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InstituteSafety & HealthFall ProtectionGeneral Industry SafetyFall ProtectionFalling Object ProtectionFall Protection for ConstructionUSAEnglishAnalysisFocus AreaIn Depth (Level 3)
Protect workers from falling through holes and wall openings
- Employees must be protected from falling into, tripping over, or being hit by objects falling through holes.
- Employees must be protected from falling out or through wall openings.
- OSHA considers the guardrail system to be the most practical method of compliance in protecting against falls around wall openings.
Employees may be injured or killed if they step into holes, trip over holes, fall through holes, or are hit by objects falling through holes.
Employees on walking-working surfaces must be protected from:
- Falling into or through holes (including skylight openings) 6 or more feet above lower levels by covers over the hole, erecting a guardrail system around the hole, or by the use of a personal fall arrest system.
- Tripping into or stepping into or through holes (including skylights), by the use of covers.
- Being hit by objects falling through holes (including skylights) by the use of covers.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not intend that a guardrail be erected around holes while employees are working at the hole, passing materials, etc. Therefore, if the cover is removed while work is in progress, guardrails are not required because they would interfere with the performance of work. When the work has been completed, the employer will be required to either replace the cover or erect guardrails around the hole.
Case law has established that brevity of exposure to a hazard is not a defense to a failure to protect against the hazard. Where the duty under 1926.501(b)1(4) applies, it must be complied with immediately.
Employees who are exposed to the hazard of falling out or through wall openings (including those with chutes attached) must be protected from falling by the use of one the following:
- Guardrail systems
- Safety net systems
- Personal fall arrest systems
Wall openings are defined as openings 30 inches or more high and 18 inches or more wide, which have a bottom edge to lower level fall distance of six feet or more on the side away from employees, and a bottom edge to walking-working surface height of less than 39 inches on the side facing the employees.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes the most practical method of compliance is the guardrail system because it provides protection at all times and for all employees who may have exposure at the wall opening. However, OSHA recognizes that there may be cases where safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems are preferred and will also provide an appropriate level of protection.
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