Top OSHA Workplace Violations – Fall Protection, Construction – Regulation 29 CFR 1926.501

Fall Protection, Construction

Regulation 29 CFR 1926.501

Enforcement from Oct 2018-Sept 2019

Total citations 7,242

Total inspections: 7,039

Total proposed penalties: $39,489,226

Most Frequently Violated OSHA Standard Ranking – Number 1

Industries most often violating LOTO standard:

Special Trade Contractors $35,3 Million (in proposed penalties)

Construction of Buildings $3.5 Million

Merchant Wholesalers, Durable Goods $203,085

Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction $151,595

Administrative and Support Services $33,552

Repair and Maintenance $32,771

Waste Management and Remediation Services $31,273

Real Estate $29,003

Fabricated Metal Product Mfg. $28,770

Utilities $19,383

Hazards: Falls are the Leading Cause of Death in Construction

In 2018, there were 320 fatal falls to a lower level out of 1,008 construction fatalities (BLS data).

Why is fall protection important?

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 of overhead platforms, elevated workstations, or into holes in the floor and walls.

What can be done to reduce falls?

Employers must set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling off of 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, 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.

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


Floor openings

Fixed scaffolds

Bridge decking


Leading edge work

Solar industry


Wind towers

Telecommunication towers

Residential construction

Commercial construction

Aerial devices & elevating equipment

Fatality reports:


If you missed OSHA’s 7th Annual Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, which took place September 14-18, you can still hold your own stand-down, with safe social distancing in mind. Information is available on the OSHA website.