OSHA New Directive: Protecting Residential Construction Workers from Falls

Falls are the leading cause of death for construction workers. “We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.

A new directive went into effect on June 16, 2011 providing residential construction workers with greater protection from being injured or killed on the job. Until recently residential builders were allowed by an interim directive to bypass fall protection requirements by using special alternative procedures. In December 2010, OSHA announced a new directive withdrawing that interim directive and requiring residential construction employers to provide workers with the conventional fall protection required by the construction fall protection standard, issued in 1994 (29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13)).

The new directive states that all employers must protect their workers who are engaged in residential construction 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels by conventional fall protection systems which include:

  • Guardrail systems
  • Safety nets
  • Personal fall arrest systems (body harnesses, lanyards, lifelines, etc.)

Workers now need to use these safety systems perform activities such as roofing, working on multi-story buildings, and even in some cases when installing walls and subfloors.

Under the new procedures, if residential construction employers determine that traditional fall protection is not feasible or creates an increased hazard in residential environments, employers will still be allowed to implement alternative procedures that will assure worker protection after developing a written site-specific fall protection plan.

A variety of training and compliance assistance materials are available in many formats on OSHA’s Residential Fall Protection page. The most recently added is an educational slide presentation that describes safety methods for preventing injuries and deaths from falls, and explains techniques currently used by employers during various stages of construction.

For small businesses (with fewer than 250 employees at any one facility, and no more than 500 employees nationwide) OSHA provides a free compliance assistance service. OSHA’s on-site consultation services are separate from the agency’s enforcement operations and do not result in penalties or citations. To locate the Consultation Office nearest you, visit OSHA’s On-site Consultation Web page or call 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).

References:

Osha QuickTakes June 1, 2011, Volume 10, Issue 11

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=10757#1926.501%28b%29%2813%29

http://www.osha.gov/doc/residential_fall_protection.html

http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=19896

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