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A safety meeting in a nutshell


Before you begin: Walk around the area of your business looking for fall hazards.

This training is to increase employee awareness and identification of fall hazards that are present at this facility, and to help develop a comprehensive employee fall-protection plan that complies with the standards.

Falls from elevation hazards exist in almost every workplace. Falls from elevations were the fourth leading cause of death in the workplace. From 1980 to 1994, 8,102 people were killed from falls. This accounted for 10% of all workplace fatalities, averaging 540 deaths per year. The causes of these fatalities ranged from ironworkers working 200 feet above the ground, to stock clerks pulling items off shelves using a 4-foot ladder.

Itís important to understand there are two types of falls: 1) falls from the same level, such as tripping; and 2) falls from a different level, such as falling off a platform. Fall protection must be implemented when the distance between two levels exceeds four feet.

Housekeeping is a good place to start when discussing fall protection. How many times do you walk through a work area and find obstructions in walkways? From the standpoint of preventing injuries, it's critical to keep these walkways clear. It is also the law. OSHA regulations require "all places of employment, passageways, storerooms and service rooms shall be kept clean and orderly and in a sanitary condition." This is fairly simple to accomplish. Clean up after yourself, and be aware of your work area. The regulations require aisles and passageways to be clear and in good repair, to be clearly marked and sufficiently wide for any mechanical equipment.

OSHA standards define floor holes as "an opening measuring less than 12 inches but more than 1 inch in its least dimension, in any floor, platform, pavement or yard, through which materials but not persons may fall." Floor openings are defined as "an opening measuring 12" or more in its least dimension, in any floor, platform, pavement or yard, through which persons may fall." Entrances to stairs are common floor openings. Regulations require railings on all exposed sides of the stairway opening, except at the stairway entrance. Standard railings consist of a top rail, mid rail, and posts, and have a vertical height of 42" from the upper surface of top rail to floor. The midrail should have a height of 21". Toe boards are used to prevent tools or equipment from being accidentally kicked off an edge, or through a hole. Toe boards should be 4" in height, with not more than 1/4" clearance above floor level.

In cases where floor holes are covered, you need to provide temporary guardrails or an attendant when the cover is removed. Guardrail protection is also required around open pits, tanks and vats. This protection is required to prevent employees from falling off of or through open holes or sides.

Stairs have their own set of regulations. Flights with four or more steps need standard railings or handrails. Stairs less than 44" wide and with both sides enclosed need at least one handrail, preferably on the right side descending. Stairs less than 44" wide with one open side need at least one rail, on the open side, and if both sides of a set of stairs are open, you need two handrails, one on each side. Larger width stairs have additional requirements, with some stairways needing a third rail in the center.

Ladders are another cause of falls. Poor design, improper maintenance or incorrect use can cause a ladder to fall or fail. A ladder is defined as "an appliance consisting of two side rails joined at regular intervals by crosspieces on which a person may step to ascend or descend." Portable ladders include stepladders, straight ladders and extension ladders.

It's important that you choose the correct ladder for the task you will perform. Inspect ladders before use, paying attention to missing or damaged parts. Ladders need to be correctly placed with a secure footing, or lashed or held in position. Ladders used to gain access to a roof should extend at least three feet above the point of support. Use Ladders at such a pitch that the horizontal distance from the top support to the foot of the ladder is one-quarter of the working length of the ladder. You should always face the ladder, and use both hands when climbing or descending ladders.

-- from Ohio Bureau of Workersí Compensation Safety Leaderís Discussion Guide, 2006

Reference Section:

Web sites

OSHA's Walking/Working Surfaces page:

Falls from Elevation:

Ladder Safety:


Videotapes: BWC's Division of Safety & Hygiene's video library has a number of videotapes on fall protection, housekeeping and ladders. These are available for loan to Ohio employers. Order a catalog by calling 1-800-OHIOBWC (ask for the video library), or visit our Web site,