Occupational Safety and Health Administration Fall Protection Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that is assigned the duty of enforcing safety and health legislation in the workplace. One of the most significant hazards of construction work is the exposure to falls. Particularly in the construction industry where scaffolds, steel erection and simply working above ground are the norm, OSHA has provided regulations for the general industry and the construction industry particularly.

For example, in the general industry, a subpart 1910 paragraph (c)(1) provides for guarding floor, wall openings and holes. This provision would include protection against falling off of an open-sided floor, platform or runway. The subparagraph (c)(1) states that “every open-sided floor or platform 4-feet or more above an adjacent floor or ground level shall be guarded by a standard railing . . .” This general industry guideline focuses on workers in warehouses, manufacturing and industrial workplaces.

In addition to the duty to have fall protection in the general industry area, OSHA also sets out in another subparagraph (d)(1) that an employee on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet or more above a lower level “now shall be protected from falling by use of guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall rest systems.” Personal fall rest systems are meant to include harnesses, support systems, ropes and pulleys to prevent workers from striking the ground from that height.

In the construction industry, there is a different part that covers scaffolds and steel erection workers. Naturally, in the cases of construction, the height of some of the workplaces is much higher. By example, subpart L, dealing with scaffolds, 1926.451(g)(1) states that: “Each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level shall be protected from falling to that lower level.” The height of 10 feet coincides with the ANSI A10.8-1969C section for scaffolding where it had already established the threshold height for fall protection at 10 feet. OSHA just conformed the maximum unprotected fall distance for scaffolds from 6 feet and increased it to 10 to conform to the ANSI guidelines.

As far as steel erection workers, OSHA provides that “each worker engaged in a steel erection activity who is on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet above a lower level, shall be protected from fall hazards . . .” Subpart R 1926.760(a)(1). Naturally, there are subsections dealing with heights that are measured in stories of buildings and feet of 30 or more. Workers in steel erection work at great heights.

The emphasis on OSHA’s requirements as to those working at heights in general industry or in the construction industry is safety protection. In addition, training requirements require fall protection, training for all employees on construction sites and steel erection work.

Rules and regulations imposed by either OSHA or ANSI standards are vitally important but the training of workers is tantamount to protecting each of them from the hazards of their jobs. If workers are correctly trained in safety methods whether they work at great heights or not, serious injuries at the worksite can be prevented.

In one of our recent cases, we represented a construction worker who was installing roofing supports to a new structure. He was standing on a ladder extension that was made available to him by the general contractor. The ladder, although not the cause of his serious injuries, was put in place without a safety harness or other fall protection equipment that was necessary for this job. The client fell from his position to ground suffering permanent leg injuries that required surgeries and long-term rehabilitation and therapy. The fall should have been prevented if the correct fall protection equipment were in place that complied with both OSHA and ANSI safety requirements.

If you or someone you love has been injured on a worksite either in construction or in general industry where an OSHA regulation may have been violated, you may have the right to bring an injury claim. Please call Chicago injury lawyer Robert Kreisman 24 hours a day at (312) 346-0045 or toll free (800) 583-8002 for a free and immediate consultation, or fill out our contact form online.

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