In steel erection, a new, very narrow working surface is constantly being created as skeletal steel is erected at various heights. For many steel erectors, the work starts at the top level of the structure. This means that anchor points above foot level are often limited or unavailable.
The special circumstances of steel erection can make conventional fall protection very difficult to deploy below 15 feet. For this reason, the following requirements and exceptions in the steel erection fall protection standard have been made. Information in this section comes primarily from OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.760.
Each employee engaged in a steel erection activity who is on a walking/working surface with an unprotected side or edge more than 15 feet (4.6 m) above a lower level must be protected from fall hazards by:
Perimeter safety cables must be installed at the final interior and exterior perimeters of multi-story structures as soon as the decking has been installed.
It’s important to remember as far as OSHA is concerned, there is no "safe" distance from an unprotected side or edge that would render fall protection unnecessary.
Connectors and employees working in controlled decking zones (CDZ) must be protected from fall hazards as provided below.
A Controlled Decking Zone is an area in which certain work may take place without the use of guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, fall restraint systems, or safety net systems and where access to the zone is controlled.
A CDZ can be established as a substitute for fall protection where metal decking is initially being installed and forms the leading edge of a work area more than 15 and up to 30 feet above a lower level.
Leading-edge workers in a CDZ are required to:
Employees who are not engaged in leading-edge work and properly trained in the hazards involved are prohibited from entering the CDZ.
The CDZ is required to:
Final deck attachments and the installation of shear connectors are prohibited from being done in the CDZ.
When used to control access to areas where leading edge and initial securing of metal deck and other operations connected with leading edge work are taking place, the controlled decking zone (CDZ) is defined by a control line or by any other means that restricts access.
Control lines consist of ropes, wires, tapes, or equivalent materials, and supporting stanchions as follows:
Factors that should be evaluated when considering the effectiveness of fall protection in steel erection should include a complete evaluation of a number of factors including the following:
Remember: OSHA will consider citing employers if the employer is not:
Bottom line: All employees performing steel erection activities who are exposed to fall hazards, whether doing leading edge decking work in a CDZ or not, must be protected as required by the fall protection standards in 1926.760, regardless of the distance from the edge.
For more information on Fall Protection in Steel Erection take OSHAcademy Course 805, Fall Protection in Construction, and review OSHA Standard 1926.502(b)-(e).
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