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September 28, 2020
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The Hierarchy of Fall Protection

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workers be protected from falling 4 feet or more in general industry and 6 feet or more in the construction industry.

There are several strategies used to address fall hazards. These strategies make up what is referred to as the “hierarchy of fall protection.”

The strategies at the top of the hierarchy are more effective than those at the bottom.

Each step down the hierarchy is a less favorable means to address fall hazards.

  • Elimination or substitution involves considering ways to avoid exposing workers to a fall hazard. For example, identify a way to perform the task without physically accessing the area.

  • Passive fall protection involves physical barriers, such as a guardrail that prevents workers from getting to close to the unprotected side and edge of a floor, work platform, or roof, often referred to as the leading edge.

  • Fall restraint is a tie-off system that restrains a worker from falling off an elevated working surface.

  • Fall arrest is used to arrest or stop an employee from falling to a lower level.


Source: Joe Mlynek is president of Progressive Safety Services LLC, Gates Mills, OH:, and content creation expert for Safety Made Simple, Inc., Olathe, KS;



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