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Slips, Trips, and Falls



Each year, falls consistently account for the greatest number of fatalities in the construction industry. Slippery surfaces and poor housekeeping also result in serious injuries due to slips, trips, and falls.

A number of factors are often involved in falls, including unstable working surfaces, misuse of or failure to use fall protection equipment, and human error. Studies have shown that using guardrails, fall arrest systems, safety nets, covers and restraint systems can prevent many deaths and injuries from falls.

Threshold Height

Where workers on a construction site are exposed to vertical drops of 6 feet or more, OSHA requires that employers provide fall protection in one of three ways before work begins:

  • guardrail systems,
  • safety net systems, or
  • personal fall arrest systems.

Again, employers must protect employees from fall hazards whenever an employee is working 6 feet or more above a lower level. However, if an employee is working on a scaffold, the height requirement for fall protection is 10 feet. Don't let these different threshold heights confuse you.

Precautions: Slips, Trips, and Falls

This OSHA video describes the importance of fall-restraint systems.

Take these precautions to help prevent injuries due to slips, trips, and falls on the worksite:

  • Use fall arrest/restraint systems, as appropriate, when working at elevation.
  • Consider using aerial lifts or elevated platforms to provide safer elevated working surfaces.
  • Erect guardrail systems with toeboards and warning lines or install control line systems to protect workers near the edges of floors and roofs.
  • Cover floor holes.
  • Use safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems (body harnesses).
no fall protection
Caught with no fall protection!

Precautions: Elevated Surfaces

Take these precautions to help prevent injuries while working on elevated surfaces on the worksite:

  • Post signs, when appropriate, showing the elevated surface load capacity.
  • Install standard guardrails on surfaces elevated more than 48 inches above the floor or ground.
  • Install toeboards that are at least 3½ inches in height on all elevated surfaces that expose people or machinery to falling objects.
  • Install a permanent means of entry and exit with handrails to elevated storage and work surfaces.
  • Pile, stack or rack material in a way that prevents it from tipping, falling, collapsing, rolling or spreading.

Precautions: Skylights, Floor Holes, and Wall Openings

Employees on a construction site are exposed to floor holes and wall openings that can result in serious or fatal falls. Generally, in residential construction, when employees are exposed to a hazard of falling 6 feet or more to a lower level, the employer must ensure that fall protection systems are provided, installed, and implemented.

To protect employees, follow these safe work practices:

  • Skylights: Install guarding in the form of standard railing around skylight openings, or install a cover capable of supporting the maximum intended load. Covers over skylight openings should be installed so as to prevent accidental displacement.
  • Holes: To protect employees on walking/working surfaces from falling through holes (including skylights) more than six feet above lower levels, install guardrails or place covers over the holes.
  • Floor openings: Guard floor openings that are 12 inches or more in its least dimension with a secured cover, a guardrail, or equivalent on all sides (except at entrances to stairways).
  • Falling objects: To protect employees on a walking/working surface from objects falling through holes (including skylights), cover the holes and install toeboards around the edges of permanent floor openings.
  • Wall openings: Use a guardrail system to protect employees working on, at, above, or near wall openings (including those with chutes attached) where:
    • the outside bottom edge of the wall opening is six feet or more above lower levels, and/or
    • the inside bottom edge of the wall opening is less than 39 inches above the walking/working surface from falling.

Precautions: Walkways, Equipment, and Excavations

  • Established floors, mezzanines, balconies, and walkways: Use guardrails or fall arrest/restraint systems to protect employees working on established floors, mezzanines, balconies, and walkways with an unprotected side or edge six feet or more above a lower level from falling.
  • Dangerous equipment: Protect employees from falls into or onto dangerous equipment, regardless of the fall distance. To protect employees use guardrails or fall arrest/restrain systems.
  • Excavations: Each employee at the edge of an excavation six feet or more in depth must be protected from falling when the excavations are not readily seen because of plant growth or other visual barriers. Use guardrail systems to protect each employee at the edge of a well, pit, shaft, and similar excavation six feet or more in depth from falling.

For more information on fall protection, take OSHAcademy Course 805, Fall Protection in Construction.



Cleaning and housekeeping on construction sites may not be the highest priority. To some, it may even seem like a waste of time or unnecessary. Nevertheless, good housekeeping practices can help prevent serious injuries and regulatory fines. Follow these best housekeeping practices:

  • Keep aisles and passageways clear to provide for the free and safe movement of material handling equipment or employees. Such areas must be kept in good repair.
  • During the construction, alteration, or repair work, clear forms and scrap lumber with protruding nails and all other debris from work areas, passageways, and stairs in and around buildings or other structures.
  • Remove combustible scrap and debris at regular intervals during the course of construction. Be sure the means of removal process keeps employees safe.
  • Provide containers for the collection and separation of waste, trash, oily and used rags, and other refuse.
  • Equip containers used for garbage and other oily, flammable, or hazardous wastes (such as caustics, acids, harmful dusts, etc.) with covers. Dispose of garbage and other waste at frequent, regular intervals.

Real-Life Accident

workers above

If you don't wear a hard hat on a construction site, it could kill you. On Monday, November 4th, 2014, a New Jersey worker wasn't wearing his hard hat. He died after a tape measure fell 50 stories and hit him in the head.

Check out this short audio clip by Dan Clark of the about the fatality resulting from a falling object.


Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

Good luck!

1. Where workers on a construction site are exposed to vertical drops of _____, OSHA requires that employers provide fall protection.

2. Guardrail toeboards should be at least _____ in height.

3. Guard floor openings of _____ with a secured cover, a guardrail or equivalent on all sides (except at entrances to stairways).

4. What should you do to protect employees from a 7 foot trench that is not readily seen?

5. Use guardrail systems to protect each employee at the edge of a well, pit, shaft, and similar excavation _____ in depth from falling.

Have a great day!

Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.