Fall Protection Safety Standard Cited in 6,010 OSHA Violations

Nancy Grover

San Diego, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) – Fall protection once again tops the list for OSHA’s most cited violations. Eye and face protection was number 10, a newcomer to the list as of last year.

OSHA announced the preliminary Top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2019 during the National Safety Council’s 2019 Congress and Expo. “While the rankings for OSHA’s Top 10 most cited violations typically vary little from year to year, it is important to refresh on this critical information,” the NSC said in a news release.

In addition to the more than 6,000 citations issued for fall protection and 1,411 for eye and face protection, other most cited violations were:

Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 3,671
Scaffolding (1926.451) – 2,813
Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) – 2,606
Respiratory Protection (1910.134) – 2,450
Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,345
Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,093
Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503) – 1,773
Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 1,743

“The OSHA Top 10 list is a helpful guide for understanding just how adept America’s businesses are in complying with the basic rules of workplace safety,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “This list should serve as a challenge for us to do better as a nation and expect more from employers. It should also serve as a catalyst for individual employees to re-commit to safety.”

Preventing Falls

The number of fall protection violations has dropped in the last year, from 7,270 in 2018 to just over 6,000 in 2019. However, falls continue to be among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths, in addition to accounting for the most OSHA violations. The fact that ‘Fall Protection – Training Requirements’ was number 8 on the list also shows that employers are still not doing enough to protect their workers.

“OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in the construction industry and eight feet in longshoring operations,” the agency notes on its Fall Protection webpage. “In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.”

OSHA requires employers to take the following measures to prevent fall-related injuries:
Guard every floor hole into which a worker can accidentally walk, using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover.
Provide a guard rail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor or runway.
Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment, such as a vat of acid or a conveyor belt, employers must provide guardrails and toe-boards to prevent workers from falling and getting injured.
Provide other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs, such as safety harnesses and lines, safety nets, stair railings and hand rails.

The webpage provides a variety of resources to protect workers from falls in many industries. For example, the Fall Protection in Construction booklet addresses the kinds of fall protection employers should use.

“Generally, fall protection can be provided through the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. OSHA refers to these systems as conventional fall protection,” the booklet says. “Other systems and methods of fall protection may be used when performing certain activities. For example, when working on formwork, a positioning device system could be used. OSHA encourages employers to select systems that prevent falls of any kind, such as guardrails designed to keep workers from falling over the edge of a building.”

Workers exposed to fall risks must be included in a training program to recognize fall hazards and how to minimize them. “The employer must assure that each worker has been trained as necessary, by a competent person …” Also, “employers must verify worker training by preparing a written certification record. The record must contain the name or other identity of the worker trained, the dates of the training, and the signature of either the person who conducted the training or the employer. When an employer has reason to believe that an affected worker does not recognize existing fall hazards at some point after the initial training, the employer is required to provide retraining for that worker.”

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