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OSHA holds Colorado employers responsible for fall protection

Coloradans who work in construction and other forms of heavy industry may be interested to know that the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration offers employers specific suggestions on preventing fall incidents. Noting that construction workers die because of falls on a yearly basis, the agency identifies a number of training-based and practical work procedures that should be employed to minimize workplace risk.

While OSHA admits some fall protection methods have limited applicability, it still maintains that employers are ultimately responsible for safeguarding their workers. Regardless which kinds of fall protection they use, construction companies need to submit written plans detailing their fall protection efforts, and if normal prevention methods fall short, such proposals need to describe viable alternatives.

OSHA makes mention of safety equipment like personal fall arrest systems consisting of lanyards, lifelines and harnesses. It also calls for the use of guardrails, prefabricated wall sections and proper planning to minimize the amount of time workers spend aloft or lifting building elements. Although official guidelines permit some leeway for situational variances, certain regulatory limits, like the height of a guardrail's top rail and the maximum height of unprotected scaffolding, are explicitly defined. Employers also have to provide fall protection training for any workers who might be at risk of a fall on the job.

OSHA fall prevention guidelines cover numerous situations that could put workers at risk. This large body of rules is confusingly complex, and employers may fail to implement fall protection properly as a result. Although some employers attempt to deny fault following injurious or fatal construction accidents, victims and their families may be able to use their nonconformity as grounds for pursuing compensation awards in court.

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