Fall Protection


Working at elevated heights presents hazards that need to be addressed and controlled to prevent serious injury or death. 
This guideline highlights the main components pertaining to fall protection during construction or maintenance related operations. The Environmental Health & Safety Office is available to departments as they evaluate and develop procedures appropriate for the location or activities.  


When an employee is required to work from a leading horizontal edge or vertical height of 6 feet or more above a lower level, fall protection must be provided. Work from scaffolding requires that fall protection be provided at heights of 10 feet or more. 
Examples of fall protection include: guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.
This guideline is not intended for construction related activities involving steel erection, cranes, electrical transmission lines, tunneling, ladders, or scaffolding. For these activities one should follow IOSH Construction Standards relating to the specific area.

Policy and Regulation

University of Iowa Operations Manual, Part III Human Resources, Division II Standards and Ethics, Chapter 16.4.d Policy on Ethics and Responsibilities for University of Iowa Staff.
IOSH Construction Safety and Health Regulations, 29 CFR 1926.500, Subpart M – Fall Protection


Competent Person
An individual who has knowledge, training, and experience in recognizing fall hazards and how to prevent them with the appropriate fall protection system, shall be involved in all stages of the work being done by employees. A department shall have such an individual(s) assigned for this purpose.
Fall Restraint
Fall restraint is equipment that is used to keep someone from approaching a fall hazard. Restraint equipment is different from arrest equipment in that a body belt may be used as well as a lanyard that does not contain a shock absorber. The lanyard must be short enough to keep the individual from reaching the leading edge. The concept behind the restraint is it allows someone to do work, but keeps the individual from the potential of falling.
Fall Arrest
Fall arrest is equipment that is used to stop a fall after someone has fallen. It is designed to stop someone before they strike the level below.
Controlled Zone System
A Controlled Zone System is a non-conventional protective system used when a conventional fall protection system may expose the employee to a greater hazard or it is infeasible to use a conventional system.  
Walking/Working Surface
A walking/working surface is any surface, whether horizontal or vertical, on which an employee walks or works, including but not limited to, floors, roofs, ramps, bridges, runways, catwalks, formwork and concrete reinforcing steel but not including ladders, vehicles, or trailers, on which employees must be located in order to perform their job duties.


Deans, Directors and Department Heads are responsible to: 

  • Actively support these procedures within individual units.
  • Ensure an environment where employees are encouraged to follow these procedures.
  • Designate the Department’s Competent Person for fall protection,

The Department Competent Person is responsible to:

  • Provide an operations level of safety expertise in the subject of fall protection work for day to day operations in the department.
  • Act as an administrative liaison between the department and EHS.
  • Facilitate the correction of safety problems within the department.

Supervisors are responsible to:

  • Implement these procedures.
  • Assure that staff is aware of University and department procedures, instructed on the details of implementation, and provided with training, personal protective equipment, and methods of control.
  • Maintain documentation and records as required in these procedures.

Employees are responsible to:

  • Comply with these procedures and any further safety recommendations provided by supervisors.
  • Conduct assigned tasks in a safe manner, wear appropriate personal protective equipment, and obtain training and information prior to using tools. 

EHS is responsible to:

  • Provide guidelines, administrative consultations and reviews, and select technical and field services.
  • Exercise surveillance over health and safety issues at the University.


Equipment Inspection and Selection

The department’s Competent Person shall select the type of fall protection system to use and shall inspect all equipment associated with it prior to the start up of the job. No defective equipment shall be used.  If defective equipment is found, it shall be taken out of service immediately.
The end user of the fall protection system shall inspect equipment prior to each use. If defective equipment is noted, it shall be immediately taken out of service and reported to the Competent Person.


Every employee who is involved in the use of fall protection shall be trained. Training shall be done prior to use. It shall pertain to the specific fall protection system used and equipment selected. The training shall be documented. At a minimum the following must be covered in the training:

  1. How to recognize and minimize fall hazards.
  2. Procedures for donning equipment, erecting materials, maintaining, disassembling and inspecting the specific fall protection system used.
  3. The use, operation, and limitations of the fall protection system.
  4. The user’s role in fall protection system.

Retraining is required under the following conditions:

  1. Changes in the workplace render previous training obsolete.
  2. Changes in the types of fall protection systems or equipment to be used render previous training obsolete.
  3. Inadequacies in an employee’s knowledge of the use of the fall protection system or equipment or observed behavior indicating the employee has not retained the required training.

Periodic Reviews

Periodic reviews are required to determine the completeness and effectiveness of the procedures. Each department or unit will conduct a self-review at least annually and maintain a record of such. If job conditions change, the procedures need to be reviewed at that time of changed job conditions.

Related Programs or Procedures

  • EHS Guideline and Plan for Ladders
  • EHS Guideline and Plan for Walking/Working Surfaces

Assistance and Resources

The Environmental Health & Safety Office is available for consultation and assistance in developing fall protection procedures. Various situations will require outside expert assistance also, such as equipment vendors.
Departments should work with EHS, or have their procedures reviewed by EHS as during an annual review process.