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Home : Safety Promotions : News
NEWS | May 20, 2024

Updated Fall Protection Guide Delivers Relevant Guidance, Best Practices

By Rebecca Coleman, Naval Safety Command Safety Promotions-Public Affairs

Most falls are preventable, and planning, compliance and preparation are key attributes toward achieving an accident-free workplace. Assisting with the foundation for a mishap-free outcome is a primary focus of the Department of the Navy’s recently updated Fall Protection Guide.

Fall protection guidance is continually being updated as industry needs change and lessons are learned from incidents. “The intent of the guide is to provide best practices and fall hazard mitigation strategies for developing and managing fall protection programs to heighten fall hazard awareness and protect all our Sailors, Marines and civilians working at heights or who manage fall protection programs in the workplace,” said Charles Gum, deputy director, Shore Directorate at the Naval Safety Command (NAVSAFECOM).
Gum said the DON continues to experience serious fall-related mishaps, which lead to reduced readiness and productivity, high medical and compensation costs resulting from these mishaps and suffering to victims and their families.
The Navy has experienced three fall protection-related fatalities from 2019  to present. Gum noted the causal factors for these fatalities were rooted in non-compliance with established policy, procedure and mandatory training.
Primary factors attributed to these fall-related mishaps included improper personal protective equipment use and failing to properly identify and mitigate hazards related to unguarded edges. Beyond these fatal mishaps, 43% of all reported fall-related mishaps over the same five-year timeframe involved unguarded edges over four feet. The NAVSAFECOM’s local area assessment observations over the past two years further indicated the underlying causal factors of these mishaps were present in all communities and internal self-assessment efforts were not effectively correcting this behavior.

The updated Fall Protection Guide addresses lessons learned across the naval enterprise. Gum said the guide is a complete revision and should be read in its entirety to understand all the updates. Key takeaways include:
  • Updating the guidance for self-retracting lifelines/self-retracting devices to align with ANSI/ASSP Z359.14-2021, which took effect Aug. 1, 2023.
  •  Removing any wording that would lead users to believe the Guide could be   used in lieu of policy.
  • Updating various chapters to align with current ANSI Z-359 requirements.
The bottom line is that falls continue to be a major hazard to workers, both in the private and public sector. Gum provided the following statistics: These falls are the source of nearly 13% of all fatal occupational injuries; in the construction industry, falls to a lower level account for 37.3% of fatal injuries. Specifically, falls to a lower level represent 4.18% of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses in private industry and these are among the most severe nonfatal cases, as reflected by the 22 median days away from work in 2022. New data on the height of falls could help quantify the increased risks of severe injury and death due to falling to a lower level from any height, Gum added.
The revised guide is the outcome of the fall protection working group that met last year at NAVSAFECOM. “There was a misunderstanding that the old guide was actually policy and it was not,” said Gum. To correct this perception, the group updated the glossary and removed obsolete and duplicate definitions. Proposed comments were made throughout the document to remove any language that was directive in nature. The group also clarified sections and terminology throughout, tightening the verbiage and ensuring consistency.
“The guide is an important asset for Sailors and Marines, and we believe the update will enhance their fall protection programs and serve as a complement to OPNAV policy,” said Gum.
The DON Fall Protection Guide is available here
and on the mobile app  Shore/ORM (