4.9 Fall Protection

Safety, Health, and Environmental Manual

These guidelines provide general requirements for establishing a fall-protection program in compliance with Church standards or best practices. Implement local codes if they are more stringent. Managers, supervisors, and employees are responsible to review and comply with these guidelines.

These guidelines apply to employees working or walking on surfaces that are four feet or more above the next lowest level without fall protection.

4.9.1 Fall Hazard Assessment and Controls

Managers or supervisors should perform and document a Fall Hazard Assessment (see chapter 7, “Forms”) for all potential fall exposures associated with the work location. Specific hazard-control measures should be identified, documented, and implemented for each fall hazard. Fall hazard controls may include any of the following (listed in order of effectiveness):

  1. Reducing or eliminating exposures to falls. Try to eliminate the need for employees to perform elevated work. If management is unable to eliminate the fall hazard with permanent engineering controls, then other measures should be considered to minimize this risk. Some of these measures may include:

    • Installing and using remote monitoring systems (cameras, gas detectors, pressure sensors, leak detectors, wireless meter readers, and so on) to obtain information about elevated areas and equipment.

    • Selecting equipment and lighting that have a long service life and require minimal maintenance. This will help reduce the number of times employees or contractors need to access the equipment for maintenance or repair.

    • Designing, installing, or replacing light fixtures that are easy to service and provide safe access for maintenance. Examples include installing fixtures that allow workers to change lights from above, use a pole, or lower the light fixture by hoist.

  2. Engineering and passive fall controls. Barriers such as guardrails can be important tools to eliminate exposures to falls. You can make out-of-reach areas or equipment that needs to be serviced safe to access by installing catwalks surrounded by guardrails.

  3. Administrative controls. Administrative controls may include limiting the frequency of access, limiting the number of people authorized to access heights, and making plans that will anticipate hazards and keep people safe when working at heights. Place roof-edge warning lines at safe distances from the edges (between 6 and 15 feet, as defined below under section 4.9.4, “Roof-Edge Requirements”) to clearly indicate to workers the designated work area. Provide authorized employees with appropriate training on using the control measures to minimize the likelihood of a fall. Consider making sure that no one is working alone near fall hazards. Also consider having one person serve as a monitor to ensure the other person remains at least 15 feet from the edge.

  4. Fall-restraint and fall-arrest systems. Fall-restraint and fall-arrest systems either help workers keep a safe distance from the edge or slow them down and arrest their bodies should they fall from a height. More information about these systems can be found below. It is important that these systems are used 100 percent of the time to prevent or control a fall.

4.9.2 Definitions

Anchor or Anchorage Points

The position on the independent structure that a fall-arrest device or lanyard is securely attached to. The minimum requirement for an anchorage point is a 5,000-pound static load strength (needed for six feet of free fall) per person attached. Anchorage points must be designed, installed, and used as part of a complete personal fall-arrest system that maintains a safety factor of at least two.

Body Belt

Body belts are prohibited in personal fall-arrest systems and can only be used in fall-restraint systems.

Body Harness

A device that encompasses the torso and distributes fall-arrest forces over all the enclosed body parts and can be attached to other parts of a personal fall-arrest system. Suspension trauma-prevention straps should be a part of every body harness.

Qualified Person

A person who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the work environment and who is authorized to take prompt measures to eliminate the hazards.

Guardrail System

Barriers erected to protect workers from falling to a lower level.

Ladder Safety System

Consists of any of the following: personal fall-arrest system, retractable lifeline, rope or wire grab system, track system, and so forth.


A short, flexible rope, strap, or webbing.

Lifeline (Dropline)

A vertical lifeline that extends from an independent anchorage point and to which a lanyard or body harness is attached using a grabbing device.

Lifeline (Horizontal)

An anchoring cable rigged between two fixed anchorage points on the same level. The line may serve as a mobile fixture to attach lanyards, lifelines, or retracting lifelines.

Personal Fall-Arrest System

A conventional or commonly used fall-protection system designed to stop a single worker from free falling to a lower level. Components include an anchor, a lanyard, and a body harness.

Retracting Lifeline Device

A portable, self-contained device that is attached to an anchorage point above the work area. The lifeline acts as an automatic taut lanyard. A lifeline rope, webbing, or cable is attached directly to the worker’s harness. The rope extends out of the device as distance increases and retracts as the worker moves closer. When a fall occurs, a centrifugal locking mechanism is activated to arrest the movement, thereby reducing the potential shock.

