A Closer Look at Fall Protection: 5 Things Safety Managers Should Know

Posted by Empire Safety on May 31, 2017 10:06:00 AM

Year after year, falls are the leading cause of worker deaths in the construction industry. No matter how well-versed in safety procedures management may be, there are important elements that are falling through the cracks. Let’s take a look at some of the most overlooked aspects of fall protection:

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Through education, training and re-evaluation on fall hazards and fall protection equipment, we can help keep workers safe and stay on budget.  We hope you find this information helpful and share it. When we take a closer look at fall protection, we can make sure every worker goes home safe! For more information, watch this important video on recent updates in Fall Protection Training!

Watch the Fall Protection Training Video Now 

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the Overlooked Risks

Fall protection can be one of the most complicated aspects of a contractor’s safety program and for good reason.

  1. Standards can be difficult to interpret
  2. Every job site is different
  3. Ensuring sure workers use the right equipment is no easy task

There are far too many injuries and deaths resulting from working at heights to ignore the fact that, somewhere along the way, fall protection is being overlooked.

The most experienced and knowledgeable professionals will admit there is potential for important safety issues to fall through the cracks. That’s why it’s important to regularly review current regulations and research to find the solutions that keep your workers safe.

Commonly overlooked aspects of fall protection:  

  1. Rooftop Edge Applications:

Workers need more than just a railing when it comes to rooftop applications that are less than 6 feet from the roof edge. The average rooftop poses many fall hazards to workers such as:

  • Debris
  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Wind
  • Holes
  • Skylights

Roofs should be outfitted with proper anchors and workers should be provided with the correct harness and lifelines— especially if it’s considered a leading edge. And a warning line is required at 6 feet to serve as a warning that a worker is approaching an unprotected edge.

  1. Warning and Identification Signage:

Clear communication keeps workers safe. OSHA requires that hazard areas are barricaded and warning signs are posted. Never assume that workers or bystanders are automatically aware of the dangers that may exist on a jobsite. Posting signs throughout the work place can remind your workers when fall protection is required or there are hidden dangers to consider. It’s common to become complacent over time when it comes to safety, especially if there haven’t been accidents in the past.

“Visual cues on a job site can be a constant reminder to always take safety seriously.”

  1. Skylight Protection:

Skylight domes offer a false sense of security for workers who often fail to take the weight capacity of the skylight dome into consideration. That dome is made of either glass or plastic and unlikely to stop a worker’s fall. Permanent guardrails, covers or nets should be installed to prevent accidents that may occur when a worker has to perform service or maintenance on a roof.

California’s Code of Regulations has ruled on a groundbreaking issue for fall protection standards in the state. Security bars can now be used as fall protection devices and security features in skylights. This can be an extremely practical choice, given that a 500k square foot warehouse can have up to 400 skylight openings.

Here’s what OSHA has to say about fall protection and skylights:


Each employee on walking/working surfaces shall be protected from falling through holes (including skylights) more than 6 feet (1.8 m) above lower levels, by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems erected around such holes.


Each employee on a walking/working surface shall be protected from tripping in or stepping into or through holes (including skylights) by covers.


Each employee on a walking/working surface shall be protected from objects falling through holes (including skylights) by covers.

  1. Residential Roofs versus Commercial:

When it comes to commercial work, it’s a usually given that safety should be built into the budget. When we talk residential roofing and lack of fall protection, it’s often due to these reasons:

  • Contractors find it difficult to provide fall protection and compete with builders who have lower rates (because they hire unsafe companies)

  • It’s difficult to get subcontractors to work with fall protection

  • Residential contractors don’t have to provide proof of OSHA 10 and 30 Certification

Without required training and certification, it’s no wonder that many fail to create a safety program, have regular tool box talks and provide the safety equipment their workers need.

How residential contractors can up their game:

  • Obtain OSHA certification
  • Create a sustainable safety program
  • Keep and review safety manuals
  • Have regular toolbox talks
  • Train workers on fall protection
  • Perform job hazard assessments before work begins
  • Make sure all workers and subcontractors are following the same safety program
  1. Objects at Height:

Contact with objects and equipment is the third leading cause of workplace deaths, even though OSHA has set some pretty clear requirements. Tools and other materials must be secured to prevent them from falling to lower levels.

Ways to prevent falling objects include:

  • Tool lanyards
  • Toe boards
  • Debris nets
  • Catch platforms
  • Canopies
  • Screens on any guardrails or scaffolds

Employer Responsibilities: 

You must provide a safe and healthy workplace. The employer is responsible for providing training to workers on fall hazards, keeping the work area free from slip, trip and fall hazards, as well as ensuring floors and surfaces are clean and dry. That can become a difficult task, especially when conditions can change daily.

You don’t have to go it alone. There are professionals ready and able to help you choose the right products at the right price to help you get the job done.


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Topics: Fall Protection