Workplace Training: Fall Protection

Businessman presenting work safety concept, hazards, protections, health and regulations

Scott Skelton, CIH
Senior Industrial Hygienist

In the midst of operations, a ladder is placed in an unsafe position and a floor hole is left uncovered. Next thing you know, an employee slips, trips or falls and gets seriously injured or, even worse, dies. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 4,800 workers were killed on the job in 2015. The vast majority of these deaths were caused by falls. So, how can we protect employees from falling in the workplace? CTEH’s Scott Skelton, CIH is answering some of the most FAQs:

Where do falls most commonly occur?
Falls can happen anywhere, but they most often occur on slippery, cluttered or unstable walking or working surfaces (e.g., unanchored mats, loose floor tiles). They also tend to happen when workspaces have unprotected edges, floor holes, wall openings or improper ladder usage. As OSHA notes, these fall hazards can be even worse under certain environmental conditions. For example, employees may be more likely to trip and fall if there’s poor lighting or incorrect signage on raised platforms. The most important thing to remember is falls are preventable!

When should fall protection measures be implemented?
It depends on the industry. Under OSHA requirements, fall protection is required at heights of four feet for “general industry workplaces,” five feet for shipyards, six feet for construction and eight feet for longshoring (i.e., unloading or loading ships). Fall protection is always required for employees who are work above dangerous equipment or machinery.

What methods should employers use to prevent falls?
First, employers should train workers about all potential job hazards, including slips, trips and falls. They should install railings, toe-boards or covers on or over holes and elevated open-sided platforms, floors and runways. They should also use guardrails or toe-boards to protect employees from unsafe equipment or machinery. Employers should implement processes to prevent falls including marking step edges or changes in elevation; installing proper lighting; ensuring safe clearance from mechanical equipment; and keeping aisles and passageways clear. Depending on the situation, employers may also consider providing workers with safety harnesses and lines; safety nets; scaffolds; personal protective equipment or other safety gear.

Does your business have questions about how to properly develop and implement fall protection for floor openings, aisles, wall openings or other workspaces? Contact CTEH’s industrial hygiene team at 501-801-8500 or email

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