Safety-Monitoring System

A fall-protection system that requires a monitor (qualified person) to be responsible for recognizing fall hazards and warning workers when they are at risk of falling.

Warning-Line System

A barrier erected on a roof to warn workers they are approaching an unprotected edge. This system designates an area for work without conventional fall-protection systems (guardrail, safety net, or personal fall-arrest system). Warning-line systems may be used only on flat or low-slope working areas.

4.9.3 Safe Access

Safe access to and from elevated areas should be provided to all employees. Safe access includes engineered systems that protect employees from falls to lower levels. This section includes guidelines for preventing falls on walkways, guardrails, ladders, and stairways.

  • Access hatches. Managers and supervisors ensure that employees are protected from falls and other hazards associated with hatches or other roof openings. Protect employees from these hazards by closing the hatch while on the roof or using mechanical devices such as an automated hatch, guardrail system, or grab bar.

  • Aerial lifts. Fall-protection requirements for aerial lifts may be found in section 4.2, “Aerial Lifts.”

  • Catwalks and other access to mechanical equipment. Managers and supervisors must provide engineered safe access for employees who access and maintain equipment in attic spaces and mezzanines. For example, employees should not be expected to balance and walk on trusses or other obstacles while trying to maintain light fixtures or change air filters. Catwalks (preferably made of steel) should be provided with guardrail systems to prevent falls through the ceiling to lower levels.

  • Workers must be protected when walking or working on a surface with an unprotected edge or when on a surface that is not designed to bear the weight of employees, such as a suspended ceiling.

  • Docks. Receiving docks should be fitted with a removable guardrail system if (1) the area adjacent to the dock is regularly used by personnel and (2) a fall hazard exists; for example, a bay door is open, and a receiving trailer is not present.

  • Fixed stairways and ladders. Fixed stairways are preferred over fixed ladders to access equipment or a working or walking surface. Design and installation should be in accordance with local codes and regulations.

    • Side rails for a fixed ladder should extend a minimum of 42 inches (1 m) above the landing to permit a safe handhold when accessing a landing or pass-through. Include self-closing safety gates at all landing-access points.

    • Landings for fixed ladders should be equipped with guardrails on any open side.

    • The vertical distance between landings for fixed ladders should not be more than 30 feet (9.1 m).

    • Ladder safety devices or systems such as rope grabs should be installed when the distance between landings is more than 24 feet (7.3 m). (Note: existing cages for fixed ladders do provide some protection, but safety devices for fixed ladders should gradually be installed on fixed ladders that extend more than 24 feet [7.3 m].)

  • Safety devices for fixed ladders include the following equipment:

    • A full-body harness with a chest D-ring

    • A single lanyard with snap hooks

    • An engineered safety line or rail system

  • Guardrails. Guardrail systems may be used to protect employees from falls to lower elevations. A guardrail system consists of a top-rail, mid-rail, and toeboard. Top-rails must be 39–45 inches (100–114 cm) in height and able to withstand a 200-pound (0.9 kN) force in any direction. The mid-rail should be approximately 21 inches (53 cm) in height and able to withstand a 100-pound (0.44 kN) force in any direction. A 4-inch (10 cm) toeboard is required if people must walk below or near the walkway.

  • Handrails. Handrails are required on stairs with four or more steps. Handrails should be 30–38 inches (76–97 cm) above the surface of the step.

  • Parapet walls. Parapet walls on flat roofs should be at least 39 inches (1 m) in height to help prevent falls. If parapet walls are lower than 39 inches (1 m) and access to the roof is required, then follow the roof-edge requirements below.

4.9.4 Roof-Edge Requirements

  • Work within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the roof edge requires the use of a guardrail system, personal fall-arrest systems, or a fall-restraint system attached to anchor points on the roof.

  • If performing infrequent, temporary work between 6 and 15 feet (1.8 and 4.6 m) from the roof edge, there must be a designated warning line at least 6 feet (1.8 m) from the roof edge.

  • Frequent and regular work within 6 and 15 feet (1.8 and 4.6 m) requires the same protection when working within 6 feet (1.8 m) of the roof edge.

  • Work at 15 feet (4.6 m) or more from the roof edge requires administrative controls, such as using a second employee to act as a monitor.

Skylights. Skylights in the roof of a building through which employees may fall while walking or working should be guarded by a screen or fixed railing on all exposed sides. Alternately, a skylight may be used that is engineered to support, without failure, at least twice the weight of employees, equipment, and materials that may be imposed on the cover at any one time.

