OSHA Adopts New Fall Protection Rules For Residential Builders – Enforcement in June

January 10, 2011

VIEW UPDATE: OSHA Begins Enforcement of New Fall Protection Guidelines for Residential Construction on June 16, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Wisconsin Builders Association January 6, 2011Builder Buzz Blog post.

The new rule is intended to combat the number one cause of death and serious injury at residential construction sites.

New Fall Protection Guidelines
The number one cause of death and serious injury at residential construction sites are falls by employees working high above the ground on roofs, ladders and scaffolding. Hundreds of workers are killed and more than 100,000 workers are injured each year from falls at job sites. In response, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction. The previous Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction allowed residential builders to use specified alternative fall protection methods such as slide guards or safety monitoring systems rather than the conventional fall protection systems.

The New Fall Protection Guidelines require residential builders to ensure that employees working six feet or more above the lower level of the site to use guardrails, safety nets or a personal fall arrest system. A personal fall arrest system includes a full body harness, a deceleration device, a lanyard, and an anchor point, and must be rigged to prevent a worker from reaching the fall hazard and falling over the edge.

In cases where a builder can establish that using conventional fall protection is infeasible or would pose a greater hazard, the builder can have a “qualified person” implement a written, site-specific fall protection plan meeting OSHA requirements. The specific fall protection plan must set forth the reasons why conventional fall protection systems are infeasible or why such systems would present a greater hazard to the workers.

Other fall protection measures such as the use of warning lines and safety monitoring systems during the performance of roofing work are allowed for low-sloped roofs.

Applies to Residential Construction
The new OSHA Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines apply to “residential construction.” Residential construction means that the end-use of the structure will be a home and the structure is built using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods.

Enforcement and Additional Information
OSHA will begin enforcement of the new guidelines on or after June 16, 2011. Prior to that time, OSHA will undertake various outreach efforts.

For more information on compliance with the new rule, OSHA has a Residential Fall Protection website.

For more safety information relating to residential home construction and fall prevention devices, the National Home Builders Association and OSHA have jointly released a Job Safety Handbook.