As spring arrives with a new construction season, it’s a good time discuss fall protection, which has remained OSHA’S number one employer violations for a long time.  With fall protection comes some of the most serious injuries for employees who have to work from heights.  Studies have shown that an employer’s failure to provide employees with proper fall protection stems greatly from a lack of planning. Employers are required to develop a safe, compliant method of fall protection, purchase the equipment, train their workers, and implement safety plans properly.  In some instances, workers have safety equipment available and want to do the right thing, but they aren’t trained in the proper safety practices that comply with OSHA and, most importantly, protect them from serious injury on the jobsite.

In January 2017, OSHA issued new regulations on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems (29 CFR 1910 Subparts D&I).  What is a safe distance to an unprotected roof edge? The new regulation states that work at less than 6 feet from the roof edge requires conventional means of fall protection (guardrail, lanyards, etc.). From 6-15 feet, the new regulation allows for a designated area for infrequent or temporary work, which are further defined in the commentary section of the rule. Similar to the construction regulations, a warning line is also required at 6 feet to serve as a warning that a worker is nearing an unprotected edge. For work more than 15 feet from a roof edge, the new regulation states that the employer is not required to provide any fall protection, provided the work is both infrequent and temporary.

One of the most significant requirements provided in the new regulations is the need for the assessment of fall hazards. The new regulations now require workplace assessment, so employers must do the following to avoid non-compliance:

  • Determine whether hazards are present and, when present, communicate to employees, select types of PPE to protect employees, and ensure proper fit of equipment.
  • Coordinate with other entities to assess hazards for multi-employer sites.
  • Document the completion of assessments, including what workplaces were evaluated, who certifies that an evaluation was performed, and the date of the assessment.

If you work in the construction industry or if you are exposed to any fall risks in your job, please familiarize yourself with the appropriate OSHA safety regulations to protect yourself from serious harm.  If you have been injured on the job or on a construction site, or if you have any questions about proper safety on your jobsite, please call us at O’Brien Law.  Dan O’Brien has been handling construction injury cases in Kane County and the Chicago area for over 25 years.