• Publication Date:
  • Publication Type:
    Proposed Rule
  • Fed Register #:
  • Standard Number:
  • Title:
    Safety Standards for Fall Protection in the Construction Industry.

29 CFR Part 1926

[Docket No. S-206A]

Safety Standards for Fall Protection in the Construction Industry

AGENCY: Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Department of Labor.

ACTION: Proposed Rule; Limited reopening of the rulemaking record for comments on precast concrete and residential construction issues.

SUMMARY: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reopening the comment period for written responses to OSHA's August 5, 1992, (57 FR 34656) limited reopening of the record on fall protection regarding the appropriate fall protection measures for employees engaged in precast concrete construction. Also, OSHA is seeking comments on new issues raised regarding fall protection in residential construction, with particular regard to framing activities.

DATES: Comments on the issues raised in the notice of reopening must be postmarked by May 28, 1993.

ADDRESSES: Comments are to be sent to the Docket Office, Docket No. S-206A, U.S. Department of Labor, room N-2625, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. James F. Foster, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, room N-3637, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210. Telephone (202) 219-8148.


I. Background

On November 25, 1986, OSHA proposed to revise the fall protection requirements for construction and to consolidate those provisions in subpart M of part 1926 (51 FR 42718). The Agency held informal public hearings regarding proposed subpart M on March 22-23, 1988, with Administrative Law Judge Joel Williams presiding. At the close of the hearings, Judge Williams set posthearing comment periods which ended on May 9, 1988. On August 11, 1989, the Administrative Law Judge certified the hearing record.

OSHA subsequently received letters from the Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute (PCI) and Ryland Building Company (Ryland) which raised matters of concern that had not been raised during the public rulemaking process. The issues raised in the late submissions dealt with the appropriate fall protection measures for employees engaged in precast concrete and light residential construction activities. Following is a discussion of those issues, along with questions that solicit information regarding those issues.

Precast Concrete

Proposed subpart M required that employers protect employees from fall hazards primarily through the proper use of "conventional fall protection" (guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems). In the course of the subpart M rulemaking, OSHA received comments (Exs. 2-44, 2-106 and 2-107) from PCI, an organization representing the manufacturers of precast concrete building materials and both employers and employees in the precast concrete construction industry, which stated that employees who perform the initial connection of concrete structure components need more freedom of movement than the use of conventional fall protection would permit. One comment (Ex. 2-107) suggested that OSHA allow competent persons to monitor the initial connection of hollow core slabs and to warn the connectors of fall hazards, as provided in proposed 1926.501(b)(2), 1926.501(b)(10) and 1926.502(h) for leading edge and built-up roofing work, in lieu of using conventional systems.

In response, OSHA including Issue M-2 in the Notice of informal public hearing for proposed subpart M (53 FR 2054, January 26, 1988), to describe the concerns raised by PCI and to solicit pertinent testimony and information. PCI and a member company, Concrete Erectors, Inc., presented testimony (Tr. 53-82 and 95- 100, March 22, 1988) supporting the use of safety monitoring systems to protect precast connectors. PCI also submitted post- hearing comments (Exs. 17 and 19) that reiterated its concerns.

OSHA received several letters from PCI following the close of the subpart M rulemaking record. Those letters provided new information regarding the feasibility of conventional fall protection for precast connectors and suggested ways in which pre-planning of the erection process could minimize fall hazards.

The Agency determined that it was in the public interest to consider the input from PCI and to allow the public an opportunity to comment on that input. Accordingly, on August 5, 1992, OSHA reopened the rulemaking record for proposed subpart M (57 FR 34656). The notice of limited reopening discussed the new PCI information and suggestions (Exs. 25-1 through 25-6) in detail. The notice also requested comments on the criteria OSHA was considering for precast concrete erectors who seek to establish that conventional fall protection systems would be infeasible for their operations and that they have implemented alternative fall protection measures which adequately protect employees from fall hazards.

The comment period, which ended on November 3, 1992, elicited 10 comments (Exs. 27-1 through 27-10). PCI, which represents employer and employee interests, has requested that OSHA reopen the rulemaking record again so that PCI and its members can more fully respond to the issues raised in the August 5, 1992 notice.

The Agency has determined that it is appropriate to allow additional time for PCI and other interested parties to submit comments, so that OSHA will have a more complete record upon which to base the final rule for subpart M. Therefore, the Agency is reopening the rulemaking record until May 28, 1993, to facilitate the submission of pertinent information and comments on the six issues raised in the August 5, 1992 notice.

Residential Construction

Issue 2 in the preamble to proposed subpart M (51 Fr 42729) asked if there were areas or operations which have unique fall protection needs not addressed by the proposed rule. OSHA mentioned carpenters erecting roof trusses during house construction as a possible example. The Agency received no comments on that aspect of Issue 2 during the initial rulemaking period.

After the rulemaking record had closed, OSHA received a letter from Ryland stating that there are no feasible means of protecting employees erecting roof trusses and installing exterior wall panels from fall hazards. In a letter dated December 18, 1992, Ryland stated:

In light residential construction, erecting roof trusses takes less than two hours on an average roof. The safety standards [1926.104(b)] allow the use of a lifeline and safety belt but then requires that the lifeline be secured to an anchorage above the point of operation. There is no point above the point of operation when installing roof trusses or sheathing, other th[a]n the components being installed. The standards go on to require the anchorage point to withstand a minimum dead load of 5400 pounds[s]. The trusses used in residential construction are not stable enough or str[o]ng enough to meet this requirement.

