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Construction Fall Protection, Subpart M

Quick Tips #131

The goal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970 was to adopt established federal standards issued under other statutes—including the Construction Safety Act—as occupational safety and health standards. The safety and health regulations for construction were later redesignated as 29 CFR Part 1926 on December 30, 1971. At that time, OSHA adopted several regulations pertaining to construction fall protection, many of which currently appear in subpart E, personal protective equipment, (including 1926.104—safety belts, lifelines and lanyards, and 1926.105—safety nets), and in subpart M, fall protection. These systems and standards are intended to prevent employees from falling off, onto or through working levels and to protect employees from falling objects.

The following excerpt from 29 CFR 1926 pertains to construction fall protection. While it by no means covers every area of fall protection in construction, it does summarize some of the common areas to give you a basic understanding of the requirements.

Subpart M—Fall Protection

(1926.500) Scope, application, and definitions applicable to this subpart.

(a)(1) This subpart sets forth requirements and criteria for fall protection in construction workplaces covered under 29 CFR part 1926.

(1926.501) Duty to have fall protection

(b)(1) "Unprotected sides and edges." Each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.

(b)(2) "Leading edges."

(b)(2)(i) Each employee who is constructing a leading edge 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.

(b)(2)(ii) Each employee on a walking/working surface 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above a lower level where leading edges are under construction, but who is not engaged in the leading edge work, shall be protected from falling by a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system. If a guardrail system is chosen to provide the fall protection, and a controlled access zone has already been established for leading edge work, the control line may be used in lieu of a guardrail along the edge that parallels the leading edge.

(b)(3) "Hoist areas." Each employee in a hoist area shall be protected from falling 6 feet (1.8 m) or more to lower levels by guardrail systems or personal fall arrest systems. If guardrail systems, [or chain, gate, or guardrail] or portions thereof, are removed to facilitate the hoisting operation (e.g., during landing of materials), and an employee must lean through the access opening or out over the edge of the access opening (to receive or guide equipment and materials, for example), that employee shall be protected from fall hazards by a personal fall arrest system.

(b)(4) "Holes."

(b)(4)(i) Each employee on walking/working surfaces shall be protected from falling through holes (including skylights) more than 6 feet (1.8 m) above lower levels, by personal fall arrest systems, covers, or guardrail systems erected around such holes.

(b)(4)(ii) Each employee on a walking/working surface shall be protected from tripping in or stepping into or through holes (including skylights) by covers.

(b)(4)(iii) Each employee on a walking/working surface shall be protected from objects falling through holes (including skylights) by covers.

(b)(5) "Formwork and reinforcing steel." Each employee on the face of formwork or reinforcing steel shall be protected from falling 6 feet (1.8 m) or more to lower levels by personal fall arrest systems, safety net systems, or positioning device systems.

(b)(6) "Ramps, runways, and other walkways." Each employee on ramps, runways, and other walkways shall be protected from falling 6 feet (1.8 m) or more to lower levels by guardrail systems.

(b)(7) "Excavations."

(b)(7)(i) Each employee at the edge of an excavation 6 feet (1.8 m) or more in depth shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, fences, or barricades when the excavations are not readily seen because of plant growth or other visual barrier;

(b)(7)(ii) Each employee at the edge of a well, pit, shaft, and similar excavation 6 feet (1.8 m) or more in depth shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, fences, barricades, or covers.

(b)(8) "Dangerous equipment."

(b)(8)(i) Each employee less than 6 feet (1.8 m) above dangerous equipment shall be protected from falling into or onto the dangerous equipment by guardrail systems or by equipment guards.

(b)(8)(ii) Each employee 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above dangerous equipment shall be protected from fall hazards by guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, or safety net systems.

(b)(9) "Overhand bricklaying and related work."

(b)(9)(i) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this section, each employee performing overhand bricklaying and related work 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels, shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or shall work in a controlled access zone.

(b)(9)(ii) Each employee reaching more than 10 inches (25 cm) below the level of the walking/working surface on which they are working, shall be protected from falling by a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system.

