The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to protect their employees from recognized hazards that may result in death or serious physical harm and to comply with OSHA standards. So which standards impact workplace fall protection?

OSHA requires employers in general industry to first address safeguards to the physical structures and devices within the workplace, and then use personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees when they are unable to completely control the hazards through engineering or administrative methods.

Fall protection standards for physical structures are located under the “walking and working surfaces” standards [29 CFR 1910, Subpart D]. These standards cover floor and wall openings/holes, elevated platforms, fixed stairs and fixed ladders. For each work surface, OSHA has established minimum construction requirements for safeguards such as railings, handrails and toe boards. The goals of these standards are to minimize:

  • Employee falls, and
  • Objects falling on employees from surfaces above their heads.

The Challenge of Fall Protection
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