Do you know everything you need to know about the 10 most frequently cited Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards? In this series, we’re exploring the most common OSHA violations, one by one. Keep reading to learn about OSHA’s fall protection and training standards.
OSHA Fall Protection and Training: What It Is
“Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Employers must set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations, or into holes in the floor and walls.” (Source)
Slips, trips, and falls are the #1 reason employees get hurt or killed at work. OSHA expects employers to protect workers from falls, but falls keep happening nonetheless. Organizations just aren’t doing enough to prevent falls, and workers aren’t taking the issue seriously enough.
This has been the case for practically a decade. In fact, falls are such a big deal that they occupy not one, but two spots on the most recent OSHA “Top 10” list.
OSHA’s “Fall Protection – General Requirements” standard was in the #1 spot for 2021. “Fall Protection – Training Requirements” was ranked at #7. Combined, violations of these two standards accounted for nearly 8,000 OSHA citations in 2021. That’s about 25% of all violations last year. And OSHA estimates that falls account for approximately 36% of all fatal injuries.
To protect workers from falls, employers must do things such as the following:
- eliminate any known dangers in the workplace
- keep floors as clean and dry as possible
- cover floor holes workers can fall into
- provide guardrails and toe-boards around open-sided platforms, floors, and runways
- when required, provide other means of fall protection, including safety harnesses, nets, and railings
- provide workers with personal protective equipment to at no cost to them
- train workers about fall hazards
Why OSHA Fall Protection and Training Violations Happen
Fall violations are common because dangerous and life-threatening falls have so many causes. Here are just a few:
- wet surfaces
- uneven surfaces
- inadequate lighting
- ladders that have been improperly set up
- ladders with structural defects
- crowded workspaces
- dangerous weather conditions, e.g. snow and wind
Countless falls can be attributed to human error. People use ladders incorrectly, rush around on elevated platforms, run up or down the stairs, lose sight of their footing, and so on.
Sometimes, falls are unavoidable, but they become far more dangerous than necessary—or even deadly—because fall protection precautions haven’t been taken. Maybe open holes haven’t been covered. Perhaps the employer or property owner didn’t install guardrails. Maybe it’s a case of a worker neglecting to wear a helmet, goggles, or other PPE. Or maybe a supervisor figured it would be unnecessary to have workers use personal fall protection, arrest, or restraint systems, and someone who fell was badly injured or killed as a result.
Finally, as with so many OSHA violations, one leading cause of fall protection citations is inadequate training. Every employee who could be exposed to fall hazards needs to undergo comprehensive training to identify hazards, use PPE correctly, and install fall protection systems when necessary.
What You Stand to Lose When Fall Protection or Training Violations Happen
Direct costs: OSHA penalties can exceed $15,000 per violation—and as much per day for every day the issue hasn’t been fixed by OSHA’s deadline. The fine for a willful or repeated violation can be 10 times as much.
- workers’ compensation claims from workers who have fallen and sustained injuries
- lost productivity due to injuries caused by falls
- expensed related to replacing equipment damaged or broken due to falls
- legal and compliance fees
- decreased morale
- negative publicity and reputational damage
Signs You’re at Risk of a Fall Protection or Training Violation
How to Avoid a Fall Protection or Training Violation: Your Prevention Checklist
You Don’t Have to Manage Your OSHA Requirements Alone
Have questions? Looking for more detailed OSHA compliance guidance?
KPA is here to help.
To truly protect your workforce and bottom line, you’ll need in-depth information—and not just about OSHA’s top 10, but every potential hazard that exists in your organization. You’ll also need to conduct a thorough evaluation of your facilities to identify current gaps and risk areas.
KPA’s unique combination of software, training, and consulting services can provide the coverage your people and your organization need. For more information and guidance about preventing a fall protection violation, please contact us.