Surface openings. Elevated openings two inches or wider at the narrowest point must be protected to keep workers from tripping over them and objects or materials from falling through them.

4.9.5 Fall-Restraint and Fall-Arrest Systems

Anchor points. Anchor points can be used for both fall-restraint and fall-arrest systems. A professional engineer should design them and oversee installation. These anchor points should be inspected annually by a qualified person. A documented certification of anchor points must be performed every 10 years or after a fall event.

Fall-restraint system. A fall-restraint system allows employees or contractors to perform work where there are potential fall hazards by preventing them from actually reaching any fall hazard. Anchors for fall-restraint systems need to meet a 1,000-pound (4.5 kN) load requirement or be rated at least two times the foreseeable force. Anchors for fall-restraint systems cannot be used as part of a fall-arrest system. Fall-restraint systems are preferable to fall-arrest systems. Body belts or full-body harnesses may be used for fall restraint.

Personal fall-arrest system. Ropes, straps, and webbing used in lanyards, in lifelines, and in components of body belts and harnesses that must be sturdy and strong should be made from synthetic fibers. Wire rope may be used where synthetic fibers are infeasible, such as for welding or on self-retracting lifelines. The complete assembly must be rated to exceed 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN). The lanyard length must limit free fall to a maximum of six feet or limit arresting forces to a maximum of 1,800 pounds (8 kN).

All lanyards must be kept as short as possible to minimize both the possibility and force of a free fall. Self-retracting lifelines automatically adjust the length of the connection. If possible, anchorages should be at shoulder height or higher and directly over the work area.

  • Care must be taken to attach the lanyard to an appropriate anchor by means that will not reduce the lanyard’s strength. Lanyards must not be knotted in any way because this will reduce the lanyard’s overall strength. Lanyards should not be run over sharp or rough surfaces that could damage or sever them.

  • When required to use fall-arrest systems, employees must be tied off 100 percent of the time. A multi-legged or Y-lanyard may be used to accomplish this requirement.

  • Lifeline and lanyard attachment points must be capable of withstanding a minimum deadweight of 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN). If not, they must be designed, installed, and used as part of a complete personal fall-arrest system that maintains a safety factor of at least two.

  • Snap hooks, D-rings, and O-rings must have a minimum tensile strength rating of 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN). Only locking snap hooks may be used. Nonlocking snap hooks are prohibited as parts of personal fall-arrest systems and positioning device systems. Snap hooks, D-rings, O-rings, and anchorage points must be compatibly shaped to prevent unintentional disengagement during use.

  • Lifelines should be of wire rope at least ½ inch in diameter. If used where they might accidentally be cut, lifelines must be wire rope at least ⅞ inch in diameter.

  • Employees must inspect all fall-protection equipment for defects prior to each use. Anchor points should be inspected annually by a qualified person. Any lifelines installed by a certified installer should be inspected annually by a certified installer. If evidence of excess wear, deterioration, or mechanical malfunction is found, remove the items from use. Replace or repair (if possible) defective items.

  • Each harness and lanyard assembly must have markings that identify the manufacturer and the date of manufacture. The markings must be printed on the harness or stamped onto permanently attached tags. Self-retracting lifelines can be returned to the manufacturer for inspection, repair, and recertification.

  • Discard harnesses or lanyards that have been used to arrest a fall, have been damaged, or have expired according to the manufacturer’s expiration date.

  • Scaffolds, guardrails, aerial lifts, ladders, or safety nets must be used where the work surface is 25 feet (7.6 m) or more above the next lowest level and harnesses and lifelines are not practical.

  • Workers using fall-protection equipment must have a coworker or observer nearby who can offer assistance if needed. A fall rescue plan should be developed for responding to and rescuing an employee who falls using a personal fall-arrest system. Suspension trauma-prevention straps should be included on all full-body harnesses.

4.9.6 Training

Workers must be trained so they are familiar with the fall-protection systems or methods they will use to protect themselves from fall hazards. A qualified person must provide training that ensures workers will recognize fall hazards and will learn which procedures will minimize exposure to these hazards.

In addition, workers who use personal fall-arrest systems must also be trained to know:

  • How to inspect the equipment before each use.

  • How to properly wear the equipment.

  • How the personal fall-arrest system works.

  • The proper hookup and attachment methods for the equipment.

  • Appropriate anchoring and tie-off techniques.

  • Annual inspection and storage procedures for the equipment.

  • Self-rescue procedures, techniques, and suspension trauma.