Fall Protection

Year after year, falls rank near the top of causes of construction-related injuries and deaths. Many serious and disabling falls occur from less than 10 feet. The most effective countermeasure to job site falls is to minimize workers’ fall exposure--that is reduce the situations and conditions that could lead to a serious fall. Below is a list of common fall exposures and recommendations on how to prevent injuries in these areas.



  • A stepladder should be opened fully and set on a level surface.
  • Don’t lean an unopened stepladder against a wall.
  • Never stand on the top two steps of a stepladder.
  • Straight and extension ladders should be placed on a 4:1 pitch with a foot out for every four feet up.
  • The top of an extension ladder should extend at least three feet above the step off point.
  • The top or bottom of a ladder must be secured to prevent shifting.
  • Ladder rungs should be properly spaced and secured to the ladder frame.
  • Scaffolds should be as level as possible.
  • Use leveling jacks; never level a scaffold by inserting scrap lumber, bricks, or blocks under the legs.
  • A mudsill (2x10, minimum 2 feet long) should be placed under each leg to distribute the load evenly. A metal plate should be placed between the mudsill and the scaffold leg.
  • Scaffolds ten feet high or more require guardrails. If guardrails are not feasible, other fall protection such as a safety harness and lifeline or lanyard must be used.
  • Stairwell openings and holes in floors should be covered with plywood or other suitable material and supported underneath. The cover must be nailed down and labeled with “HOLE,” “COVER,” or a color code.
  • Temporary handrails, constructed with 2x4s, can also be used to guard openings, as well. Covers and handrails must be kept in place until stairs and/or walls have been completely installed and the fall exposure no longer exists. If covers and handrails are moved to accommodate work needs, they have to be reinstalled immediately unless the opening has been eliminated
  • Install permanent or temporary guardrails on stairs and around landings and mezzanines with fall exposures of six feet or more before they are used for general access.
  • Unfinished window openings must be guarded if a fall exposure outside the window is six feet or more and the windowsill is less than 39 inches from the floor.

When the use of conventional fall protection systems is infeasible or creates a greater hazard on a residential construction project, a “Fall Protection Plan” must be used. Conventional fall protection requires fall exposures of six feet or more be controlled by acceptable control options including the use of guardrails, covers, lifelines, safety harnesses, lanyards, deceleration devices, and safety nets. Regulatory standards are very specific about the use of these devices; refer to the appropriate standard to prior to using this equipment. Safety belts are not acceptable fall protection equipment by themselves. They may only be used as a positioning or restraining device; they are not to be relied on for fall protection.

The following operations have specific fall protection standards. Refer to 29 CFR 1926 OSHA
Construction Industry Regulations, Subpart M, Fall Protection, 1926.500-503 and Appendix A-E”.

  • Work from ladders or stairways.
  • Work from scaffolds.
  • Work from cranes or derricks.
  • Performing steel erection.
  • Work on certain types of tunneling operations.
  • Work on electrical transmission equipment.
When the use of conventional fall protection systems is “infeasible or creates a greater hazard” on a residential construction project, a “Fall Protection Plan” must be used as an alternative. A “Fall Protection Plan” is a written description of work practices that address fall exposures and how they will be controlled on a particular job site.
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