Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

April 24, 1998

Mr. Todd Hoffmann
Vice President
Good Armstrong & Associates, Ltd.
2142 55th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53219

Re: STD 3.1; definition of "residential construction"
NOTE: This letter provides guidance on current OSHA policy on residential homebuilding; that policy is being re-evaluated and may change in the next several months.

Dear Mr. Hoffmann:

This is in response to your letter regarding the application of our policy on fall protection in residential construction. Specifically, we understand your questions to be: (1) if a building will be used as a bank, but is similar in construction to a single family ranch house, is it considered "residential construction" under OSHA Instruction STD 3.1 ; (2) does the type of roofing (asphalt shingle, sheet metal, aluminum, asphalt felt or slate/stone) affect whether the structure is considered residential construction; (3) does the use of slide guards, in accordance with the procedures specified in STD 3.1, meet OSHA's fall protection requirements; (4) may a fall protection plan that includes neither conventional fall protection nor slide guards be used if the employer can demonstrate that they are infeasible (or would create a greater hazard)?

Current Policy: STD 3.1
Fall protection requirements for residential construction are set out in 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13). In general, that provision requires conventional fall protection for work at or over six feet. However, OSHA Instruction STD 3.1 modifies those requirements. It permits employers engaged in certain residential construction activities to use alternative procedures routinely instead of conventional fall protection. Different alternative procedures are specified for different activities. Such employers do not have to demonstrate the infeasibility of conventional fall protection as a precondition to using the STD 3.1 alternative procedures. They also do not have to have put their fall protection plan in writing, nor does the plan have to be site specific.

We are currently developing a new Directive to clarify the fall protection requirements for residential construction. The new Directive will contain a more specific definition of "residential construction," and so may alter the answers to your questions. We hope to issue the new policy in the next few months. Once the new Directive is finalized, we will send you a copy. In the meantime, the following discussion constitutes current OSHA policy on your questions.

Scope of STD 3.1; Definition of Residential Construction
If the working environment, construction materials, methods and procedures used to build the structure you refer to are essentially the same as those used for typical house (single family dwelling) and townhouse construction, the fall protection measures in STD 3.1 may be used for the activities designated in STD 3.1. The type of roofing is relevant to determining if the structure falls within STD 3.1; if the roofing materials are not commonly used on typical single family homes or townhouses, then the building would not be considered residential construction. Asphalt shingle, sheet metal for standing seam roofing, asphalt felt, slate and stone chip are typical materials for residential roofs.

Slide Guards
When engaged in roof sheathing operations covered by STD 3.1, an employer that implements the requirements set out in STD 3.1 is considered to be in compliance with 1926.501(b)(13). For roof sheathing, STD 3.1 requires that an employer use the procedures set forth in Appendix E to subpart M. One of those requirements is to use slide guards. Appendix E has specific requirements for the configuration, installation and construction of slide guards. If an employer follows those requirements, along with the other requirements of Appendix E, it will be in compliance with 1926.501(b)(13).

Similarly, an employer engaged in roofing work covered by STD 3.1 that uses the STD 3.1 procedures must implement the slide guard requirements, along with the other STD 3.1 measures. Requirements for the configuration, installation and construction of slide guards for roofing are set forth in STD 3.1 (these differ somewhat from the Appendix E slide guard requirements).

You ask whether an employer that demonstrates the infeasibility (or greater hazard) of both conventional fall protection and slide guards may use a fall protection plan that excludes the use of both. You have not stated under what circumstances you believe slide guards would be infeasible or create a greater hazard. Without that information we cannot offer guidance on that question.

If you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again by writing to: Directorate of Construction - OSHA Office of Construction Standards and Compliance Assistance, Room N3621, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.


Noah Connell
Acting Director
Office of Construction Standards and
Compliance Assistance