eTools Home: Scaffolding FAQ | Standards | Glossary | Credits
Scaffolding eTool Scaffolding Search
  Fall Protection
Fall Protection
The number one scaffold hazard is worker falls. Fall protection consists of either personal fall-arrest systems or guardrail systems, and must be provided on any scaffold 10 feet or more above a lower level. Specific requirements are described below. Note: Except where indicated, these requirements also apply to manually propelled, pump jack, ladder jack, tube and coupler, and pole scaffolds, as well as the specialty scaffolds described in the Supported Scaffolds module.
General
  • Each employee on a scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level must be protected from falling to that lower level. [1926.451(g)(1)]

  • Fall protection consists of either personal fall arrest systems or guardrail systems meeting OSHA requirements. [1926.451(g)(1)(vii)]

  • Employees performing overhand bricklaying operations from a supported scaffold must be protected from falling from all open sides and ends of the scaffold, except at the side next to the wall being laid. [1926.451(g)(1)(vi)]

Fall-Arrest Systems
  • In addition to meeting the requirements of 1926.502(d), personal fall-arrest systems used on scaffolds are to be attached by lanyard to a vertical lifeline, horizontal lifeline, or scaffold structural member.[1926.451(g)(3)]
  • When vertical lifelines are used, they must be fastened to a fixed safe point of anchorage, independent of the scaffold, and be protected from sharp edges and abrasion. Safe points of anchorage include structural members of buildings, but not  standpipes, vents, electrical conduit, etc., which may give way under the force of a fall. [1926.451(g)(3)(i)]

  • It is dangerous and therefore impermissible for two or more vertical lifelines to be attached to each other, or to the same point of anchorage. [1926.451(g)(3)(iv)]

  • When horizontal lifelines are used, they are to be secured to two or more structural members of the scaffold. [1926.451(g)(3)(ii)]
Figure 1. An example of a lanyard attached to a vertical lifeline. Note that the worker is wearing a safety belt, whereas the new standard requires a full body harness.

Figure 1.
An example of a lanyard attached to a vertical lifeline. Note that the worker is wearing a safety belt, whereas the new standard requires a full body harness.



Guardrail Systems
  • Guardrail systems must be installed along all open sides and ends of platforms, and must be in place before the scaffold is released for use by employees other than erection/dismantling crews. [1926.451(g)(4)(i)]

  • Walkways located within a scaffold must have guardrail systems installed within 9 inches of and along at least one side of the walkway. [1926.451(g)(1)(v)

  • Each toprail or equivalent member of a guardrail system must be able to withstand a force of at least  200 pounds applied in any downward or horizontal direction, at any point along its top edge. [1926.451(g)(4)(vii)]

    • The top edge height of toprails on supported scaffolds must be between 36 inches  and 45 inches.

    • When conditions warrant, the height of the top edge may exceed the 45-inch height, provided the guardrail system meets all other criteria. (Note: The minimum top edge height on scaffolds manufactured or placed in service after January 1, 2000 is 38 inches). [1926.451(g)(4)(ii)]
  • Midrails, screens, mesh, intermediate vertical members, solid panels, etc., must be able to withstand a force of at least 150 pounds applied in any downward or horizontal direction, at any point along the midrail or other member. [1926.451(g)(4)(ix)]

    • When midrails are used, they must be installed at a height approximately midway between the top edge of the guardrail system and the platform surface. [1926.451(g)(4)(iv)]

    • When screens and mesh are used, they must extend from the top edge of the guardrail system to the scaffold platform, and along the entire opening between the supports. [1926.451(g)(4)(v)]

    • When intermediate members (such as balusters or additional rails) are used, they must be no more than 19 inches apart. [1926.451(g)(4)(vi)]
  • Guardrails must be surfaced to prevent punctures or lacerations to employees and to prevent snagging of clothing, which may cause employees to lose their balance. [1926.451(g)(4)(xi)]

  • Ends of rails may not extend beyond their terminal posts, unless they do not constitute a projection hazard to employees. [1926.451(g)(4)(xii)]

  • In lieu of guardrails, crossbracing may serve as a toprail or midrail, providing the crossing point is:

    • Between 20 and 30 inches above the work platform for a midrail, or

    • Between 38 and 48 inches above the work platform for a toprail. [1926.451(g)(4)(xv)]
  • For other scaffolding guardrail requirements, see [1926.451(g)(4)].
Figure 2. Obvious violation: No guardrail and no fall-arrest system. Also, because scaffold is six tiers high it must be tied to the building. [1926.45(c)(1)]

Figure 2.
Obvious violation: No guardrail and no fall-arrest system. Also, because scaffold is six tiers high, it must be tied in to the building. [1926.45(c)(1)]


Figure 3.  Violation: Scaffold has X-brace at a height that should be verified as meeting the requirements to act as a top rail, 1926.451(g)(4)(xv) and a midrail and toe boards are still required as these workers are not wearing fall protection. There is a mortarboard on the cantilevered platform, in possible violation of 1926.452(c)(5)(iii).

Figure 3.
Violation: Scaffold has X-brace at a height that should be verified as meeting the requirements to act as a top rail, 1926.451(g)(4)(xv) and a midrail and toe boards are still required as these workers are not wearing fall protection. There is a mortarboard on the cantilevered platform, in possible violation of 1926.452(c)(5)(iii).




Erectors and Dismantlers
  • Employers are required to provide fall protection for employees erecting or dismantling supported scaffolds where it is feasible, and where installing and using it does not create a greater hazard. [1926.451(g)(2)]


Competent Person
  • The employer must designate a competent person, who would be responsible for determining the feasibility and safety of providing fall protection for employees erecting or dismantling supported scaffolds. [1926.451(g)(2)]
 
 
eTools Home: Scaffolding FAQ | Standards | Glossary | Credits