By Homer R. Peterson II, P.E., CSP, CFLC

After completion of the steel erection portion of an area, building, phase, level, or sequence of a construction project, it can be advantageous for trades whose work follows the steel to use fall protection systems installed by the steel erector for ironworker safety. However, federal safety regulations do not allow a steel erector to leave its fall protection systems behind for use by other workers until certain conditions have been met. In cases involving falls, a steel erection expert witness may be needed to opine as to what systems were necessary under the circumstances.

Minimum Safety Requirements

OSHA’s construction industry regulations found in Subpart R Steel Erection set forth certain responsibilities of controlling contractors and steel erectors with regards to custody of fall protection provided by steel erectors.

29CFR§1926.760 (e) Custody of fall protection. Fall protection provided by the steel erector shall remain in the area where steel erection activity has been completed, to be used by other trades, only if the controlling contractor or its authorized representative:

29CFR§1926.760 (e) (1) Has directed the steel erector to leave the fall protection in place; and

29CFR§1926.760 (e) (2) Has inspected and accepted control and responsibility of the fall protection prior to authorizing persons other than steel erectors to work in the area.

As defined in section 29CFR§1926.751, a controlling contractor “is a prime contractor, general contractor, construction manager or any other legal entity which has the overall responsibility for the construction of the project — its planning, quality and completion”.

In cases involving a fall, a steel erection expert witness may be needed to opine as to which contractor had the responsibility to maintain the fall protection.

Documentation of Transfer of Custody of Erector-provided Fall Protection

Although OSHA does not require it, companies may choose to document the transfer of custody of erector-provided fall protection. This is an industry best practice, not a standard practice.

Each job site is different. Companies that document fall protection transfers should create their own site-specific transfer form to increase the probability of a successful transfer. Competent persons who use the following list as a starting point for the creation of the transfer form for their project should add or subtract from the list to identify and specify the information to be documented. In case of a fall, a steel erection expert witness may be needed to opine concerning the adequacy of transfer documentation under the circumstances.

  1. Project name and address
  2. Description of area(s), building(s), phase(s), level(s), or sequence(s)
  3. Inspection of erector-provided fall protection systems for which custody is being transferred

A.  Flooring system – has installation of the flooring system been completed?

Floors installed by steel erectors are usually constructed of one or more of the following construction materials:
1. Metal deck
2.  Steel grating
3. Checkered plate
4. Precast concrete
5. Hollow core planking
6. Wood
7. Other – List other types of flooring systems, if any, to be transferred.

B. Guardrail systems – wire-rope safety cable

    1. Has installation been completed at perimeters?
    2. Has installation been completed at interior openings?
    3. Are support posts provided at appropriate intervals?
    4. Is there minimal sag in cable systems?
    5. Have cables been flagged for visibility at appropriate intervals?
    6. Have an appropriate number of cable clamps been properly installed on the cables?

C. Guardrail systems constructed of wood or other materials

D. Hole Covers

    1. Are hole covers in place where needed?
    2. Have hole covers been secured to prevent accidental displacement?
    3. Have hole covers been painted with high-visibility paint or marked “HOLE” or “COVER”?

E. Other Fall Protection – List other types of fall protection to be transferred.

    4.  Transfer of Control and Responsibility

A. Has the controlling contractor directed the erector to leave its fall protection systems in place?
B. Has the controlling contractor completed its inspection of the fall protection to be transferred and accepted control of and responsibility for that fall protection?
C. Are the names of the controlling contractor and steel erector, plus the names and signatures of their authorized representatives, included?
D. Are dates provided for both the execution of the transfer document and the actual transfer of custody?


The documentation of the transfer of custody of erector-provided fall protection may lead to a reduction in the number of occupational injuries and fatalities for trades whose work follows the erection of the structural steel on construction projects. In litigation involving a fall, the documentation or lack thereof may need to be reviewed by a steel erection expert witness to determine if it was adequate or necessary under the circumstances.

About the Author – Homer R. Peterson II, P.E., CSP, CFLC 

steel erection expert witnessHomer R. Peterson II, P.E., CSP, CFLC serves as President of Peterson Construction Consulting, Inc.  He provides consulting services, including expert witness services, to attorneys, insurance carriers, and companies engaged in both construction and general industry.  Throughout a 40-year career involving construction, steel erection, safety, and fall protection on more than 350 projects located in 21 U.S. states and territories, he has observed the policies, programs, procedures, standard practices, and best practices of more than 200 owners, more than 80 general contractors, and numerous specialty contractors. Homer can be contacted at (832) 740-4596 or  

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