These Q & A's are designed to provide information about standards relating to fall protection in residential construction. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. However, this document is not itself a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.
29 CFR Part 1926, Subpart M, which became effective on February 6, 1995, contains general fall protection requirements for construction work. Additional fall protection requirements can be found throughout Part 1926.
Under 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13), workers engaged in residential construction six (6) feet or more above lower levels must be protected by conventional fall protection (i.e., guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems) or alternative fall protection measures allowed under 1926.501(b) for particular types of work. A personal fall arrest system may consist of a full body harness, a deceleration device, a lanyard, and an anchor point. (See the definition of "personal fall arrest system" in 29 CFR 1926.500). If an employer can demonstrate that fall protection required under 1926.501(b)(13) is infeasible or presents a greater hazard it must implement a written, site-specific fall protection plan meeting the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.502(k). The fall protection plan must specify alternative measures that will be used to eliminate or reduce the possibility of employee falls.
OSHA included Appendix E in Subpart M to show employers and employees what a compliant fall protection plan might look like.
Once the final rule for Subpart M was published, representatives from the residential construction industry, including the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), expressed ongoing concerns about complying with 1926.501(b)(13). For example, industry representatives were concerned about the feasibility of establishing proper anchor points on wood-framed structures. In response to their concerns and to give OSHA time to revisit some feasibility issues, the Agency issued Directive STD 3.1. The directive allowed employers doing specified residential construction activities to comply with the requirements of Subpart M by implementing the alternative fall protection and work procedures prescribed in the directive. The alternative procedures could be used without a prior showing of infeasibility or greater hazard and without a written fall protection plan. The Agency did not intend STD 3.1 to be a permanent policy.
OSHA issued STD 3-0.1A (later redesignated as STD 03-00-001) as a plain language replacement for STD 3.1. In STD 03-00-001, the Agency made some changes to the original interim guidance to clarify the scope of the directive and the Agency's enforcement policy with respect to fall protection requirements for the specific construction activities covered by the directive. In STD 03-00-001, OSHA indicated that it intended to reevaluate the interim policy after soliciting additional public comment.
OSHA issued an ANPR for Subpart M in 1999 in part to obtain information from the public that it could use to evaluate the effectiveness of and need for STD 03-00-001. In the ANPR, the Agency noted that there had been progress in the types and capability of commercially available fall protection equipment since 1926.501(b)(13) was promulgated in 1994. OSHA also stated in the ANPR that it intended to rescind STD 03-00-001 unless persuasive evidence was submitted showing that it is infeasible or presents significant safety hazards for most residential construction employers to comply with 1926.501(b)(13).
Yes. A Residential Fall Protection Work Group within OSHA's Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (ACCSH) has reported to ACCSH on a number of presentations they have seen from home builders and fall protection equipment manufacturers describing new ways of providing safe and effective fall protection in residential construction. ACCSH has recommended rescission of STD 03-00-001 on two separate occasions – first in 2000 and again in 2008. Also in 2008, both the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association (OSHSPA) and the NAHB submitted letters to OSHA advocating for withdrawal of STD 03-00-001. The NRCA has continued to oppose rescission of STD 03-00-001 with respect to roofing work, but a representative of that organization conceded at an ACCSH meeting in December 2009 that nowadays it is "very tough" to establish that conventional fall protection is infeasible or creates a greater hazard.
The effective date of STD 03-11-002 is June 16, 2011.
Falls continue to be the leading cause of death among construction workers. Statistics show that fatalities from falls are consistently high for residential construction activities. OSHA considered the comments received in response to the 1999 ANPR and was not persuaded that compliance with 1926.501(b)(13) is infeasible or presents significant safety hazards for most residential construction employers. The recommendations from ACCSH, OSHSPA, and the NAHB, as well as the mounting evidence that has been presented to the ACCSH Residential Fall Protection Work Group showing that conventional fall protection is available and can be used safely for almost all residential construction operations, provide a separate and independent grounds for OSHA's decision to withdraw STD 03-00-001.
In accordance with 29 CFR 1926.503, the employer must ensure that each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards has been trained by a competent person to recognize the hazards of falling and in the procedures to be followed in order to minimize those hazards. In addition, the employer must verify the training of each employee by preparing a written certification record that contains the name/identity of the employee trained, the date(s) of training, and the signature of the employer or the person who conducted the training.
Slideguards cannot simply be used in lieu of conventional fall protection methods under 1926.501(b)(13). However, slideguards may be used as part of a written, site-specific fall protection plan that meets the requirements of 1926.502(k) if the employer can demonstrate that the use of conventional fall protection (i.e., guardrail, safety net, or personal fall arrest systems) would be infeasible or create greater hazards.
Under 1926.501(b)(10), safety monitoring systems can be used in conjunction with a warning line system to protect employees during the performance of roofing work on roofs of 4 in 12 pitch or less. When such a roof is 50 feet (15.25 m) or less in width, a safety monitoring system can be used alone, i.e., without a warning line system. Under 1926.501(b)(13), if the employer can demonstrate that the use of conventional fall protection would be infeasible or create a greater hazard, monitors may be used as part of an employer's written fall protection plan under 1926.502(k).
Yes. Safety monitoring systems must meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.502(h) including, but not limited to, requirements that the monitor:
Before using a fall protection plan at a particular worksite, the employer must first be able to demonstrate that it is infeasible or presents a greater hazard to use conventional fall protection methods at that site. Fall protection plans must be site-specific to comply with §1926.502(k). A written fall protection plan developed for repetitive use, e.g., for a particular style or model of 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. Therefore, a standardized plan will have to be reviewed, and revised as necessary, on a site by site basis.
The Agency's interpretation of "residential construction" for purposes of 1926.501(b)(13) combines two elements – both of which must be satisfied for a project to fall under that provision:
The limited use of structural steel in a predominantly wood-framed home, such as a steel I-beam to help support wood framing, does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction.
Traditional wood frame construction materials and methods will be characterized by:
Limiting the scope of 1926.501(b)(13) to the construction of homes/dwellings comports with the plain meaning of the term "residential" in the text of that paragraph and is consistent with OSHA's intent in promulgating that provision.
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