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5 of the Biggest Myths About Fall Protection

5 of the Biggest Myths About Fall Protection

In the field we specialize in, safety regulations are in a constant state of flux. This dynamic environment poses a challenge for employers who must stay up-to-date with the latest updates in fall safety regulations. Aside from the updates set forth by OSHA, the construction industry and active fall protection technologies also undergo continuous advancements that need to be grasped. With the abundance of information, staying current can be a daunting task. This underscores the importance of periodically discerning fact from fiction when reviewing your safety protocol.

Surprisingly, a number of myths have been circulating within the construction and manufacturing sectors concerning active fall protection. Regrettably, even with good intentions, these misconceptions can lead to a misguided sense of security, ultimately misleading both workers and their employers. Don't let your team be misguided by obsolete or misconstrued information—take a step towards refining your fall safety knowledge by exploring these 5 prevalent misunderstandings today.


Misconception #1: The 6-Foot Rule

    A common misinterpretation in the construction industry revolves around the "6-Foot Rule." This unfounded notion pertains to work carried out on a level surface near an unprotected edge where the potential for falling to a lower level exists. The misconception is that maintaining a 6-foot distance between the worker and the edge is adequate to work without requiring fall protection. OSHA clarifies that there is no fixed safe distance from an exposed side or edge that would render fall protection unnecessary.

    In fact, OSHA 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M mandates fall protection usage in construction when working at heights of 6 feet or more above a lower level. When working in proximity to hazardous machinery, Subpart M applies irrespective of the height. This means that working near machinery with exposed drive components, pulleys, or gears, as well as over open containers of corrosive agents or acids, demands fall protection regardless of elevation or distance from the machinery.


    Misconception #2: Severe Injuries Only Result from High Elevation Falls

    The reality is that workers might not always be enthusiastic about donning personal protective equipment (PPE) while working at lower heights. The rationale behind not wearing PPE for low heights stems from the perception that safety harnesses and lanyards are cumbersome, time-consuming to put on, and not worth the trouble for minor heights.

    Yet, consider how swiftly a fall can occur due to something as simple as a slip or stumble. Even a short fall to the ground from a height equivalent to your own can generate enough force to cause injury. This is exactly why OSHA mandates the provision of fall protection equipment for work at low heights across various sectors.

    • 4 feet for General Industry Workplaces
    • 5 feet for Shipyard Workplaces
    • 6 feet for the Construction Industry
    • 8 feet for the Longshoring Industry

    Wearing PPE while operating at lower heights can either prevent a fall or arrest it, thus minimizing the potential for injury. Nevertheless, active fall protection equipment like employer-supplied safety harnesses, safety lanyards, and safety lifelines only prove effective when used correctly.


    Misconception #3: Active Fall Protection is Dispensable Due to a Parapet

    Parapet's are typically a protective barrier along the edge of a rooftop, and can indeed function as perimeter fall protection, provided it adheres to OSHA's specifications. OSHA deems a parapet comparable to a guardrail system and mandates its height to be 42 inches (1.1 m) plus or minus 3 inches (8 cm) above the walking/working level.

    Unfortunately, numerous parapets fall short of this requirement and/or fail to encircle the entire rooftop, leaving exposed hazardous leading edges. In such scenarios, additional protection in the form of a parapet guardrail becomes necessary.


    Misconception #4: One-time Training or Online Courses Suffice

    Employers and workers alike tend to believe that a single training session is adequate when it comes to employing a harness and lanyard. However, that's not the case. A solitary training session or online course might not address queries that arise along the way. Repeated hands-on training not only tackles these queries but also ensures that your staff is well-versed in selecting, using, and inspecting their active fall protection equipment—comprising safety harness lanyards and body harnesses. Furthermore, when actions become habitual, workers are more likely to consistently wear safety harnesses.

    Take into account, OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.503 mandates employers to provide comprehensive training for each worker susceptible to fall hazards. These training sessions should enable workers to identify fall hazards and demonstrate methods to mitigate them. As previously noted, appropriate usage, inspection, and storage of fall protection equipment must also feature in all training programs. Even workers not expected to don safety harnesses but involved in the installation process should partake in these sessions.

    Fall protection training must be updated and offered whenever workplace conditions change—due to new equipment, procedures, or incoming personnel.


    Misconception #5: Fall Protection Equipment's Service Life Extends to 5 Years

    For eight years, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) construction standard A10.32 included a guideline stipulating a five-year service life for fall protection equipment used in construction. In 2012, the A10.32 standard underwent revisions that eliminated the five-year service life guideline. Equipment service life is now to be determined by manufacturers and routine visual inspections.

    OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.1400(c)(18) specifies that PPE must be inspected before initial use and at the beginning of each work shift to identify mildew, excessive wear, damage, or other signs of deterioration. Any doubtful or damaged PPE must be taken out of service. If the PPE or any of its components—like the harness and lanyard—have undergone impact loading, the system must be promptly withdrawn from service until a competent individual examines it and confirms its usability.


    In a place where safety is extremely important, knowledge is your most powerful tool. These debunked myths shed light on crucial misconceptions surrounding active fall protection. By dispelling these myths, you're equipping yourself and your team with the accurate understanding needed to enhance workplace safety!



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