Note: Bricklaying operations performed on scaffolds are regulated by subpart L - Scaffolds of this part.

(b)(10) "Roofing work on Low-slope roofs." Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this section, each employee engaged in roofing activities on low-slope roofs, with unprotected sides and edges 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or a combination of warning line system and guardrail system, warning line system and safety net system, or warning line system and personal fall arrest system, or warning line system and safety monitoring system. Or, on roofs 50-feet (15.25 m) or less in width (see Appendix A to subpart M of this part), the use of a safety monitoring system alone [i.e. without the warning line system] is permitted.

(b)(11) "Steep roofs." Each employee on a steep roof with unprotected sides and edges 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems with toe boards, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.

(b)(12) "Precast concrete erection." Each employee engaged in the erection of precast concrete members (including, but not limited to the erection of wall panels, columns, beams, and floor and roof "tees") and related operations such as grouting of precast concrete members, who is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems, unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.

Note: There is a presumption that it is feasible and will not create a greater hazard to implement at least one of the above-listed fall protection systems. Accordingly, the employer has the burden of establishing that it is appropriate to implement a fall protection plan which complies with 1926.502(k) for a particular workplace situation, in lieu of implementing any of those systems.

(b)(13) "Residential construction." Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.

Note: There is a presumption that it is feasible and will not create a greater hazard to implement at least one of the above-listed fall protection systems. Accordingly, the employer has the burden of establishing that it is appropriate to implement a fall protection plan which complies with 1926.502(k) for a particular workplace situation, in lieu of implementing any of those systems.

(b)(14) "Wall openings." Each employee working on, at, above, or near wall openings (including those with chutes attached) where the outside bottom edge of the wall opening is 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels and the inside bottom edge of the wall opening is less than 39 inches (1.0 m) above the walking/working surface, shall be protected from falling by the use of a guardrail system, a safety net system, or a personal fall arrest system.

(b)(15) "Walking/working surfaces not otherwise addressed." Except as provided in 1926.500(a)(2) or in 1926.501 (b)(1) through (b)(14), each employee on a walking/working surface 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system.

Fall Rescue

Any fall rescue program should be as safe as possible and take as little time as possible to bring a fallen worker to safety. When a fall occurs, any number of factors can create challenges to the effective rescue of the victim. Weather conditions, physical obstacles and the condition of victim can consume time and create hindrances for rescue personnel.

Any rescue plan should be regularly reviewed to ensure that the procedures are manageable and realistic in their time estimates. Employers act in their own best interests by implementing the safest and quickest rescue plan and by practicing procedures to maximize preparation for a real emergency.

OSHA recommends these general guidelines:

  • Rescue suspended workers as quickly as possible
  • Be aware of the potentially life threatening risks of orthostatic intolerance and suspension trauma
  • Be aware of signs and symptoms of orthostatic intolerance
  • Be aware that suspended workers who are unconscious or have head injuries are particularly at risk for orthostatic intolerance
  • Be aware of the factors that can increase the risk of suspension trauma
  • Be aware that some authorities advise against moving the rescued workers to a horizontal position too quickly

For more information on the OSHA bulletin on orthostatic intolerance and rescue, please go to: www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib032404.html.

Training

The employer shall provide a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program shall enable each employee to recognize the hazards of falling and shall train each employee in the procedures to be followed in order to minimize these hazards.

The employer shall ensure that each employee has been trained, as necessary, by a competent person qualified in the following areas:

  • The nature of fall hazards in the work area
  • The correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling, and inspecting the fall protection systems to be used
  • The use and operation of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, safety net systems, warning line systems, safety monitoring systems, controlled access zones and other protection to be used
  • The role of each employee in the safety monitoring system when this system is used
  • The limitations on the use of mechanical equipment during the performance of roofing work on low-sloped roofs
  • The correct procedures for the handling and storage of equipment and materials and the erection of overhead protection
  • The role of employees in fall protection plans
  • The standards contained in this subpart

Training shall be provided for each newly hired employee, and for all other employees as necessary, to assure that the employees maintain the skill needed to perform their job safely.

