FAQs

FAQ Topics / Trigger Heights


If a contractor has work rules that require more stringent trigger heights

for providing fall protection i.e.; ironworkers required to be protected after

10 feet when connecting can OSHA issue a citation if during an inspection a

CSHO sees an ironworker not protected and working at 12 feet thus violating

the company or jobsite policy?

I spoke with numerous OSHA representatives and the consensus was that no

citation could be issued.

This brings up another question as well:

If an owner requires a company to implement 100% tie off at a height below

which OSHA requires, and a worker falls at a height above that, can the owner

be held negligent? I have seen most owners pass the responsibility for

compliance to the jobsite general contractor or CM so would the GC/CM also be

partially liable? Also, what responsibility does either the owner or GC/CM

have in assuring that a sub-contractor has installed PFAS that are adequate

for the exposure? I recently saw a subcontractor who was working on a site

where 6ft fall protection was mandatory. The sub had installed a HLL that was

totally inadequate and in full view of the GC trailer.


A.1. If the work rules for a GC are 6 ft for employees and all subcontractors

including the steel erector then OSHA can enforce the more stringent rules and

issue a citation if the ironworker is at 10 ft or 20 ft for example. The fact

is that the OSHA CSHO can request the work rules and copy of the contract to

find what the subs are operating under. The result can be a citation. BUT I

hasten to add that John Newquist has told me that while this was OSHA policy

with steel erection after the first Stanley memo, the second memo knocked this

out for steel erection so now generally it is 25 ft inside and out that is

used unless they walk round a hole 751d, or use a belt and/or could hit a

lower level 95c, or are within 6 ft of an edge 105, or can impale onto rebar

on a pre-poured concrete floor 701b etc. I am applying 6 ft in a case where

the sub required it but the steel erector did not do it (14 ft) – result

serious injury – the GC is in big trouble for not watching this 50 yards from

his trailer (Michigan case “easily observed, common area, several people at risk”).

A. 2. I think so, I hope so because the general must enforce through

preplanning and close observation. HLL have their own set of parameters and

GC’s need to require Qualified Persons (structural engineers) for most

temporary cases because clearances are not understood at all. Otherwise the

same question – is there a hazard? If so 5a1 is set up – for OSHA tough, for a

qualified expert it is easy. Does this get you anywhere?



I am the EHS director for US
Primary products at Alcoa. I am in debate with some of my plant EHS
managers about the directive from OSHA.
The debate centers around what heights fall control or protection is needed in general industry. Per the OSHA link (which is dated in the 80s), it is 4 foot for all applications (whether temporary or permanent platforms or walking working surfaces). I am hoping for some recent interpretations from OSHA on this so I did not have to request it from OSHA.


Trigger heights for OSHA fall protection are as follows
4 ft Gen. Industry
5 ft Longshoring
6 ft Construction with exceptions listed:
10 ft scaffolds
15 ft steel erection bolt-up
30 ft steel erection, connecting and decking

In summary, if you chose 6 ft for everything, you would be close to what is reasonably possible, and if you chose 4 ft for everything that would be a challenge that would include all truck flatbeds (OSHA Act5(a)(2))and docks.The OSHA 4 ft rule was confirmed from the Chaffin Report (UMichigan) in 1978 to OSHA that 4 ft was the height where the first most damaging height for a head fall that would occur as the body
rotates.

The basis for correctly choosing a policy in my opinion is the nature of the hazard and degree of hazard. Falls can be extremely dangerous and severely injurious from almost any height.

OSHA has always stayed away from any case where the merits of 4 ft or 6 ft trigger heights were discussed. It should be noted that where fall injuries would be aggravated such falling into acid baths or fans, then the OSHA trigger height is zero and a floor or equivalent platform is required.

