OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.



March 30, 1995

The Honorable Richard Shelby
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510-0103

Dear Senator Shelby:

Thank you for your letter of February 8, requesting our response to concerns raised by your constituent, Mr. Larry Arbo, about the impact on the roofing industry of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) revised fall protection standard. I appreciate the opportunity to address this matter.

Before addressing Mr. Argo's primary concern, I would like to provide you with some information on the new rule. Falls are the leading cause of death and a major cause of serious injuries on construction jobs. On August 9, 1994, OSHA issued a final revised standard regulating worker exposure to fall hazards in the construction industry. The standard, which became effective February 6, requires construction employers to provide fall protection to workers who are exposed to fall hazards of 6 feet or more.

The public rulemaking record demonstrated that employees in all construction activities covered by the new standard face significant risks related to fall hazards, and that compliance with the revised fall protection standard is reasonably necessary to protect affected employees from that risk.

During the rulemaking process, many roofing industry participants expressed the view that during roofing operations workers need not be protected from falling off sides and edges of low-slope roofs (i.e., roofs no steeper than 4 feet vertical to 12 feet horizontal) until the fall distance exceeds 16 feet. However, OSHA's Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health (which includes employer representatives) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended that a maximum fall distance of 6 feet be set for both low-slope roofs and steep roofs.

In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in a report entitled Profiles in Safety and Health: Roofing and Sheet Metal Work, concluded that roofing, siding, and sheet metal work had the highest rate of occupational injuries and illnesses for a non-manufacturing industry; falls were the leading cause of roofing injuries.

Another BLS study on falls demonstrated that of 110 falls from roofs, half involved workers falling distances of less than 15 feet. Of these workers, over half suffered fractures to one or more parts of their body, over 40 percent suffered muscle sprains, strains or torn ligaments, and 9 percent suffered a concussion. OSHA, therefore, concluded that falls of less than 16 feet pose a significant hazard and that workers exposed to such falls should not be unprotected.

The fall protection requirements for employees performing roofing operations are not onerous. For low-slope roofs less than 50 feet in width, roofing employers have the option of protecting employees solely by use of a safety monitor (i.e., a competent person who monitors other employees on the roofing crew and warns then with it appears they are unaware of a fall hazard). For wider low-slope roofs, employers may protect employees by either a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system (lanyards and body belts), or by the use of a warning line system with a safety monitor to monitor employees working outside the warning line. Employers need not hire an extra person to perform the task of safety monitor; one of the crew could be assigned this function. OSHA does require, however, that the monitor be able to see and communicated with the person(s) being monitored. Therefore, the monitor must not be given other duties that prevent him or her from fulfilling the monitor function.

For "steep" roofs (i.e., roofs steeper than 4 feet vertical to 12 feet horizontal), where the fall hazard is greater, employees must be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems with toeboards, personal fall arrest systems, or safety net systems.

Many roofing contractors who have been in compliance with the regulations were in effect prior to February 6 will find there is no increase in cost for this rule since the same system used to protect workers from fall hazards at 16 feet (the previous standard) can be used at 6 feet. In addition, the employee who was designated as a "safety monitor" at 16 feet can perform the same function when the fall hazard is at or above 6 feet.

OSHA estimated that the revised standard will prevent 22 fatalities and 15,600 injuries annually in the construction industry, while saving employers over $200 million annually in wage and productivity losses, medical costs, administrative expenses, and other costs associated with accidents.

OSHA also found that the total estimated costs associated with the revised standard, about $40 million annually, represent less than 0.01 percent of total construction revenues and less than 0.5 percent of revenues for each individual construction sector. The estimated compliance efforts do not involve large capital expenditures, and there is no significant differential effect on small firms relative to that on large firms. The rulemaking record indicates that the measures required by the standard are already in general use throughout the construction industry. Thus, while there may initially be some increased costs associated with efforts to comply with the standard, subsequent productivity gains and reductions in the costs of workers' compensation will clearly make it highly cost effective in the long run to provide effective fall protection.

We note that although the steel erection industry has challenged the standard's applicability to that industry on procedural grounds, no one has challenged OSHA's basic findings that the requirements of the revised fall protection standard are reasonably necessary to protect affected employees, are cost effective, and would produce no significant adverse economic impacts.

With regard to Mr. Arbo's concern and the picture of the worker wearing a harness with side D-rings, it is our impression that the equipment manufacturer, in order to save space, illustrated both fall arrest and work positioning equipment on the same person. OSHA's new fall protection regulations do not require the use of both systems at the same time. In fact the employer does not have to use this type of equipment at all. The rule provides a great deal of flexibility by listing several options that an employer can use to protect his employees from falling. A fall arrest system with just one line is one of these options.

We hope this explanation adequately addresses the concerns raised by your constituent. Please assure your constituent that OSHA staff will be happy to answer any questions or provide other assistance to help him understand and comply with the revised rules. [The Office of Construction Standards and Guidance can be reached at (202) 693-2020.]


Joseph A. Dear
Assistant Secretary


[Corrected 05/28/04]



March 20, 1995

Richard F. Andree, CSP. P.E., Ph.D.
Vice President
Corporate Safety and Health Consultants
161 William Street
New York, NY 10038

Dear Mr. Andree:

Thank you for your letter dated January 17 concerning a letter of interpretation issued December 23, 1994 to Mr. Fred Codding of the National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors (NARSC).

Your concerns about the safety of employees carrying loads while ascending a rebar assembly being built in place have been forwarded to the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance for review to see if a new letter of interpretation is warranted.

Thank you for your interest in safety.


Joseph A. Dear
Assistant Secretary




March 7, 1995

The Honorable Bob Graham
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Senator Graham:

Thank you for your December 7, 1994 letter seeking information about a concern raised by your constituent, Mr. William Derrer. Mr. Derrer wrote about a new Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) policy on focused inspections in construction. I apologize for the delay of this response.

As of October 1, 1994, OSHA has been implementing a new policy for construction inspections that we believe will allow us to target our limited resources towards the most hazardous situations at construction sites. As correctly summarized by Mr. Derrer, we will do this by having our compliance officers focus their inspection of qualifying contractors on the four leading causes of fatalities in construction. In order to qualify for such an inspection, the controlling contractor must have both a safety program and someone responsible for implementing the program. We believe this effort will recognize the efforts of conscientious contractors by allowing us to minimize the time spent on their sites and will allow us to move more quickly to those worksites where there is less regard for employee safety.

Enclosed is a copy of the implementing memorandum and a set of written guidelines that have been prepared to facility the understanding of this new policy. If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Roy F. Gurnham of my staff in the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance at 202-219-8136.

Thank you for your interest in safety.


Joseph A. Dear
Assistant Secretary






April 24, 1995







The attached letter with enclosure from the National Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance is being forwarded for your information. We have received several inquiries from utility type companies (telephone, cable, etc.) about this very issue, and this response from Washington seems to address the issue about as well as we could (maybe in a few more words than we would use). Please share with your staff members as you deem appropriate.

The State Plan Area Directors and the ARA - TECFAP may wish to share these documents with the State Designees and the 7(c)(1) Consultation Program Managers, respectively.