OTHER CONSTRUCTION STANDARDS RELATED TO FALL PROTECTION

CFR 1926.104 Safety belts, lifelines and lanyards

 

(a) Lifelines, lanyard and safety harnesses shall only be used for employee safe guarding. Any of these products that are subject to in service loading shall be immediately removed from service and not be reused again.

(b) Lifelines shall be secured above the point of operation to an anchorage capable of supporting a minimum dead weight of 5,400 pounds.

(c) Lifelines used on rock-scaling operations, or in areas where the lifeline may be subjected to cutting or abrasion, shall be a minimum of 7/8-inch wire core manila rope. For all other lifeline applications, a minimum of 3/4-inch manila or equivalent, with a minimum breaking strength of 5,400 pounds, shall be used.

(d) Safety belt lanyards shall be a minimum 1/2" nylon rope or equivalent with a maximum length to allow the user to fall not more than 6 ft. and have a nominal breaking strength of 5,400 pounds.

 

CFR 1926.105 Safety nets

 

(a) Safety nets shall be provided when workplaces are higher than 25 feet above ground or water surfaces or other surfaces where the use of ladders, scaffolds, catch platforms, temporary floors, safety lines or safety belts is impractical.

(c)(1) Nets shall extend 8 feet beyond the edge of the work surface where employees are exposed and shall be installed as close under the work surface as practical but in no case more than 25 feet below the work surface. Nets shall be hung with sufficient clearance to prevent user's contact with the surfaces or structures below. Such clearances shall be determined by impact load testing

(d) The mesh size of nets shall not exceed 6 inches by 6 inches. All new nets shall meet accepted performance standards of 17,500 foot-pounds minimum impact resistance as determined and certified by the manufacturers, and shall bear a label of proof test. Edge ropes shall provide a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.

 

Definitions pertaining to this section:

 

(a) Lanyard means a rope, suitable for supporting one person. One end is fastened to a safety belt or harness and the other end is secured to a substantial object or a safety line.

(b) Lifeline means a rope, suitable for supporting one person, to which a lanyard or safety belt (or harness) is attached.

(c) Safety belt means a device, usually worn around the waist which, by reason of its attachment to a lanyard and lifeline or a structure, will prevent a worker from falling.

 

Commonly Asked Questions

Q.   If you are a residential roofer, you don't have to have construction fall protection, right?
A.   OSHA has withdrawn the compliance directive related to the Residential Roofing Fall Protection Exception issued in 1995. As of December 22, 2010 a new compliance directive has been established due to a high number of fall-related deaths in construction. The previous directive allowed residential builders to bypass certain fall protection requirements. Under the new policy, employers engaged in residential construction must comply with the OSHA standard 29 1926.501(b)(13) and therefore, also familiarize themselves with the term and definition of  "residential construction." The term is now interpreted as covering construction work that satisfies two elements:
  1. The end-use of the structure being built must be a home (e.g. a dwelling).
  2. The structure being built must be constructed using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods. The limited use of structural steel in a predominantly wood-framed home, such as a steel I-beam to help support wood framing, does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction.

Workers engaged in residential construction six feet or more above lower levels must be protected by conventional fall protection (i.e., guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems) or alternative fall protection measures allowed under 1926.501(b) for particular types of work. The original compliance date for the affected builders was June 16, 2011.

Sources

OSHA

29 CFR 1926.501 Subpart M

www.osha.gov/dts/shib/shib032404.html

Related Articles

Quick Tips #385 - After the Fall Event — Preventing Suspension Trauma
Quick Tips #377 - Fall Protection for Aerial Work Platforms
Quick Tips #130 - Fall Protection Equipment
Quick Tips #133 - OSHA Scaffolding Requirements

(Rev. 6/2014)


Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at www.grainger.com/quicktips.

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The content in this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific compliance questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.


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