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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Fall clearance is the distance between the working surface and the surface below. When considering what fall protection system to implement on your jobsite, fall clearances are very important and must be properly evaluated in order to ensure worker safety. During this evaluation, all additional obstructions, such as I-beams and jobsite equipment, should be taken into consideration.

An OSHA Competent Person has the ability to evaluate each fall protection system and best ensure that safe and necessary fall clearances are in place to guarantee the safe use of the system. An OSHA designated Competent Person would typically encounter two common fall clearance scenarios:

1.Structural Steel Erection overhead anchorage: During structural steel erection, workers should, when possible, tie-off to an overhead anchor point using a self-retracting lifeline.

Depending on the type of self-retracting lifeline, swing fall distance, and other factors, the required fall clearances will typically be less than twenty feet.

2. Rooftop horizontal lifeline: A rooftop horizontal lifeline should be used in fall restraint whenever possible.

‘Fall restraint’ means that a worker is able to approach the building edge, but their center of mass is kept far enough back that falling is not possible. Fall arrest means that a worker is allowed to free fall after which point their fall is arrested by their equipment.

In the scenario when rooftop horizontal lifelines are used in fall arrest, the required fall clearance can be very large depending on the application and, as a result, will almost always exceed twenty feet.

The OSHA Competent Person should determine the exact fall clearance requirement and consider methods to eliminate the possibility of a fall event.

These are only two examples, among a wide range of fall clearance scenarios, which can occur on the job site. If the required fall clearances for a fall protection system are not available then workers should eliminate the need to work while exposed to the fall hazard, utilize a passive system or work in fall restraint.

An example of eliminating the fall hazard would mean that a weld during structural steel erection would be performed from a man lift. Providing a passive system would mean erecting a guardrail or warning line system in lieu of horizontal lifelines during rooftop activities. Utilizing a fall restraint system might mean swapping a Self-Retracting Lifeline for a Vertical Lifeline Assembly that utilizes an adjustable rope grab for proper center of mass positioning.

If there is ever a question of whether a given application is providing adequate fall clearance, don’t hesitate to contact me at 1.800.466.6385 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.