Inappropriate use of ladders is the number one cause of falls. Ladders are used so often in framing that it is easy to overlook basic safety guidelines. Always remember the following:

• The feet of the ladder need to be on a stable surface so the ladder will be level.

• When ladders are used to access an upper surface, make sure they extend at least three feet above the upper surface, and secure the top to prevent them from being knocked over. (See “Ladder Extension" photo.)

• Do not use the top or top step of a step ladder.

• For straight or extension ladders, remember the 4 to 1 rule. For every four feet of height the ladder extends, it needs to be placed one foot out at the base.

• Check the ladder for defective parts, and remove any oil or grease on the steps.

• Never leave tools on the top step of a ladder.

Use common sense. If you are not sure that a ladder is safe, don’t use it.

Fall Protection

OSHA provides that for unprotected sides and edges on walking or working surfaces, or for leading edges of six feet or more, framers must be protected from falls by the use of a guardrail system, a safety net system, or a personal fall arrest system. For leading edge work, if it can be demonstrated that these systems are not feasible or they create a greater hazard, then a plan may be developed and implemented to meet certain OSHA requirements.

Most deaths in the construction industry happen as a result of falls. Falls also cause many of the injuries that occur on the job site, according to OSHA.

Because framing can place you a story or more off the ground, it’s important to work safely and to become aware of fall protection equipment, as well as systems (such as guardrails, safety nets, and covers) that can help prevent falls.

The following sections cover safety tips on equipment and systems. Using these can help protect yourself and others on the job site from falls.

The most commonly used fall protection systems in framing are the personal fall arrest system and the guardrail system. The guardrail system works well for a large flat deck. The fall arrest is better suited for pitched roofs.


Metal guardrail supports can be nailed to the outside of walls to support 2 x 4 railings. However, it is more common to see railing made out of 2 x 4 for the support and railings. These railings can be nailed on before the walls are raised. Following are some OSHA regulations on guardrails:

• The top edge of the top rail must be at least 42" (plus or minus 3") above the working level.

• Mid-rails must be installed at a height midway between the top edge of the top rail and the working level.

• The top edge of the guardrail system must be able to withstand 200 pounds applied within two square feet in an outward or downward direction.

• The mid-rail must be able to withstand at least 150 pounds in an outward or downward direction.

• When access is provided in the guardrail system, a chain, gate, or removable guardrail sections should be placed across the opening when loading operations are not taking place.

Personal Fall Arrest Systems

These systems typically consist of a full body harness, a lanyard, a lifeline, and an anchor. (See “Fall Arrest System" photo.) Each of these parts is available in many different types. Some of the OSHA regulations for these systems are listed below.

• D-rings, snaphooks, and carabiners must have a minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds.

• Lanyards and vertical lifelines must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.

• Anchors must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per framer.

• The system must be rigged so that the framer cannot free-fall more than 6 feet.

• The attachment point for a body harness is to be located in the center of the wearer’s back near the shoulder level or above the wearer’s head.

If you have new framers who are not used to working with fall arrest systems, you will need to spend some time with them to help them become familiar and comfortable with this equipment.

Fall arrest system

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