Working At Heights

Every employer that sends workers to perform tasks at heights should have a comprehensive fall protection program.

The Issue

Falling and being struck by a dropped object are among the top causes of workplace injuries and fatalities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2017, “fatal falls were at their highest level in the 26-year history of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), accounting for 887 (17 percent) of worker deaths.”  
BLS reported that being struck by falling objects or equipment resulted in 45,940 injuries in 2017 (5.2% of all workplace injuries). And, according to OSHA, dropped objects are the third leading cause of injuries in construction, with more than 351 fatal falls in 2020. 
Gravity makes dropped objects accelerate at 9.81 meters per square second (32 feet per square second). The longer the drop, the faster the fall. 

Commonly dropped objects include hand tools, instrumentation, small parts, structural components and other items that have to be transferred and used at heights. 

Industries where elevated work areas are common have been especially susceptible to the risk of dropped objects, including the oil and gas, construction, energy and telecommunications infrastructure, shipping operations and aviation industries. 

Why It's Important

According to the Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, falls to a lower level are the third leading cause of disabling occupational injuries, costing businesses $6.26 billion a year, and being stuck by an object ranks fourth, costing businesses $5.61 billion a year.  
Fall prevention equipment and dopped object prevention solutions reduce fatal and harmful incidents in industrial and occupational settings, and OSHA requires personal fall protection for workers at various heights depending on the job. 
OSHA requires employers to: 

  • Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers. 
  • Keep floors in work areas in a clean and, so far as possible, a dry condition. 
  • Select and provide required PPE at no cost to workers. 
  • Train workers about job hazards in a language that they can understand. 

What You Can Do

A comprehensive fall protection program, properly designed and implemented, can help prevent these injuries and fatalities. 

Plan Ahead: Begin by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment may be needed to complete each task. For example, in a roofing job, think about all of the different fall hazards, such as holes or skylights and leading edges, then plan and select fall protection suitable to that work, such as personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). 

Provide PPE: Workers who are six feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To protect these workers, employers must provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job, including the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear. [CTA: Determine which fall protection equipment is right for the job.] 
Train Workers: Every worker should be trained on proper set-up and safe use of equipment they use on the job. Employers must train workers in recognizing hazards on the job. [CTA: Visit OSHA’s Fall Prevent Campaign for more educational materials and resources including posters, factsheets, and other training materials.] 

What We're Doing

In Fall Protection:  
ISEA is officially represented on ANSI-accredited standards committee Z359, Fall Protection Equipment. 


Personal Fall Protection Equipment Use and Selection Guide (PDF) 


Frequently Addressed Topics in Fall Protection (PDF) 


In Dropped Objects Prevention: 
The ANSI/ISEA 121-2018 standard provides employers with: 

  • Clear guidance to minimize the risk of dropped object incidents. 
  • Minimum design, testing and performance criteria. 
  • Info on the four active controls:  
  • Anchor attachments 
  • Tool attachments 
  • Tool tethers 
  • Containers (buckets, pouches) 

Discover Other Issues

Working at Heights

Women In PPE

Pandemic Response

Heat Stress & Illness