- Standard Number:
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.
May 8, 1995
The Honorable John Linder
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515-1004
Dear Congressman Linder:
Thank you for your letter of February 16, requesting our response to concerns raised by two of your constituents, Mr. and Mrs. William E. Dodd, about the impact on the roofing industry of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) newly revised fall protection standard. We appreciate the opportunity to clarify this matter and apologize for the delay of this response.
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 industries covered by the new standard face significant risks related to fall hazards and that compliance with the revised fall protection standard is 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 the following: 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 them when it appears they are unaware of a fall hazard). For other 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 in combination with a guardrail system, safety net system, personal fall arrest system or safety monitoring system. 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 communicate with the person(s) being monitored. Therefore, the monitor must not be given other duties that prevent him or her from fulfilling the monitoring 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 previous rules 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 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 costs 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 cost of workers' compensation will clearly make it highly cost effective in the long run to provide 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.
We hope this explanation adequately addresses the concerns by your constituent. Please assure Mr. and Mrs. Dodd that OSHA staff will be happy to answer any questions or provide other assistance to help them understand and comply with the revised rules.
Mr. Roy Gurnham or Mr. Dale Cavanaugh of OSHA's Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance can be reached at (202) 219-8136.
Joseph A. Dear
February 16, 1995
The Honorable Joseph A. Dear
Assistant Secretary OSHA
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210
Please find enclosed a copy of a letter from two constituents. Mr. and Mrs. William E. Dodd. They are expressing their concern regarding regulations that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will soon implement that govern workplace safety.
I ask that you address Mr. and Mrs. Dodd's concerns and explain the additional costs and operating changes that they will be facing under this change in OSHA policy.
Thank you for your timely consideration of this matter. I look forward to your response.
Member of Congress
December 22, 1994
Congressman John Linder
3003 Chamblee-Tucker Road
Atlanta, Georgia 30341
Dear Congressman Linder,
We are writing in reference to all the letters you have written to us concerning whats going on in the government. We want you to know that we appreciate every letter that has been written from you.
Some of the issues of concern that you wrote in your last letter dated November 25, 1994 are of interest.
The other issues that concern us are rising taxes, liability insurance and workmens compensation insurance. Being a small Roofing Company after paying all of the taxes and insurance debts leaves us with little to no profit.
And now that Osha will be inforcing the fall act; This will inforce us to purchase more costly safety equipment which the cost will be passed on to the consumer.
Our Customers are already infuriated on the amount they have to pay to replace their roof. Any more added expenses will eventually slow down the selling progress and put alot of roofing companies out of business.
We would appreciate your concern on this matter.
William E. Dodd
Mary B. Dodd