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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Fall Prevention systems, such as guardrails and warning lines, are awesome tools; they are simple to understand, easy to set up, and, when fully installed, completely obstruct access to fall hazards. But there is an often overlooked secondary use for Fall Prevention systems: the establishment of a controlled access zone.

What is a controlled access zone?

According to OSHA, a controlled access zone is “an area in which certain work (e.g., overhand bricklaying) may take place without the use of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, or safety net systems, and access to the zone is controlled.

Hmmm. OSHA seems to be using a circular definition here. A controlled access zone is an area where access to the zone is controlled? Come on OSHA.

Frustration: the state or instance of being frustrated.

So let’s try and do better (and not to give OSHA too much of a hard time, because we know what they’re getting at).

A controlled access zone is an area that is inaccessible by workers, unless a worker makes a deliberate action to enter the area, they are permitted to enter the area by their fall protection plan (which is developed by a Qualified Person), and a safety monitor is present to supervise work being done in that area. And if we merge our explanation with OSHA’s allowance for work in controlled access zones to be done without the use of fall protection equipment, we now have a good definition to work from.

An easy example of a controlled access zone is a guardrail system with a gate.

The guardrail completely blocks worker access to any and all fall hazards, as well as to the controlled area, but those permitted to work in the controlled area can make a deliberate action to pass through the gate. At this point, the safety monitor begins to supervise their work.

When Can I Use Controlled Access Zones?

Rarely! (Sorry).

Before we go any further, we need to emphasize that the use of controlled access zones is only permitted for specific types of work. Namely, those jobs for which it is proven that the use of traditional fall protection equipment is infeasible. Generally speaking, these types of work are those in which a worker is tasked with constructing a leading edge, as found in certain types of steel erection, precast concrete erection, and overhand bricklaying.

In work such as overhand bricklaying, the leading edge is constantly moving as work progresses, meaning the use of guardrails is impractical. And if there is no compatible location to install an anchorage connector, then all we’re left with is the use of a safety monitor, which we know is the least preferred option in the fall protection hierarchy. It is the sole duty of the safety monitor to supervise the work being done in the controlled access zone, and to halt work if any dangerous situation arises.

Check out OSHA 1926.502(h) for a full list of safety monitor responsibilities.

While Not Ideal For Every Job, Controlled Access Zones Can Be A Necessity

With the use of guardrails, warning lines, and other types of Fall Prevention equipment, the work area can be easily cordoned off, allowing for different levels of fall protection to be used as conditions dictate.

Check out the wide variety of guardrail products and netting systems on the site to learn more about the types of Fall Prevention that might be best suited for your next job!

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