The interpretation for construction dated January 9th 2009 does not add any new information because the trigger height for aerial lifts use of
fall arrest equipment (max. 9.5 ft plus body length lanyards, max. 5.5
feet plus body length SRL) has always been zero feet height and there is no device that prevents falling out of the work platform at ground level without hitting the ground. Now if my sketch which has been in “Introduction to Fall Protection”, 2nd and 3rd edition (p116) is adopted then that may be as close to a solution as possible at this time; it would certainly prevent a head injury with the “fast fall arrester” SRL maximum total distance of fall 2
ft draft standard.



I sat in on your fall protection class at Brookhaven National laboratory a few weeks ago. Was wondering if you know the guidelines for handrails on scaffolds over 4 feet.


I am not familiar with the specific requirements for scaffolding at the BNL site however the general minimum requirements for guard rails for the various scaffold types is depicted in the governing regulation 1910 Subpart D Walking Working Surfaces  General Requirements for Scaffolding 1910.28:

Guardrails not less than 2 x 4 inches or the equivalent and not less than 36 inches or more than 42 inches high, with a mid-rail, when required, of 1 x 4-inch lumber or equivalent, and toeboards, shall be installed at all open sides on all scaffolds more than 10 feet above the ground or floor. Toeboards shall be a minimum of 4 inches in height. Wire mesh shall be installed in accordance with paragraph (a)(17) of this section.

Now with that being said we know that general fall protection requirements related to general industry require protection over a 4 trigger height and guard rails of 42 +/- 3. We also know the strength/serviceability of these systems at the 200 lb. load and corresponding maximum deflection. Scaffold strength requirements are different at a multiplier against peak load.

One is more restrictive than the other&certainly we want to work safely vs. just meeting the minimum standard therefore my recommendation would be to have protection at a 4 trigger height and using the more restrictive requirement for the design of the guard rail systems.



A friend asked my help and I was stumped. His client wants all of their employees to use fall protection on any job starting at 4 feet or higher.

This means that an electrician changing a light bulb in a normal 7′ room would need fall protection when he got above 4′ – so where does he tie off?

The client is requiring it for any working at heights – ladders, scissor lifts, bucket lifts, etc.
Do you have any suggestions on how to do this or some good sound
reasons we can tell the client?

I appreciate the help.


This makes perfect sense! First you must think of fall protection
as 99% floor based* or platforms often with railings. Why the floor – think of a way to do the work with hi-reach tools; that is elimination, the number
one preference in the hierarchy of fall protection.

Then start to think stable ladders 2 or 4 or 6 ft etc. use per the standards
and no fall protection is required by OSHA. So stepladders are properly deployed before use and 76 degree slope straight or extension ladders.
However in a plant or tower with overhead structure think First Man Up devices with immediate locking devices that exceed OSHA but comply with
forthcoming ANSI Z359.14 eg Fast fall arrest SRD’s.

Rolling or fixed platforms and scaffolds (no headknockers, scissors included) fill in the gaps eg elevated electrical systems, aircraft maintenance etc. Then, aerial lifts some only go up ten feet and can fit
through doorways; knuckle-booms are great over an obstruction. Think through aerial lifts with harness use based on inertia of the lift versus a fall.
Think of a flatbed trailer with edges leading to a 4 ft drop – many solutions here – look on this site at the truck page for tarping, soon to be added devices that reach 35 ft high for unloading steel with fall
arrest at a construction site; or consider miscellaneous use with linked inflatable 4ft high bags. Nets also play a part in the quilt of fall protection.

Fall arrest systems using harnesses need a compatible anchor point – can you
create that anchor or will the scaffold manufacturer give a strength of his rosette? Roof anchors are available from many sophisticated members of ANSI
AWCA I-14.1-2001 with updated standard soon hopefully. Check 1910 subpart D&I proposed revision May 2010 on osha.gov.

Smart contractors can now install systems to create protection for work crews and subs and leave the product in place (roof hatches, steep roofs,
skylights etc.) – but don’t forget to bill them for it with an approved change-order.

How do you feel now?!

*Slip resistance or collapse issues dealt with logically