    • Standards contained in 1926.500-503
    • Procedure for handling and storage of equipment
training 1926 50342
Training 1926.503
  • Fall protection training must be certified by the employer through a written record.
  • The latest training certificate must be maintained.
  • Retraining is required when:
    • There are changes in the work place
    • Changes in the type of fall protection used
    • There are inadequacies in employee’s skills