OSHA’s Top 10 2021: Part IV, Fall Protection

Use the Top 10 as a guide for your workplace, it’s a good place to start if you don’t know where to start. Look at what OSHA is finding. Look at the things that are applicable to your particular industry as well.

– Patrick Kapust, Acting Director of OSHA

For the fourth and final installment of our series on the OSHA’s top 10 most cited safety violations for 2021, we will focus on the topmost cited violation Fall Protection as well as advanced safety solutions available to help mitigate and prevent fall incidents.

Those that are familiar with OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards list will not be surprised to see fall protection at the top of the list. This standard has dominated the top spot for the past 11 years and has nearly double the number of violations (5,271) as the number two spot – respiratory protection, at 2,521.

Below we will dive into the details surrounding OSHA’s general requirements for fall protection and how they can be addressed with different safety technologies and procedures.

Fall Protection

Falls are among the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. The industrial environment commonly contains many different fall hazards, introducing many opportunities for slipping, tripping, and falling. According to OSHA data, the most common violator of this standard were roofing projects.

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. In addition, OSHA requires that fall protection be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

Many falls result in tragic outcomes in addition to costing businesses a substantial amount of money and causing extensive damage to credibility. Without the proper fall prevention systems and procedures in place, organizations are unable to prevent employees from falling from overhead platforms, elevated workstations, or uneven surfaces.

Protecting Workers

Generally, fall protection can be provided by using guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems – these are referred to as “conventional” fall protection.

In addition to these more conventional means of protection, organizations are now able to provide an added layer of protection through advanced technologies such as:

  • Fall Detection
  • Automated Alerts
  • IIoT Wearables and Sensors
  • Control Access Zoning

Each of these technologies provides an additional defensive layer, bolstering and improving both worker and organizational ability to predict, react, and prevent fall incidents and injuries. Digital geofences can provide control over access to unsafe zones, sensor technology can give real-time information on worker condition and location, and SOS and emergency alerts can notify the appropriate individuals quickly when speed is essential.

Covid-19 Impact

The pandemic has brought workplace safety into focus more than ever. OSHA reported that compared to a similar period in 2019, OSHA received 15 percent more complaints in 2020, but performed 50 percent fewer inspections. Operational changes and remote inspections have resulted in an overall lower number of violations in 2021 approximately 21,092 – the lowest in nearly half a decade. But this lower number does not mean that workplaces were safer, only that the lower number of inspections has led to fewer violations being reported.


About Guardhat

Guardhat is pioneering end-to-end connected worker safety solutions for industrial workers. We offer cutting-edge, wearable technology; a proprietary connected worker platform – unrivaled in its ability to ingest, manage and analyze unstructured data; easy-to-deploy monitoring and reporting software; and a growing system of partner integrations.

Guardhat enables companies to monitor worker location, health, and work environment to shorten reaction time and help proactively solve safety challenges. We hold 15 patents in real-time location systems, wearable solution design, and connected worker software. If you are interested in our connected safety solutions – including situational awareness, environmental and biometric monitoring, multi-modal communication, RTLS, Covid-19, and other advanced technology solutions – contact us to arrange a demo.


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