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OSHA 1926.501 – The Duty to Provide Fall Protection

“Complying with OSHA Fall Protection 1926.501 doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Gorbel has trained experts to help you develop a comprehensive fall protection plan. Gorbel and your local dealer can help you define your fall protection program, identify fall hazards and determine whether eliminating, preventing or controlling falls is your best solution. After installing a solution, your dealer can train your employees, inspect and maintain all fall arrest equipment and continuously audit the program for compliance.” Gorbel, 600 Fishers Run, Fishers, NY 14453 (800) 821-8066, info@gorbel.com.

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

Major Provisions of the Standard

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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 guardrail 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 hand rails.

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, a 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.

The Numbers

The following represents federal enforcement activity of OSHA 1926.501 from October 2022 through September 2023:

The Consequences of Falls

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Falls that result in injuries or deaths occur in many work settings and industries, but they are the top cause of fatalities in the construction industry, which typically represents 51% of all workplace falls nationally. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics[1] (BLS), there were 450,540 non-fatal cases involving days away from work due to falls, slips or trips from 2021-2022, and 850 fatal work-related fall injuries[2] in 2021.

According to the 2022 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index[3] (WSI), falls on the same level cost U.S. businesses approximately $10.26 billion a year. Falls to a lower level cost $5.07 billion per year and slips or trips without falls incur costs that total about $2.52 billion a year.

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 feet above the ground.

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.

A Fall Prevention Campaign

Each year, OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and CPWR – the Center for Construction Research and Training, partner in a National Campaign to Prevent Falls in Construction. This nationwide initiative provides resources and guidance to companies in an effort to improve fall prevention efforts and outcomes. To find out more, go to: www.osha.gov/stop-falls.

View OSHA 1926.501 in its entirety at: www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1926/1926.501   WMHS

[1]https://www.bls.gov/iif/nonfatal-injuries-and-illnesses-tables.htm

[2]www.bls.gov/iif/latest-numbers.htm

[3]https://tinyurl.com/3mzre3rm

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