Environmental, Health and Safety Services

Fall Protection Introduction


Personnel shall use effective fall protection systems when working in any situation that presents a foreseeable exposure to a fall hazard. The purpose of this program is to provide guidance for selection of fall protection systems and the proper use of personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) for work activities involving fall hazard situations. Guidelines are based upon OSHA regulations and industry best practices.


Each department with personnel who work at heights, or who are expected to use a personal fall arrest system, must designate a competent person to provide oversight for related activities, such as inspection of equipment, evaluation of site conditions, and selection of appropriate fall protection methods. Departments must also ensure that any personnel using personal fall arrest systems are properly trained in safe use and recognition of related hazards.

For the purpose of this program, "work at heights" refers to work locations that are four feet or more above the next lower level, and which are not guarded by an approved means. Unguarded work locations more than four feet above the next lower level must be evaluated by a competent person to determine appropriate control methods.

One exception to the fall protection requirements exists where "employees are making an inspection, investigation, or assessment of workplace conditions prior to the actual start of construction work or after all construction work has been completed". The basis for this exemption is that personnel will be exposed to a fall hazard for a greater period of time while installing a fall protection system than they would performing the inspection. It is also assumed that the inspector will be able to perform the inspection without going near the danger zone. Inspections made while construction operations are underway must be done under the same fall protection requirements as workers.


This program focuses on common fall protection systems used by Virginia Tech personnel regardless of location. Where the use of traditional means of fall protection is not feasible, or creates a greater hazard, departments should consult with EHS or their designated safety representative (if applicable).