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Passive systems required to avoid a construction accident

For many California construction workers, being on the job at significant heights goes with the territory. While anyone who works in construction might have to accept the risk if they want to keep their job, that does not mean that an employer can shun proper safety procedures. A fall from a height can cause a head injury, a back injury, broken bones, and other harms. It can even lead to a worker's death. A key part of an investigation into one of these accidents is whether the employer had installed the required fall protection systems. If they did not, then that fact may be critical as one pursues legal options down the road.

There are two fall protection systems: passive systems and active systems. Passive systems are guardrails, safety nets, floor covers, catch platforms, and the like. With a passive system, the guardrails must be 7.5 feet high on open edges of floors and roofs, scaffolds, runways and ramps, and elevated platforms. They must be made of wood or a similar material, and the top rail is required to be between 42 inches and 45 inches with a mid-rail. The wooden posts cannot be separated by more than 8 feet, and the top rail must withstand 200 pounds.

Safety nets should be used if the work is being done on a structure with a cathedral ceiling or high entry ways. The nets' manufacturer will provide instructions regarding the nets' construction, which must be done carefully. A floor cover should be present if there is a skylight opening, floor hole, or floor openings. Workers can also be protected by these hazards by guardrails. A wall opening that is more than 30 inches high and 18 inches wide must be protected by guardrails, too, if the bottom of the opening is lower than 36 inches above the surface where the work is taking place and the fall will be greater than four feet. A ladder opening must be guarded with guardrails that are off-set or a swinging gate.

When there are falls at a construction site, it is imperative that the injured person and his or her family understand the employer's role in the accident, which may include a failure to provide proper safety equipment. Since a failure to have passive systems to protect workers working at great heights can lead to an accident, injuries and death, it is often critical that workplace accident victims and their families speak with a legal professional experienced in handling cases related to high risk occupations.

Source:, "Fall Protection in Construction -- Fall Protection Systems, page 2," accessed on Oct. 23, 2017

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