Fall Protection Systems, OSHA and Architects

By Miles Wiseman posted 02-06-2019 10:44


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been working to promote safe work environments for over 40 years. The administration has been helped by the fire service for years, who has been responsible for creating and revising building and fire codes.

OSHA, on the other hand, works to develop standards and regulations for safe working conditions that would fall outside of building codes.

The safety of employees is what OSHA is responsible for, and there is one industry that has more injuries than all others: construction. Construction injuries are the most common and deadly, and falls alone contribute to 39.2% of deaths in the industry.

OSHA names these as the “fatal four”:

  1. Falls

  2. Struck by object

  3. Electrocutions

  4. Caught-in-between

Out of 971 total deaths in the construction industry in 2017, 381 were related to falls.

OSHA’s 1926 Subpart M is what covers fall protection. Protections are also available to those that are working in buildings that are not under construction. The law states that no worker will be subjected to a potential fall of more than 6 feet without some form of protection.

If the worker is working at 10 feet or higher, a scaffold will be required.

PFAS Systems

Personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) are incorporated into many job sites. PFAS include a deceleration device, retractable lifeline and a lanyard that offers shock-absorbing power. The PFAS system must be attached to a structure that is able to support 5,000 dynamic pounds.

These systems are used primarily when other systems cannot be used, and this is often on exposed structural steel.

Open-sided roofs are another time when PFAS will be deployed because there is no other form of protection for the worker.

Architects come into the equation when designing the building. Permanent anchor points can be incorporated into the building, and these points are meant to be used to meet the 5,000-pound requirement. The points are often placed on the roof, in the center or along the building’s ridges.

These permanent anchors can remain on the roof, and they will be used by roofers, installers, inspectors and anyone else that may need to traverse the roof safely.

Oftentimes, these anchors are not required unless the owner requires it. Contractors are often responsible for the fall protection and will remove all of the protections at the time of the project’s completion.

Large-scale buildings and even smaller buildings, where the project’s owner requires it, can have anchors installed to reduce the risk of falls.

Contractors often create their own fall protection methods, and these methods may include relying on a basic piece of lumber to prevent a fall. Much less effective and risky, fire services are starting to recommend that engineers and architects begin to incorporate permanent fall protection into their building’s design.

The anchors are far safer than other solutions, and they work best when scaffolding and other safety precautions cannot be taken.

If, or when, fall protection anchors become vital parts of a new building’s design, it will lower the risk of falls, potentially saving hundreds of lives annually.

1 comment


Who is responsible for the deign of the fall protection system?