Falls are one of the most common causes of serious work-related injuries making up 33.5% of construction worker deaths in the US. They’re also completely preventable. By following OSHA safety standards and having the proper equipment for your team, you’ll drastically reduce the risk of falling while working at height.
Read on to familiarize yourself with OSHA requirements for heights safety and to make sure your company is adhering to them.
What are OSHA’s Requirements for Heights Safety?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created as a result of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970,
“to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health…”
With this, came a 4 tiered provision to protect workers from fatal falls which includes guidelines for Fall Protection, Ladders, Facility Maintenance and Training.
In 2017, OSHA revised its previous general industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems) Standards on the slip, trip, and fall hazards to the below:
- Guardrails are no longer the primary fall protection method.
- Employers have the flexibility to determine what method will work best in their situation.
- Qualified climbers in outdoor advertising are no longer allowed to climb fixed ladders on billboards without fall protection and phases in the requirement to equip fixed ladders (over 24 feet) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems.
- Rope descent systems are prohibited at heights greater than 300 feet above grade unless it’s demonstrated that it is not feasible or creates a greater hazard to use than any other system.
- Building owners and employers must obtain and/or provide the information that permanent anchorages used with RDS have been inspected, tested, maintained, and certified to support at least 5,000 pounds per employee attached.
- Personal fall protection systems (personal fall arrest, travel restraint, and positioning systems) can be used but requires proof of performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of the systems.
- Body belts are prohibited as part of a personal fall arrest system.
The 2017 final rule also introduced a requirement that will be phased in over the next 20 years to equip fixed ladders (that extend over 24 feet) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems. It also prohibits the use of cages and wells, but requires that employers equip new ladders and replacement ladders/ladder sections with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems.
Generally speaking, however, OSHA requires all workers to:
- Use a ladder or step-stool if performing a task overhead
- Use a ladder with the correct style, height, material, and performance rating for the job being performed
- Inspect all ladders before performing a job and replace any defective ladders
For your reference, download OSHA’s portable ladder quick card.
A safe work environment is crucial in keeping your team safe as they work. Per OSHA standards, employers must inspect walking-working surfaces regularly and correct, repair, or guard against hazardous conditions.
For quick reference, download OSHA’s pocket guide for facility safety.
Knowledge is power. Ensuring you have adequate training in place surrounding fall protection and heights safety will keep your workers safe, reduce your liability and guarantee you’re adhering to OSHAs heights safety requirements.
Below is a general overview of what an OSHA-compliant training program would cover:
- The nature of fall hazards in the work area
- The correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling, and inspecting the fall protection systems to be used
- The use and operation of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, safety net systems, warning line systems, safety monitoring systems, controlled access zones, and other protection to be used
- The role of each employee in the safety monitoring system when this system is used
- The limitations on the use of mechanical equipment during the performance of roofing work on low-sloped roofs
- The correct procedures for the handling and storage of equipment and materials and the erection of overhead protection
- The role of employees in fall protection plans
At John Sakach, we take safety extremely seriously, which is why we provide the highest quality rigging equipment to reduce risk and keep your team safe.
For more information about our rigging equipment, contact us today!