Ryland also contended that the use of catch platforms, safety nets or scaffolds for roof truss erection would either be infeasible to accomplish or would expose employees to greater hazards for a longer time than would be the case if employers worked without fall protection. Ryland submitted its procedures for both manual and crane installation of roof trusses and the installation of roof sheathing.

OSHA notes that the requirements of proposed subpart M (1926.502(d)(12)) differ from the above-cited requirements of existing 1926.104(b). In particular, the proposed rule requires that "Body belt/harness systems be secured to anchorages capable of supporting at least twice the potential impact load of an employee's fall."

Regarding fall protection for employees installing exterior wall panels, Ryland stated:

During the installation of panelized exterior walls the framers for a short time are exposed to a recognized fall hazard. The installation of a guardrail system would in most cases be done by the same employees that would be installing the exterior walls. This would only expose those employees to the same fall hazard three times instead of once. Normally in this type of residential construction the wall panels are installed as soon as the floor sheathing has been installed. The panels themselves become the fall protection after their installation. The installation of any other system would only expose these employees to greater risk. The best protection for employees in this area would be proper training on procedures and the recognition of the hazard.

OSHA believes that Ryland's letter raises issues that should be addressed in the final rule and that the public should have an opportunity to comment on the Ryland submission. Accordingly, the Agency has added the letter to the rulemaking record (Ex. 27- 15) and is using this reopening to ask for comments, including any supporting information (such as current accident, economic and engineering data), on the following questions:

(1) What methods of providing fall protection are currently being used by builders to protect employees who are installing walls and erecting roof trusses. In particular, what protection is provided while employees are securing roof trusses to the walls and bracing the roof trusses? If personal fall arrest systems are being used (body belt/harness systems), what are contractors using for an anchorage point?

(2) To what extent is it feasible to protect employees erecting roof trusses (and in particular, when bracing trusses) or installing exterior wall panels from fall hazards through the use of conventional fall protection measures - guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems?

(3) If use of conventional fall protection measures is infeasible, to what extent could employers protect employees in residential construction from fall hazards through the implementation of a "fall protection plan" involving compliance with the proposed provisions for control zones (proposed 1926.502(g)), warning lines (1926.502(f)) or safety monitoring systems (1926.502(h))? What modifications to those provisions, if any, would be necessary?

(4) Do residential construction employers currently use controlled access zones, warning lines or safety monitoring systems to protect employees from fall hazards? What are the costs or other impacts of implementing access restrictions?

(5) What load should an anchorage point be able to withstand for the use of personal fall arrest systems to be feasible in residential construction?

(6) To what extent could employees use ladders or scaffolds to minimize fall hazards while erecting roof trusses or installing exterior wall panels?

(7) What changes in work practices for residential construction would increase protection from fall hazards? For example, requiring a platform or flooring to be placed on the bottom chord of trusses to provide safer footing for the employee or to allow work to be performed from a ladder.

(8) What training and work practices should be required for employees who erect roof trusses or install exterior wall panels? Should such training or work practice requirements be allowed as an alternative for conventional fall protection measures? If yes, under what circumstances?

(9) To what extent could employees installing exterior wall panels be protected from fall hazards through the use of personal fall arrest systems with self-retracting lifelines or horizontal lifelines?

(10) Does the size of a residential construction company (e.g., the number of employees) affect the ability to provide conventional fall protection or to implement a fall protection plan? In what respects?

(11) How many residential structures requiring the erection of roof trusses and the installation of exterior wall panels are built each year? What are the average number of employees, length of time, and contract value involved in the construction of various type of residential structures? To what extent are such "average" numbers representative of residential construction operations? Insofar as commenters believe that "averages" would not be representative, OSHA requests that those commenters submit project data which would enable the Agency to characterize industry operations accurately.

(12) To what extent do residential construction employers presently develop and implement fall protection plans for each worksite? To what extent do those employers develop generic fall protection plans to cover a number of worksites that have similar circumstances? What is the cost of developing and implementing such plans? What qualifications should the persons who design or implement fall protection plans have?

(13) To what extent do residential construction employers restrict access to areas which pose potential fall hazards? What means are used to restrict access?

(14) To what extent should the fall protection requirements for employees engaging in "residential construction" differ from the requirements for employees engaged in "commercial construction" activities? Should OSHA differentiate between "residential construction" and "light residential construction"? Please explain the basis for any suggested differentiation.

(15) How should OSHA define the term "residential construction" or "light residential construction" for purposes of its requirements if it is determined that different requirements should apply?

II. Public Participation


Written comments regarding the issues raised in this notice must be postmarked by May 28, 1993. Four copies of these comments must be submitted to the Docket Office, Docket No. S- 206A, U.S. Department of Labor, room N-2634, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210. (202)219-7894. All materials submitted will be available for inspection and copying at the above address. Materials previously submitted to the Docket for the subpart M rulemaking regarding the issues set forth in this notice need not be resubmitted.

III. Authority.

This document was prepared under the direction of David C. Zeigler, Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20210.

It is issued under section 6(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (29 U.S.C. 655), section 107 of the Construction Safety Act (40 U.S.C. 333), and 29 CFR part 1911.

Signed at Washington, DC, this 23rd day of March 1993.

David C. Zeigler,
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor

[FR Doc. 93-7062 Filed 3-26-93; 8:45 am]