Fall Protection

When work is performed on elevated surfaces that are six feet or more above the surrounding area in a construction setting or four feet or more in an industrial setting, protection against falls frequently must be considered. Fall arresting systems, which include lifelines, body harnesses, and other associated equipment, are often used when fall hazards cannot be controlled by railings, floors, nets, and other means. These systems are designed to stop a free fall of up to six feet while limiting the forces imposed on the wearer.  Fall protection requirements for scaffolding and ladder use can be referenced here.

A variety of systems may be chosen from when providing fall protection. These systems include:


Standard guardrails consist of a top rail, located 42 inches above the floor, and a mid-rail. Screens and mesh may be used to replace the mid-rail, so long as they extend from the top rail to the floor.

  • Top-rail must be at a height of 39 to 45 inches for construction and 42 inches for all other applications.
  • Mid-rails must be at a height of 21 inches.
  • Top-rails must be able to withstand 200 lbs. of outward or downward force.
  • Mid-rails must withstand a force of 150 lbs.
  • No steel or plastic banding is allowed to be used for a top-rail.
  • Wire rope top-rail must be flagged every 6 feet.
  • All wire rope used for perimeter protection must be at least 3/8 inch nominal diameter.
  • Manila, plastic, or synthetic rope rails must be inspected frequently.

Personal Fall Arresting Systems

Components of a personal fall arresting system include a body harness, lanyard, lifeline, connector, and an anchorage point capable of supporting at least 5000 pounds.

  • Full body harnesses must be used at all times for Fall Arrest Systems.
  • Limit maximum arresting force on a worker to 1,800 lbs. when using a body harness.
  • Fall arrest system must be rigged so a worker can neither free fall more than 6 feet (4 in CA), nor contact any lower level. Deceleration devices used must not exceed 3.5 feet.  The image below illustrates how to calculate free fall distance when using fall protection.


  • D-rings and snap hooks must have a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 lbs.
  • Full-body harnesses come with optional side, front and shoulder D-rings. The side and front D-rings are connection points used for work positioning, and the shoulder D-rings are for retrieval from confined spaces.
  • Snap hooks must be sized to be compatible with the member to which they are connected to for the prevention of rollout. Only locking-type snap hooks must be used.
  • Horizontal lifelines must be designed, installed, and used under the supervision of a qualified person as part of a complete personal fall arrest system maintaining a safety factor of at least two.
  • Lanyards and vertical lifelines must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 lbs.
  • Lifelines must be protected against being cut or abraded.

Positioning Device Systems

Positioning device systems consist of a body belt or harness rigged to allow work on a vertical surface, such as a wall, with both hands free.

Positioning Device

Safety Monitoring by a Competent Person

A Safety Montioring System allows a trained person to monitor others as they work on elevated surfaces and warn them of any fall hazards.

Warning Line Systems

Warning line systems are made up of lines or ropes installed around a work area on a roof. These act as a barrier to prevent those working on the roof from approaching its edges.


Covers are fastened over holes in the working surface to prevent falls.

  • Covers located in roadways and vehicular aisles must be capable of supporting, without failure, at least twice the maximum axle load of the largest vehicle expected to cross over the cover.
  • All other covers must be capable of supporting, without failure, at least twice the weight of workers, equipment, and materials that may be imposed.
  • All covers must be secured when installed to prevent accidental displacement by wind, equipment, or workers. A cover is not secured if it can be picked up with moderate effort.
  • All covers must be marked in paint with the words “CAUTION - HOLE - DO NOT REMOVE”.

Safety Net Systems

Safety Net Systems consist of nets installed as close as possible under the work area.

Safety Net Systems