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Fall Protection

Fall Protection - WorkSafeBC
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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.

General Requirements

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:

  • guardrail systems,
  • safety net systems,
  • personal fall arrest systems,
  • positioning device systems or
  • fall restraint systems.

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.

Overhead Hazards

Construction worker struck by falling object – WCNC TV
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Connectors and employees working in controlled decking zones (CDZ) must be protected from fall hazards as provided below.

Connectors must:

  • Be protected by conventional fall protection when working on a surface with an unprotected edge more than two stories or 30 feet above a lower level.
  • Have completed the connector training described in 29 CFR 1926.761.
  • While working at heights more than 15 and up to 30 feet, connectors must:
    • Be provided with a complete personal fall arrest system or other allowable fall protection.
    • Wear the equipment necessary for tying off.

Controlled Decking Zone (CDZ)

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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:

  • Be protected from fall hazards above 2 stories or 30 feet (whichever is less).
  • Have completed CDZ training in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.761.

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:

  • Be no more than 90 feet wide and 90 feet deep from any leading edge.
  • Not exceed 3,000 square feet of unsecured decking.
  • Have designated and clearly marked boundaries with control lines or the equivalent. Control lines are commonly used as a marker because they create a highly visible boundary.
  • Have safety deck attachments placed from the leading edge back to the control line.
  • Have at least two safety deck attachments for each metal decking panel.

Final deck attachments and the installation of shear connectors are prohibited from being done in the CDZ.

Control Lines

Control Lines
Initial Installation of Metal Decking

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.

  • A control line for a CDZ is erected not less than 6 feet (1.8 m) nor more than 90 feet (27.4 m) from the leading edge.
  • Control lines extend along the entire length of the unprotected or leading edge and are approximately parallel to the unprotected or leading edge.
  • Control lines are connected on each side to a guardrail system, wall, stanchion or other suitable anchorage.

Control lines consist of ropes, wires, tapes, or equivalent materials, and supporting stanchions as follows:

  • Each line is rigged and supported in such a way that its lowest point (including sag) is not less than 39 inches (1.0 m) from the walking/working surface and its highest point is not more than 45 inches (1.3 m) from the walking/working surface.
  • Each line has a minimum breaking strength of 200 pounds (90.8 kg).

What OSHA Inspects

OSHA Inspects

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:

  • Is the fall protection system complete and are the correct components in use? For example, if workers are tied off at a 5-ft level, a standard 6-ft shock absorbing lanyard may not be adequate.
  • Have the workers been properly trained in the use of the equipment?
  • Has the employer provided for rescue?
    • Is there a viable self-rescue option?
    • Are the equipment and rescue procedures in place?
    • Have all of the employees been trained on the rescue procedures?
    • If the procedures include calling 911, do the emergency services know they are part of the plan and have the ability to respond?
  • Has falling object protection been provided or has work been precluded below the erection activity?

Remember: OSHA will consider citing employers if the employer is not:

  • providing 100 percent fall protection,
  • providing for prompt rescue in the event of a fall, or
  • providing protection from falling objects.

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).


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. At what height must employees who are on a walking/working surface with an unprotected edge be protected by conventional fall protection?

2. When must perimeter safety cables be installed at the final interior and exterior perimeters of multi-story structures?

3. What is the minimum and maximum distance a controlled decking zine (CDZ) control line can be erected from a leading edge?

4. Leading-edge workers in a CDZ are required to be protected from fall hazards above _____.

5. OSHA will consider citing employers if the employer is not providing for prompt rescue, protection from falling objects, and _____.

Have a great day!

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