The Guardian Fall Team Blog

The first step in any fall protection plan for a worksite is identifying the potential fall hazards. Safety equipment is important, but failure to identify potential fall hazards is not only an OSHA violation that could cost the company thousands, it also makes the worksite more dangerous and can cost lives.

It’s fairly simple to identify the edges of an elevated workspace, but that is just the beginning of identifying fall hazards. Below are five common potential fall hazards to keep in mind.

1. Holes

OSHA defines a hole as “a gap or void two inches (5.1 cm) or more in its least dimension, in a floor, roof, or other walking/working surface” . This means you’re not just looking out for areas where a body could fall, but also any area where a worker could accidentally step into causing them to fall. It’s important to keep in mind that such holes may occur in during the course of the work being done and that they should be dealt with whenever they are created.

2. Skylights

Did you know that OSHA considers skylights to be the equivalent of a hole in the roof? It’s easy to overlook skylights and think they’re, safe, but OSHA standard 1910.23(a)(4) says, “Every skylight floor opening and hole shall be guarded by a standard skylight screen or a fixed standard railing on all exposed sides.”

3. Platforms

The edges may be guarded against. The holes may be covered. But what about raised platforms? Many raised platforms have guardrails built into them. Others though, require other forms of fall protection. Remember, if a worker is working at a height of more than six feet, OSHA requires they where personal fall protection.

4. Sharp Edges

Another thing to keep in mind in the worksite is the presence of any sharp edges. In many cases, these edges can negate the fall protection your using by cutting otherwise secure lifelines. A sharp edge doesn’t have to cut the line entirely to make it unsafe. Just a tiny cut might weaken the structure of the lifeline. In the end, you have to ask, would you want your life tied off to something with any cuts in it?

5. Debris

You’ve got your holes and skylights guarded or covered. You’ve got your raised platforms taken care of and you’ve accounted for any sharp edges. What else is there? Just about any work you’re doing is going to involve debris of some sort. Each piece of debris has the chance of falling to lower levels. This is where toe boards come in. According to OSHA 1926.502(j)(3) a toe board must ‘be a minimum of 3 ½ inch (9 cm) in vertical height from their top edge to the level of the walking/working surface. They shall have not more than ¼ inch (0.6 cm) clearance above the walking/working surface.”

There are other potential fall hazards. Each worksite has its own unique challenges, but keep these tips in mind when planning your fall protection for a new project.