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Fall protection near exposed edges: Washington state issues hazard alert

exposed edges
Photo: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

Tumwater, WA — A new hazard alert from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is intended for employers and workers who use personal fall arrest systems positioned near exposed edges.

Issued in response to separate fatalities involving workers whose fall protection lifelines were cut by exposed edges, the alert states that “any open side or edge of a floor, roof, deck, platform, or formwork creates a condition in which a lifeline could contact an edge and be severed in the event of a fall.”


The alert notes that although both fatalities involved self-retracting lifelines, non-SRL fall-arrest mechanisms (e.g., lanyard and rope, webbing, or cable) present similar risk.

Washington L&I advises employers to:

  • Identify and document all potentially hazardous edges during jobsite inspections.
  • Routinely inspect lifelines and other fall protection equipment before use.
  • Avoid, when possible, working in areas where lifelines could contact potentially hazardous edges in the event of a fall.
  • Anchor lifelines vertically overhead, when possible, to prevent lifelines from contacting an edge and to minimize swing falls.
  • Ensure workers remain within a safe working distance from the overhead anchor point.

Additionally, the alert lists the following tips for lifeline maintenance:

  • Select and provide lifelines designed specifically for the application. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions upon use.
  • Cover edges with protective material to protect lifelines against cuts or abrasions.

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