Work At Heights Requirements And Regulations

Heights Requirements And Regulations

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work related injuries and deaths. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to prevent workers from falling from overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes in the floors or walls.

OSHA establishes fall protection standards for general industry, as well as for the shipyard employment, marine terminals, longshoring, and construction industries.

OSHA’s fall protection standard for general industry requires employers to use safe work from heights practices and warning systems to prevent work-related injuries from falls.

Why is it important to comply with the heights regulations?

Work from heights injuries are a common occupational risk at facilities. Employers can prevent falls from heights by adhering to OSHA’s work from heights regulations.

OSHA’s work from heights standards apply to any facility in general industry with heights of four feet or more, and impose additional fall protection requirements on some industry sectors.

Employers can install guardrail systems or other personal fall protection systems, adopt safe work practices, and provide work from heights training to mitigate fall risks. Implementing these procedures and safeguards can prevent life-threatening injuries from workplace falls.

Important work from heights provisions

OSHA requires employers to maintain their facilities in a manner that prevents employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated work stations or into holes.
The primary provisions of OSHA’s heights requirements can be summarized as 1) Fall Protection; 2) Ladders; 3) Facility Maintenance; and 4) Training.

Fall Protection:

The threshold height that triggers OSHA fall protection requirements for general industry facilities is four feet. Employers must use guard railing or a toe board for every floor hole that a worker may accidentally walk into and around every elevated open-sided platform, floor or runway.

Facilities that do not have work heights of at least four feet are also subject to the fall protection standard regardless of the work height if employees work over dangerous equipment and machinery. Where fall protection is not sufficient, employers may provide personal fall arrest equipment such as harnesses that reduce the chance of injury or death if the employee does fall. Other fall protection methods include safety nets, stair railings, and handrails.

OSHA requires that fall protection measures and personal fall arrest equipment be compatible with the type of work being performed. Personal fall arrest equipment is required for powered platforms, manlifts, and vehicle-mounted work platforms.


The standards differ for portable ladders versus fixed ladders. While portable ladders do not require fall protection, fixed ladders of more than 20 feet (maximum unbroken length of 30 feet) must be equipped with cages or wells. However, fixed ladders on towers, water tanks, and chimney ladders that are over 20 feet in unbroken length may be equipped with safety devices such as lifebelts, friction brakes, and sliding attachments instead of cages.

Facility Maintenance:

OSHA requires that employers keep facility floors in clean and, to the extent possible, dry condition to prevent workers from slipping and falling. Employers should keep facility areas that are subject to high traffic free from tools, materials, debris, and spilled liquids.


If a facility is subject to OSHA’s fall protection standards, the employer must train its workers on work from heights hazards and personal fall protection. Employers should also develop a written comprehensive fall protection plan and train workers on the contents of this plan.

Importance of implementing an active regulatory watch on the heights regulations

Numerous facilities are subject to OSHA’s heights regulations. The regulations provide that fall protection generally can be provided through the use of proper housekeeping, guardrails and handrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest equipment, positioning devices and warning line systems.

The standards for these fall protections, which can vary depending on whether a facility is engaged in construction or general industrial activity, are subject to revision by OSHA. In addition, a facility subject to OSHA’s heights regulations may be located in one of the 28 OSHA-designated states or territories that may impose stricter work from heights requirements than the federal standard.

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What is OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that imposes health and safety standards on employers to protect workers from occupational hazards. OSHA enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which establishes regulations to promote safe conditions in the workplace.

What is fall protection?

Fall protection is a system that is designed to protect a worker who could lose his or her balance at a height in order to minimize risk of injury from a fall.

What is a guardrail?

A guardrail is a vertical barrier that is designed to prevent employees from falling to lower levels.

What is a toeboard?

A toeboard is a barrier that is erected to prevent materials from falling to a lower level, or to keep an employee’s foot from slipping over an edge.

What is personal fall protection?

Personal fall protection is a device or system that may not prevent the employee from failing, but will prevent or minimize injury from a fall. Harnesses or lanyards are examples of personal fall equipment.

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