Fall Protection

Free Online Safety and Training Courses

The state of Washington is offering some invaluable online safety and training courses on their website.  Topics include:

  • Accident Investigation
  • Safety Checklists
  • Ergonomics
  • Fall Protection
  • Janitorial Services
  • Job Safety / Hazard Analyses
  • Lockout / Tagout
  • Noise
  • Process Safety Management (PSM)
  • and much more

You can find the courses and modules on the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website.

OSHA Interpretations: 5 Responses to Scaffolding

If you need assistance with scaffolding safety, OHShub.com recommends you contact GuardianEHS (Environmental, Health & Safety consultants) @ GuardianEHS.com.

For information on fall protection, see OHShub.com’s Post , Fall Protection Guidelines.

Five popular Scaffolding interpretations from OSHA (29CFR1926.450, Subpart L).

Question 1: When may the space between scaffold planks or between scaffold planks and uprights exceed one inch in width?

Answer: The relevant standard, 29 CFR §1926.451(b)(1)(i), states:

Each platform unit (e.g., scaffold plank, fabricated plank, fabricated deck, or fabricated platform) shall be installed so that the space between adjacent units and the space between the platform and the uprights is no more than 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide,except where the employer can demonstrate that a wider space is necessary (for example, to fit around uprights when side brackets are used to extend the width of the platform).  (Emphasis added).

In addition, 29 CFR §1926.451(b)(1)(ii) states:

Where the employer makes the demonstration provided for in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, the platform shall be planked or decked as fully as possible and the remaining open space between the platform and the uprights shall not exceed 9 ½ inches (24.1 cm).  (Emphasis added).

Question 2: Scenario: Employees are on a supported scaffold during erecting and dismantling. While on the scaffold they are using 100% fall protection by being tied off at all times. Under this scenario is there a requirement to have guardrails when on the scaffold’s wooden planks?

Answer: No. Section 1926.451(g)(2) states in part:

… the employer shall have a competent person determine the feasibility and safety of providing fall protection for employees erecting and dismantling supported scaffolds. Employers are required to provide fall protection for employees erecting or dismantling supported scaffolds where the installation and use of such protection is feasible and does not create a greater hazard.

In this scenario fall protection is already being used. There is no additional requirement to have guardrails.

Question 3: Do the OSHA standards prohibit tying off to a scaffold?

Answer: No.

It is OSHA’s position that scaffolding can function as a suitable anchorage for fall arrest systems when the scaffolding section so used is erected and braced such that the criteria of §1926.502(d)(15) are met. This applies whether the scaffold is partially built (i.e., being erected or disassembled) or completely built.


Fall Protection Guidelines

A synopsis of OSHA’s Fall Protection Standards (OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.501 through 503).

Fall protection is generally thought of as:

  1. Guardrail systems
  2. Safety net systems
  3. Personal fall arrest systems
  4. Positioning device systems, and/or
  5. Warning line systems

The standard:

  • Covers most construction workers except persons inspecting, assessing, or investigating the workplace conditions prior to the start of work or after the completion of work.
  • Identifies areas or activities where fall protection is needed.
  • Sets a uniform threshold height of six (6) feet
  • Allows employers to select fall protection measures that are best suited for the work being performed.

Guardrail requirements:

  • Top edge height of top rails must be 42 inches (+/- 3 inches) above working/walking level & support 200 lb. force (use at least 2″x4″ lumber for wood top rails).
  • Mid rails, screens, mesh, intermediate vertical members, or equivalent emmbers shall be installed mid-way between the top rail and working/walking level & support 150 lb. force (use at least 1″x6″ lumber for wood mid rails).
  • Toe boards shall be 3.5 inches high & support 50 lb. force.
  • Posts shall be no more than 8 feet apart (use 2″x4″ lumber for wood posts).

Fall Arrest Systems: Harness, Lanyard, Connectors & Anchors

  • Shall be inspected prior to each use.
  • Attachment point to body shall be in the center of the wearer’s back.
  • Limit fall to six (6) feet and prevent contact with lower levels.
  • Limit maximum deceleration distance to 3.5 feet.
  • D-rings & snaphooks must have minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds.
  • Lanyards & lifelines must have minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.
  • Self retracting lifelines & lanyards that limit fall distance to 2 feet or less must have minimum tensile strength of 3,000 pounds applied to the device with lifeline fully extended. Greater than 2 feet the minimum tensile strength must be 5,000 pounds.
  • Anchorages must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds.
  • Body belts & other positioning device systems are not a part of the personal fall arrest system.