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Fall Protection – Regulation 29 CFR 1926.501

Enforcement from October 2021 through September 2022:

Total citations: 5,834

Total inspections: 5,675

Total proposed penalties: $35,423,443

Most Frequently Violated OSHA Standard Ranking – Number 1

Most-cited Industries:

  • Construction ($34,361,482 in proposed penalties; 5,834 citations; 5,675 inspections)
  • Wholesale Trade ($390,898; 36; 33)
  • Manufacturing ($192,446; 33; 32)
  • Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services ($124,626; 26; 20)
  • Utilities ($147,761; 18; 18)
  • Retail Trade ($43,094; 8; 7)
  • Real Estate and Rental and Leasing ($23,481; 6; 6)
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services ($19,960; 5; 5)
  • Accommodation and Food Services ($17,403; 2; 2)
  • Information ($16,151; 2; 2)
  • Transportation and Warehousing ($5,174; 2; 2)

Fatal Falls in the Construction Industry

Fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction employees, accounting for 378 of the 986 construction fatalities recorded in 2021 [Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data]. Those deaths were preventable. Falls, slips and trips were the most frequent type of fatal event of the 1,102 fatal injuries in the construction industry in 2019 in private industry and government. This was a 22.9% increase in fatal falls, slips and trips over 2018. Most fatal falls, slips and trips are from falls to a lower level.

Why Is Fall Protection Important?

Falls are a hazard found in many work settings. A fall can occur during walking or climbing a ladder to change a light fixture, or as a result of a complex series of events affecting an ironworker 80 ft above the ground. Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Employers must set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling off overhead platforms, elevated workstations, or into holes in the floor and walls.

The Cost of Work-Related Falls

Fall injuries create a considerable financial burden: workers’ compensation and medical costs associated with occupational fall incidents have been estimated at $70 billion annually in the United States.1

What Can Be Done To Reduce Falls?

Employers must set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling off overhead platforms, elevated workstations, or into holes in the floor and walls. OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of 4ft in general industry workplaces, 5ft in shipyards, 6ft in the construction industry and 8ft in longshoring operations. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:

  • Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk (using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover).
  • Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
  • Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt), employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
  • Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harness and line, safety nets, stair railings and handrails.

OSHA requires employers to:

  • Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.
  • Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition.
  • Select and provide required personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand.

Three Strategies to Prevent Falls In Construction:

  1. Plan ahead to get the job done safely

When working from heights, employers must plan projects to ensure that the job is done safely. Begin by deciding how the job will be done; what tasks will be involved; and what safety equipment may be needed to complete each task.

When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include safety equipment and plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available at the construction site. For example, in a roofing job, think about all of the different fall hazards, such as holes or skylights and leading edges, then plan and select fall protection suitable to that work, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS).

  1. Provide the right equipment

Workers who are 6ft or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To protect these workers, employers must provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job, including the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds and safety gear.

Use the right ladder or scaffold to get the job done safely. For roof work, if workers use personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), provide a harness for each worker who needs to tie off to the anchor. Make sure the PFAS fits, and regularly inspect it for safe use.

  1. Train everyone to use the equipment safely

Every worker should be trained on proper set-up and safe use of equipment they use on the job. Employers must train workers in recognizing hazards on the job.

At-Risk Fall Exposures

Recent Fall Fatalities (source:

  • 05/11/2023; Mentor, OH: Raul Perez (53) died in fall from aerial lift.
  • 05/01/2023; Kyle, TX: Miranda Ayers (43) died in fall from ladder.
  • 04/17/2023; Terre Haute, IN: Joseph Drivinski (66) died in fall down basement stairs.
  • 04/12/2023; Jersey Village, TX: Curtis Pounds (65) died in fall from roof.
  • 04/10/2023: Park City, UT: Jose Figueroa (49) died in fall from roof.



  1. NSC [2002]. Report on injuries in America 2002. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council.


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