OSHA Adds Chapter on Fall Protection to its Technical Manual

The OSHA Technical Manual (OTM) provides information about workplace hazards and controls to OSHA’s Compliance Safety and Health Officers. The OTM is based upon currently available research, publications, OSHA Standards, and consensus standards. OSHA is adding a new chapter on fall protection to its OTM. Chapter 4, entitled “Fall Protection in Construction,” provides technical information about fall hazards and protection methods. The information is intended to help prepare OSHA compliance officers to conduct inspections and investigations.

A review of Chapter 4 indicates that OSHA addresses fall hazards in two principal ways. First, OSHA stresses preventing workers from falling by using engineering controls (e.g., guardrails, hole covers, and warnings) or restraint systems. Second, Chapter 4 discusses preventing injury during and after a fall by using personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) or safety nets and having an effective rescue plan in place.

The OTM provides measurements and equations to aid in evaluating if a PFAS will be sufficient to prevent workers from contacting a lower level. This chapter also provides information on evaluating the necessary total clearance distance for a PFAS and the swing fall hazard. A worker who falls while connected to an anchor (unless it is directly overhead) will swing back and forth like a pendulum. Workers can be seriously injured if swung into a wall or beam while anchored. The OTM indicates that installing anchorage points directly above a work area will help prevent these type of injuries.

The OTM is available to the general public from OSHA, and can be used to help develop or implement an effective workplace safety and health program.

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