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Fall Protection Program

A program is a planned, coordinated group of activities or procedures that have a specific purpose. It helps to think of the company's Fall Protection Program as one of the "subsystems" within the company's Safety Management System (SMS). It's a subsystem because, like any system, it contains interrelated elements that work toward a common goal. To help understand how systems work, let's take a short look the nature of systems in general.

A system is a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole. All systems have structure, inputs, processes, and outputs. In terms of structure, the best systems are designed with formal (written) policies, plans, programs, processes, procedures and practices that produce intended results. However, systems may be structured in a very informal manner, and most likely result in inefficient and ineffective outputs. Either way, systems will produce only what they are designed to produce: they can't produce anything else.

program elements

To better understand systems, let's take a look at the image of "Syssie" the cow. You're probably wondering what a cow has to do with safety management system: just read on.

Syssie the cow is actually a very complicated system that, like all systems, has:

  • Structure - She is built to function as a cow.
  • Inputs - She eats, drinks, and breathes.
  • Processes - She thinks, feels, circulates oxygen and nutrients, digests food, and eliminates waste.
  • Outputs - She produces milk, waste products, and other cows (results). Her behaviors reflect wellness or illness.

Like Syssie, a safety management system has:

  • Structure - Formal or informal, responsibilities, assignments, and teams.
  • Inputs - Funding, commitment, leadership, staffing, and equipment.
  • Processes - Procedures, tasks, and best practices.
  • Outputs - Low/high accident rates, low/high direct and indirect costs, morale, and reputation.

The bottom line: There are two important things to remember about systems:

  1. Your company cannot NOT have a safety management system: what does yours look like?
  2. Your safety management system can only produce what it is designed to produce.

The challenge is to design, develop and deploy your system so that it is both efficient and effective.

1. All of the following are basic parts of a safety management system EXCEPT _____.

a. inputs
b. predictions
c. processes
d. outputs

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Fall Protection Program Elements

program elements

The Fall Protection Program is just one part of the company’s much larger Safety Management System. And, as with all systems, it also has structure, behavior, and results.

There should be at least seven major elements in a successful Fall Protection Program. These seven major elements include:

  1. Commitment: All employees—including company executive officers, managers, and supervisors—are committed to making the Fall Protection Program succeed. An employer’s attitude toward job safety and health is reflected by his or her employees. If the employer commits serious time and money into the Fall Protection Program, employees will see that and be equally serious about safety.
  2. Accountability: Everyone in the company, from top management to each employee, should be held accountable for following fall protection policies, plans, processes, procedures and safe work practices. To be held accountable, performance is measured and consequences result. Employee safety performance is evaluated and one of three consequences result:
    1. It is rewarded. Safe performance is recognized and rewarded in some way.
    2. It is punished. When justified, unsafe performance should result in some form of reprimand or disciplinary action.
    3. It is ignored. Yes, ignoring performance is, itself, a consequence.
  3. Involvement: All employees, including managers and supervisors, should participate in making the Fall Protection Program succeed. Employee involvement helps ensure employees gain some ownership in fall protection procedures and practices, so they're more likely to use them when not being supervised.
  4. Hazard prevention, identification, and control: Employees anticipate potential fall hazards as they work throughout the day. Their awareness is such that actual fall hazards are identified and reported. Employees are involved in controlling fall hazards by eliminating or substituting the hazards, changing processes and procedures, and using fall protection systems.

2. The purpose of employee involvement in the Fall Protection Program is to make it more likely that employees will _____.

a. use fall protection when not being supervised
b. not complain about having to use fall protection
c. comply and enforce safety rules
d. not need permission to climb without fall protection

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Fall Protection Program Elements (continued)

  1. Accident investigation: Managers and supervisors promptly investigate all fall accidents and near misses, and then determine how to eliminate their causes. They conduct a thorough "analysis" for the express purpose of improving the safety management system, not assigning blame. Remember, fix the system, not the blame!
  2. Education and Training: All employees are educated about the fall hazards in the workplace and they receive training in how to safely accomplish tasks while working at elevation, and how to properly use fall protection equipment. The employer must provide training to each employee who is required to use fall protection. Each employee should be trained to know at least the following about fall protection:
    • why it is necessary
    • when it is necessary
    • how to properly don, doff, adjust and wear fall protection
    • the limitations of fall protection
    • the proper care, maintenance, useful life, and disposal of fall protection

    Each employee is required to use fall protection and, before being allowed to perform work requiring fall protection, each employee must demonstrate:

    • an understanding of the training
    • the ability to use fall protection properly

    It's important to know that the element which usually results in more OSHA citations is the failure to provide adequate fall protection training. If someone is seriously injured or dies as a result of a fall, OSHA compliance officers (and lawyers) will look long and hard at your training program because they know that it is the area that is more likely lacking in due diligence.

  3. Analysis and Evaluation: Improving the Fall Protection Program using an effective analysis and evaluation process is one of the most important safety staff activities. Managers and supervisors, with help from other employees, should analyze and evaluate the program's strengths and weaknesses at least once a year. To do this, the employer should use these basic steps:
    1. Identify what you have.
    2. Compare what exists with what is known to work best.
    3. Make improvements as needed.

