The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the United States decrees that employers must provide at least one type of fall protection for their employees working at the construction site before the start of construction. The three types of fall protection they can use are:
1. Surrounding the danger zone with guardrails.
2. Putting up safety nets.
3. Giving each employee a personal fall arrest system.
The type of fall protection system the employer chooses to apply is dependent on the type of work and where it is being done. There are specific rules the employer is required to adhere to should they choose to utilise safety nets as a fall protection system.
1. The safety net must be put up at the closest reasonable distance from where the workers are working. Note that this distance should never exceed a height of 30 feet.
2. The potential fall area cannot have any objects within it that will impede the fall of the worker should the safety net be put up under a bridge.
3. The distance that the safety nets must extend past the edge of the work surface horizontally varies depending on the distance between the work surface and the horizontal safety net.
If the safety net is five feet or less below the working surface, the safety net must extend eight feet beyond the working perimeters.
If the safety net is five to ten feet below the working surface, the safety net must extend ten feet beyond the working perimeters.
If the safety net is more than ten feet below the working surface, the safety net must extend 13 feet beyond the working perimeters.
4. A drop test must be conducted on the safety nets and safety net installations at the working site both immediately after it is installed and before it is utilised, and every six months after that. The safety net should also be subjected to another drop test whenever it is shifted and after any significant repair has been done to it. The drop test involves dropping a bag of sand weighing 400 pounds and spanning 28-32 inches in diameter into the safety net from a height of at least 42 inches above the highest working surface where workers are at risk of falling.
5. The safety net must not touch any surface under it when it is subjected to the drop test and must be able to cushion a force equal to that of the falling sandbag.
6. If the employer can prove that the drop test is unfair, the employer or any other proficient person in charge has to provide documentation that certifies the safety net is suitable to be used as a fall protection system before it is used as one. The certificate must clearly show the identification of the safety net and net installation, the exact date when the net was declared to be suitable for usage and also the signature of the person who made that claim.
7. The most recent record of certification must always be available for checking at the workplace.
8. The safety nets must be reviewed every single week for signs of wear and tear, and also after any situation that may have caused the safety of the net to be compromised.
9. Faulty nets must not be used at the job site. Any damaged parts must be removed and replaced.
10. Any debris or items that have been caught by the safety net during work must be cleared off as soon as possible, latest by the next working shift.
11. The mesh size of the safety net must not be greater than six inches in diameter. All the mesh crossings must be fixed in place to stop the mesh opening from getting any wider.
12. Every safety net, or every section of the safety net, is required to have a border rope (for its webbing) that can withstand up to at least 5,000 pounds.
13. The links between the panels of the safety net must be as strong as the inner parts of the net, and must be separated by a distance of no more than six inches.