Fall Protection Is Required At What Height?

Fall Protection Is Required At What Height

Fall Protection Is Required At What Height – Having a single height for all tasks and industries would undoubtedly facilitate enforcement, but this is not the case. OSHA’s goal is to keep people safe in most industries. However, local building codes like Cal-OSHA, contracts, and/or site policies may go beyond what the law requires.

 The Fundamentals

There are two points of entry that, when reached, necessitate fall protection. These heights, as stated by OSHA, are:

Any worker in general industry who is over 4 feet tall must wear fall protection. Construction workers over six feet tall must wear fall protection. Your employees must wear some form of protection whenever they are at or near heights equal to or greater than these in order to reduce their risk of falling from heights. Personal protective equipment such as lifelines, lanyards, and harnesses, are required if a fall safety solution like railing is not an option that is realistic.

Fall Protection Is Required At What Height

The Rule of No Minimum Height

There are some situations in which there is no minimum height requirement. Either machine guarding or fall protection must be provided to your employees whenever they are working over potentially hazardous machinery, equipment, or other hazards.

Exceptions to the Fundamentals

There are numerous exceptions to the fundamental rules, many of which are prevalent in the construction sector. Because of the dynamic nature of construction, it is more difficult to identify a fall hazard or install a permanent fall protection system. OSHA has approved exceptions to the regulations as a result. Scaffolding, steel structures, stairs, ladders, and vertical rebar assemblies are a few examples.


Fall protection on scaffolding is not required until you are more than 10 feet off the lower level, according to Subpart L of the Construction Regulations, specifically 1926.451(g)(1).

Users do not have to worry about fall protection every time they set up a single bay or level of frame scaffolding because most of them are between 6 and 10 feet tall. On top of a single bay of scaffolding, unprotected work is permitted by this exception.

Steel Erection

The construction standards’ Subpart R, Steel Erection regulations, are well-known for being lenient and difficult to understand.

Simply put, up to a height of 15 feet, participants in steel erection activities are not required to wear fall protection.

This is where the problem arises. Employees on a steel erection crew who are actively receiving and connecting steel members, known as connectors, do not need to be tied off for longer than 30 feet or two stories, whichever comes first.

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However, after 15′, they must be wearing the appropriate fall protection gear and have an approved anchor point. A connector can choose not to tie off in this situation, but they must be able to.

Reiterating the rule’s phrase “or two stories, whichever is less” is critical. If there were two stories of 12′ each, connectors may be required by law to be tied off at, say, 24′. They would not need to be tied off, though, if it was just one story at 24′.

Stairs and Ladders

Most people do not think about fall protection for stairs and ladders because stairwells are usually enclosed or already have some kind of railing installed.

In Subpart X (1926.1052(c)(12), OSHA stipulates that every stairway with four or more risers or a rise of more than 30 inches must have stair rails on each unprotected side or edge.

This is important to keep in mind because stairs, whether permanent or temporary, are frequently constructed on construction sites without the walls or railings that will eventually surround them.

The most important number to remember when using ladders is 24′. Fall protection must be provided in any circumstance in which the climb on a fixed ladder is greater than 24′ or in any circumstance in which the climb is less than 24′ but the top of the ladder is greater than 24′ above a lower level: a self-retracting lifeline or a ladder safety device.

There are three primary factors to keep in mind when purchasing an extension ladder:

  • The ladder should extend by three feet beyond the level you are currently climbing.
  • Have a rise-to-run ratio of 4:1.
  • The ladder’s base should be one foot away from the structure for every four feet the ladder rises.
  • Always maintain three points of contact with the ladder.

One hand on each leg; One leg and two hands. As a result, you will not be able to lift a bucket or other object up and down a ladder. You would have to break the three-point rule because of this. After transitioning, find a different method such as holding smaller items in a belt or pocket or pulling it up by a rope.

Climbing Vertical Rebar Assemblies

In the past, it was questioned whether workers climbing on the face of a vertical rebar assembly, such as one that would be constructed for a wall that would be poured in place, required fall protection.

OSHA addressed letters from 1994 and 1996 regarding rebar assemblies in a letter of interpretation dated May 19, 1997. OSHA believes that a vertical rebar assembly’s numerous handholds and footholds provide similar protection to that of a ladder, so fall protection is not required for employees moving up to 24 feet. The employee would be required to wear fall protection if they had to climb higher than 24 feet, just like with the ladder standard.

READ: What Is The Difference Between Fall Arrest And Fall Restraint?

Keep in mind that this exemption is only granted when moving or climbing. A positioning belt or a harness and lanyard could serve as fall protection for the worker once they reach their place of employment.

There is ultimately no one-size-fits-all solution.

When working at heights, it is essential to understand each circumstance and determine the fall protection requirements. After determining which standard applies, a safety strategy for the performed work should be developed.

With regards to falling, you can never be excessively protected.

Employers are obligated to provide fall and falling object protection to each employee. Except for personal fall protection systems, the employer must ensure that all fall protection and falling object protection that is required meet the criteria in  1910.140, unless otherwise specified.

Fall protection

Sides and edges that are not covered.

Unless otherwise specified, the employer is responsible for making certain that every worker who is working on a walking-working surface that has an unprotected side or edge that is at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) above a lower level is protected from falling by one or more of the following:

  • Systems for guardrails;
  • Systems of safety nets; or
  • systems for personal fall protection such as travel restraints, personal fall arrest, or positioning systems.


The employer is required to develop and implement a fall protection plan that satisfies the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.502(k) and training that satisfies the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.503(a) and (c) when the employer can demonstrate that using guardrail, safety net, or personal fall protection systems on residential roofs is either impossible or increases the risk.

If the employer can show that using fall protection systems on the working side of a platform used at a loading rack, loading dock, or teeming platform is impossible, the work may be done without a fall protection system as long as the following conditions are met:

  • Work is being done for which fall protection is not possible;
  • Only authorized employees have access to the platform
  • Training for authorized employees is carried out in accordance with 30.

Lifting areas

The employer must make certain:

(i) To prevent employees from falling more than 1.2 meters (four feet) to a lower level with the following:

  • A system of guardrails;
  • A system for individual fall arrest; or (C) a system of travel restraints.

(ii) A personal fall arrest system keeps an employee safe from falling when a guardrail, gate, or chain is removed and the employee must lean through or over the edge of the access opening to hoist.

(iii) The requirements of  1910.29(l) are satisfied if grab handles are installed in hoist areas.


The employer must make certain that:

(i) One or more of the following measures prevent any employee from falling through any hole that is at least 4 feet (1.2 meters) above a lower level:

  • Caps;
  • Systems for guardrails;
  • Systems for securing travel; or
  • systems for personal fall arrest.

(ii) Covers or guardrail systems prevent each employee from tripping over, stepping into, or passing through any hole that is less than 1.2 meters (four feet) above a lower level.

READ: What Is Fall Arrest System & Their Types

(iii) A fixed guardrail system on all exposed sides prevents each employee from falling into a stairway floor hole, with the exception of the stairway entrance. However, the employer may use a hinged floor hole cover that satisfies the criteria in  1910.29 and a removable guardrail system on all exposed sides, except at the entrance to the stairway, to protect employees from falling into the hole on any stairway that is used less than once per day and where traffic across the stairway floor hole prevents the use of a fixed guardrail system (such as holes located in aisle spaces).