You can learn more about the elements of an effective safety management system in Course 700.

3. Which element of the Fall Protection Program is an OSHA accident investigation most likely to focus on first if a fall accident occurs?

a. Commitment
b. Accident investigation
c. Training
d. Hazard identification

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Prepare a Safety and Health Policy

Does your company have a written safety and health policy? It should. A written policy reflects commitment to a safe, healthful workplace, summarizes management and employee responsibilities, and emphasizes the safety and health program's role in achieving that goal. It allows managers and supervisors to make decisions about working at elevation without having to check with the employer. Keep the policy brief, commit to it, and enforce it.

Sample Fall Protection Policy

Business Policy. Our company is committed to achieving and maintaining a safe, healthful workplace for all its employees. We base our commitment on a safety and health program that involves all employees in the effort to eliminate or control workplace hazards. All employees, including managers and supervisors, will be held accountable for following this policy.

Management Responsibilities. Managers are responsible for preventing workplace injuries and illnesses and will consider all employee suggestions for achieving a safe, healthful workplace. Managers will stay informed about workplace hazards and will review the safety and health program at least once a year.

Supervisor Responsibilities. Supervisors are responsible for supervising and training employees to work safely. Supervisors must enforce safe work practices and correct hazardous conditions.

Safety committee responsibilities. The safety committee includes managers and other employees who are responsible for identifying hazardous conditions and unsafe conditions, and recommending how to eliminate, prevent, or control them. The committee is also responsible for helping managers review the safety and health program's strengths and weaknesses.

Employees' responsibilities. Our safety and health program achieves success through our employees. All employees are responsible for identifying and reporting hazards immediately to their supervisors or safety committee representatives, for following safe work practices, and for using required personal protective equipment.

4. Which of the following allows managers, supervisors, and employees to make decisions about work without having to check with the employer?

a. Plans
b. Processes
c. Programs
d. Policies

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Designate Competent/Qualified Persons


OSHA rules require that competent or qualified persons to perform certain activities. They must have the training and expertise to evaluate hazardous conditions, inspect equipment, evaluate mechanical systems, or train others how to work safely. The following definitions for competent and qualified persons are related to fall protection:

  • Competent Person: A competent person is one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable fall hazards that are dangerous to employees, and authorized to stop work and take prompt corrective action to eliminate them.
  • Qualified Person: A qualified person is one who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing or who, by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and ability to solve or resolve problems relating to fall protection at work.

Determine Who Can Be Competent/Qualified Persons


Use the following guidelines to determine who might be eligible as a competent/qualified person:

  • Know the OSHA rules that apply to your workplace. The rules will tell you if you need to designate a competent or a qualified person.
  • If an OSHA rule that applies to your workplace requires a competent or a qualified person, note duties and responsibilities the rule requires the person to perform.
  • If an OSHA rule that applies to your workplace requires a competent person, that person must have the authority to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate hazards.
  • Determine the knowledge, training, and experience the competent or qualified person needs to meet the rule's requirements.
  • Designate a person who has the knowledge, training, and experience that meets the rule's requirements.

5. Which of the following is a person who, by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated his or her ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project?

a. Certified professional
b. Competent person
c. Qualified person
d. Designated professional

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

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Real-World Falls


Two journeyman electricians were relocating power poles to service job trailers at a landfill. They were using an older digger derrick truck that had a boom and an auger for drilling holes. The end of the boom had a motorized hoist for setting the poles and there were two side-by-side buckets on a separate onboard aerial work platform at the end of the boom.

At the start of the day, they drilled two holes for poles near a tall shop building and set the first of two 50-foot poles without incident.

They picked up the second pole using the hoist cable at the end of the digger derrick boom. A synthetic-fiber lifting strap was wrapped around the pole and attached to the hook. Another rope was attached to the eye of the strap so that the strap could be loosened from the ground. After they set the pole, one of the electricians was unable to remove the strap by tugging on it, so he decided to remove it from the aerial platform.

He climbed the onboard fixed ladder, grabbed the top of the bucket with both hands, and placed one foot on its outside lower lip. As he swung his other foot over the top of the bucket, it swiveled vertically and he fell, hitting parts of the truck and landing on the ground. His injuries included two fractured vertebrae and soft tissue.


  • The equipment was not regularly inspected and maintained in safe operating condition.
  • The bucket leveling cable, which kept the bucket level as the boom was raised and lowered, broke under the electrician’s weight, which caused the bucket to swivel.
  • One of the electricians said that, from time to time, he had checked things on the truck, such as tires, lights, and oil and water levels, but had not performed a pre-operation inspection or thorough periodic inspection on the digger derrick or the aerial boom lift.
  • The company field superintendent said the truck had not been thoroughly inspected in over two years.

Source: Oregon OSHA 2014


Fall Protection

This WorkSafeBC video highlights the need for fall protection systems in the workplace. With dramatic footage of accidents and computer animation, this video outlines the steps to develop safe practices when working from heights.

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