Though construction workers face many potential work hazards, falls are the leading cause of death on a construction site. In 2018, OSHA found that deaths relating to falls accounted for approximately one-third all deaths on a construction work site.
Due to the potential complexity of preventing and protecting construction workers from falls, it's no surprise that fall prevention tops the OSHA list of top 10 violations year after year.
This article will go over some of the most important components of OSHA Standard 1926 Subpart M: Fall Protection to assist in finding ways to prevent falls on site and improve worker safety.
Fall prevention generally refers to a system that eliminates or prevents construction workers from falling. Meanwhile fall protection generally refers to all of the controls and processes used to to lessen the impact and severity of a potential fall if it does occur.
Fall prevention controls include equipment such as scaffolding, guard rails or barricades; and process controls such as fall prevention planning and fall prevention training for construction workers.
Fall protection includes Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, harnesses, and lanyards that meet OSHA standards. Of course OSHA’s Fall Protection standard also requires properly training construction workers to understand how to wear and utilize this PPE.
OSHA recommends evaluating fall prevention techniques and risk reduction whenever possible and has specific requirements for the use of fall protection.
Numerous organizations throughout North America rely on Vector EHS Management Software and our partner Vector Solutions Convergence Training to prevent construction falls.
Learn how we can help.
OSHA requires the use of fall protection for workers in the following circumstances:
1) Any time an individual is working near unprotected sides and edges that are 6 feet above the ground.
2) When employees are working at excavation sites that require them to be 6 feet below the surface, they are required to use fall protection or fall arrest systems.
3) Workers that are engaged in roofing activities that have them 6 feet above the ground
To prevent falls from occurring on your job site, safety professionals can follow these simple steps:
A fall protection plan is unique to each construction job site and assesses the fall hazards associated with each construction task for the job site. OSHA provides a sample construction fall protection plan on their website and recommends a plan include elements such as:
Many organizations include fall protection planning as part of an overall job safety analysis plan. See our blog post on the 4 steps of a job safety analysis.
As part of best construction practices, many job sites have supervisors, employees, or safety professionals conduct a daily walk-through to identify and address any hazards (including fall hazards) before starting work for the day. Some job sites utilize a job safety analysis template and have individual employees sign off that all relevant job hazards have been identified and mitigated prior to beginning work.
Components that a site safety supervisor might investigate include:
Employees and contractors of course should conduct daily inspections on their fall protection equipment prior to use.
Fall Protection Equipment should be checked on a regular basis by following OSHA requirements and manufacturer recommendations. OSHA 1926.502(d) 21 requires:
Personal fall arrest systems shall be inspected prior to each use for wear, damage and other deterioration, and defective components shall be removed from service.
An inspection for fall protection equipment should include a review of the following components:
Most equipment manufacturers require an inspection of equipment by a competent person every six months.
The Vector EHS inspection management software allows organizations to track fall protection inspections as well as set up scheduled reminders to inspect equipment every six months. It comes with pre-built checklists off of OSHA's 1926 Fall Protection Standard.
As fall protection and fall prevention are so important to the construction worker's health and safety, OSHA recommends frequently including tips in toolbox talks and construction safety meetings with employees.
OSHA also requires employees to be trained on the appropriate use of fall protection and fall prevention. Common fall protection topics for front line construction workers include:
Please download our free Fall Prevention Toolbox Talk Checklist, which supplements the OSHA Fall Prevention Training Guide and walks you through steps for leading fall-related toolbox talks on ladder safety, scaffolding safety, and roofing work safety.