After a 15-month reprieve, employers of residential roofers and construction workers have just 30 days to prepare for new federal fall-protection policies.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s new “Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction” (STD 03-11-002) will require employers to provide roofers and construction workers with fall-protection equipment whenever work is performed six feet or higher above the ground.
|The new directive applies to residential roofers and construction workers.|
Employers may opt for guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or other conventional fall-protection measures, or other fall-protection measures allowed elsewhere in 1926.501(b).
The directive also requires employers to develop written fall-protection plans that meet the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502 when they do not actively provide safety equipment.
Such plans must be site-specific and use safe work practices that eliminate or reduce the possibility of a fall.
A written plan developed for repetitive use for a particular style or model home will be considered site-specific with respect to a particular site only if it fully addresses all issues related to fall protection at that site.
The new directive, approved in December 2010, rescinds a 1999 directive. The policy was to have been implemented June 16, 2011, but the building industry sought more time for implementation.
In response, OSHA temporarily relaxed its enforcement policies and gave contractors additional time to make changes. For example, employers were given 30 days from the date of a particular violation to become compliant. Also, no repeat citations (or additional penalties) would be levied, unless a serious injury or catastrophe occurred.
OSHA encouraged its Compliance Assistance Specialists to help builders and their contractors understand and adjust to the new directive. A number of outreach sessions have been conducted to help employers comply with the new rules.
OSHA’s Compliance Guidance website offers more resources for employers.
The Toll of Falls
Falls remain the leading cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry.
In addition, fall protection was the No. 1 residential construction violation cited by OSHA in 2011, with 2,979 citations issued.
Falls often occur as a result of unprotected roof edges, improperly constructed scaffolding, and improperly used ladders.