Fall Protection Guidelines

Fall Protection Guidelines

The purpose of these guidelines is to keep workers from falling six feet or more from an elevation, and to prevent tools and equipment from falling on those working at lower levels.  Areas that require fall protection include ramps, runways, walkways, excavations, hoist areas, holes and unprotected sides and edges.

A thorough fall protection safety program determines whether surfaces for walking or working have the strength and structural integrity to support workers, and whether or not fall protection is needed or required.  If it is required, the fall protection system selected should be appropriate for the work environment, and should be properly constructed and installed. Employees should be supervised carefully and safe work procedures must be provided and followed.

The following are fall protection options, depending on the type of work being performed:

  1. Controlled access zones
  2. Safety nets
  3. Guardrails
  4. Personal fall arrest systems
  5. Warning lines
  6. Positioning device systems

When a worker is exposed to falls of six feet or more from an unprotected side or edge, they should be protected with a guardrail system, safety net system, personal fall arrest system or a combination of these.

The following are some of the requirements of these systems:


  1. Should be able to withstand force of at least 200 pounds.
  2. Should be constructed of materials that will not puncture skin or snag clothing.
  3. Should not use steel or plastic bands for top or middle rails.
  4. Mid-rails and screens, where there is no wall, should be at least 21 inches high.

Safety Nets

  1. Should have a strong rope border with mesh openings smaller than 36 inches square or six inches per side.
  2. Should be strength certified or tested by dropping a 400-lb. sandbag with a 30-in. diameter.
  3. Should be inspected weekly for wear, damage or deterioration.
  4. Should be removed from use if not in top condition.

Personal Fall Protection

  1. Body harnesses should be connected to a fixed anchor with a lanyard, lifeline or deceleration device.
  2. Anchors for body harnesses should support at least 5,000 pounds per attached worker.
  3. Body harnesses must not be connected to platform supports, suspension points, guardrails or hoists.
  4. Positioning devices should be used on elevated vertical surface work.
  5. Fall arrest devices should never be used to hoist materials.
  6. Fall arrest devices must have self-locking, self-closing connectors.
  7. Fall arrest devices should be used only when a rescue system is in place.
  8. Body belts are no longer permitted as part of a fall arrest system.

When the lives of workers are at stake, a comprehensive fall protection-training program is essential. Employees should receive a review all aspects of fall protection systems currently in place, including the roles played by the workers involved.  Workers should be trained to recognize and minimize fall hazards, to select, use and maintain fall protection systems properly, review procedures handling and storing of fall protection equipment, and the erection of overhead protection.

Training should be documented with written, signed certification for each employee trained, and retraining should be provided if necessary.