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Fall Protection – General Requirements – Regulation 29 CFR 1926.501

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A Workplace Story

From a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) report:

On a hot April day in North Carolina, a crew was installing sheets of plywood and roof trusses on a residential roof. One of them, a 22-year-old Hispanic worker, was temporarily out of sight of his co-workers when they heard his body hit the ground. He’d fallen 41 feet from an unprotected edge onto the concrete driveway below. He died instantly. It was his second day on the job.

Investigators found that none of the crew had done roofing work prior to that day. They were not provided with fall-protection systems or with personal fall-arrest systems. They received no training in the recognition and avoidance of fall hazards prior to beginning the roof work.

The investigation also revealed that neither the site supervisor nor the company’s vice president were aware of the existence of a company safety and health program. The home office eventually located a “Guide for Employees” that listed 19 safety-related guidelines for employees of the company, and stated that “no one is allowed on a roof without OSHA-approved safety equipment.” However, there was no information about safety equipment, including how fall protection on roofs was to be addressed. The employer did not have a written safety and health program onsite.

The Numbers

Enforcement from October 2019 through September 2020

Total citations 4,602

Total inspections: 4,487

Total proposed penalties: $24,977,808

Industries most often violating the Fall Protection—General Requirements standard:

Construction: $24,556,434

Wholesale Trade: $158,842

Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services: $62,151

Manufacturing (part 3 of 3): $37,370

Utilities: $83,100

Real Estate and Rental and Leasing: $24,941

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services: $12,158

Retail Trade (part 1 of 2): $27,952

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting: $6,747

Retail Trade (part 2 of 2): $6,293


There are a number of ways employers can protect workers from falls, including through the use of conventional means such as guardrail systems, safety net systems and personal fall protection systems, the adoption of safe work practices, and the provision of appropriate training. The use of warning lines, designated areas, control zones and similar systems are permitted by OSHA in some situations and can provide protection by limiting the number of workers exposed. Whether conducting a hazard assessment or developing a comprehensive fall protection plan, thinking about fall hazards before the work begins will help the employer to manage fall hazards and focus attention on prevention efforts. If personal fall protection systems are used, particular attention should be given to identifying attachment points and to ensuring that employees know how to properly use and inspect the equipment.


To comply with 1926.501 and prevent employees being injured or killed in falls, employers must:

Provide adequate fall protection to employees who are exposed to fall hazards. According to 29 CFR 1926.501 (b)(1), each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.

Develop, implement, and enforce a written, comprehensive safety program. 29 CFR 1926 (20)(b)(1),(2) holds employers responsible for developing safety programs that are designed to prevent worker injury. These safety programs are to provide for frequent and regular inspections of the jobsites, materials and equipment. They are to be done by a competent person designated by the employer. The evaluation of tasks to be performed at the worksite forms the basis for development, implementation and enforcement of a safety program. Key elements of such a program should include, at a minimum, frequent and regular inspections by a competent person and should include provisions for training employees in hazard identification, avoidance and abatement.

Provide training to workers in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the required safe work practices that apply to their normal and to any new work environments. 29 CFR 1926 (21)(b)(2) requires employers to instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to the work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to injury or illness. Whenever employees are asked to perform new tasks, employers should provide them with the training they need to perform the job safely. In this incident, the victim and his crew members were assigned to new tasks, roofing work, without the benefit of training in how to recognize and avoid fall hazards. Employers should refer to OSHA regulation CFR 1926.503 (a) for specific training requirements. If training cannot be provided prior to the start of work, the work should be delayed until the training can be provided or until a trained crew is available.

Ensure that workers who are part of a multilingual workforce comprehend instructions in safe work procedures for the tasks to which they are assigned. Companies that employ workers who do not understand English should identify the languages spoken by their employees, and design, implement and enforce a multi-language safety program. The program, in addition to being multi-language, should include a competent interpreter to explain worker rights to protection in the workplace, safe work practices workers are expected to adhere to, specific safety protection for all tasks assigned, ways to identify and avoid hazards, and who they should contact when safety and health issues arise. Also, the employer should develop, and post in conspicuous places, safety posters/signs in that/those languages. WMHS

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