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Fall Protection Information

Fall hazard sign: Danger, fall hazard. Unprotected roof edge. Do not Enter.Falls remain a killer of workers in the construction industry and workers in private industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 12 percent of fatal work injuries involved falls.

Falls from ladders and roofs still account for the majority of falls. Identifying fall hazards and deciding how best to protect workers is the first step in reducing or eliminating fall hazards.

Studies have shown that the use of guardrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers and travel restriction systems can prevent many deaths and injuries from falls. (Source: OSHA.)

Identifying Fall Risks

All fall hazards should be identified at work sites with the potential for elevated work.

Once an elevated fall hazard has been recognized, an appropriate control measure must be selected. Priority should be given to elimination of the fall hazard over the use of fall protection equipment.

The first line of defense in addressing a fall hazard is to identify and eliminate the hazard. If a fall hazard cannot be eliminated, the second consideration would be to assess the workplace and process and implement an effective permanent means of providing fall protection. If a fall hazard cannot be eliminated and changes to the workplace cannot adequately ensure the prevention of falls, the last line of defense should be to control the fall.

Any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected. Fall protection must be provided at four feet in general industry, five feet in maritime and six feet in construction. However, regardless of the fall distance, fall protection must be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery. Fall protection must be provided on roofs without 42" high parapet walls or railings. Workers must use fall protection where required. Supervisors are jointly responsible for ensuring worker's safety.

Examples of some areas requiring fall protection equipment:

Photo of two men on a scissors lift wearing proper fall protection equipmentPhoto of a man on a rooftop wearing proper fall protection equipmentPhoto of a man in a safety vest and fall protection harness

Types of Fall Protection Systems

There are two types of fall protection systems: "active" and passive".

Passive Fall Protection Systems Include:

Active Fall Protection Systems Include:

  • Aerial Lifts and Platforms
  • Guardrails
  • Safety Nets
  • Safety Monitors
  • Barricades
  • Life lines
  • Work positioning
  • Personal Fall Arrest Equipment

Components of a "Personal Fall Arrest System"

Photo of a man wearing an orange safety vest, fall harness and lifeline.A personal fall arrest systems consists of the following:

  • Full-body harness
  • Lanyard
  • Lifeline
  • Snaphooks

A full-body harness consists of nylon and/or polyester straps that encompass the chest, chest and waist or full body. In the event of a fall, a full body harness distributes the fall arrest force over the pelvis, thighs, waist and shoulders.

Front and back photo of a safety harness. Shows how a harness should be worn.The attachment of the body harness must be located in the center of the wearer's back, near the shoulder level, or above the head.

* OSHA Standard: 1926.502(d)(17)

Fall Safety—Theatre

Guardrail Systems in Theatre Catwalks

Many theatre catwalks, like we have at UWO, do not have a standard railing system (e.g., toeboard, midrail, standard rail); rather, many just have a top rail and perhaps a toeboard.

Photo of two actors in a theatrical performance using a lift.The new 2002 Wisconsin Enrolled Commercial Building Code, Chapter 10 (Means of Egress) addresses the issue. Section 1003.2.12 does offer exceptions to the standard rail system for theatre occupancies:

Specifically, 1003.2.12:

Exception: Guards are not required for the following locations: #5: At elevated walking surfaces appurtenant to stages and platforms for access to and utilization of special lighting or equipment.

Although the building code provides an exception, from a safety perspective, fall protection methods must still be utilized.

Students and workers must follow good work practices including:

  • Ensuring the catwalk is structurally sound and capable of supporting its design loading.
  • Inspecting the catwalk routinely including all welds and bracing members.
  • Being aware of the hazards of catwalks, especially in the presence of corrosive materials.
  • Observing catwalk conditions and reporting any defects immediately.


Photo of a man adjusting a lamp without a midrail.Photo of a man showing the improper way to change a lamp with no midrail.

This photo shows the correct method for adjusting a lamp where there's no midrail protection. 

In this photo the worker could easily lose his balance and fall when reaching to adjust the lamp.


Contact Information About Fall Protection at UWO:

Campus Safety Coordinator: Lori Welch, or (920) 424-0985.

Fall Protection Resources:

  • Sample Fall Protection Program

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