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 1, 2004

Mr. Alcides Esteves
Pentel Enterprises
60 Cathy Lane, Suite 103
Burlington, NJ 08016-9745

Re: Residential fall protection, §§1926.501(b)(13), 1926.502(k)

Dear Mr. Esteves:

This is in response to your letter faxed on September 25, 2003, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You ask about fall protection requirements for employees engaged in roofing activities on your construction site. We apologize for the delay in responding.

We have paraphrased your questions as follows:

Question (1): The buildings at the work site are constructed of "red iron" (hot formed structural steel) beams and columns, metal stud curtain walls, wood roof trusses, and a synthetic stucco EIFS (Exterior Insulation Finish System) and brick exterior. The work in question is the installation of the wooden roof trusses. What fall protection requirements apply to workers engaged in installation of the wooden roof trusses on such buildings? Does STD 3-0.1A apply? Is this considered "residential construction" under §1926.501(b)(13)? Do you agree with our view that the use of personal fall arrest systems for these workers is infeasible or would create a greater hazard?


STD 03-00-001 [formerly STD 3-0.1A] does not apply.

Compliance directive STD 3-0.1A states:

Definition of "residential construction."
  1. For purposes of this instruction, an employer is engaged in residential construction where the working environment, materials, methods and procedures are essentially the same as those used in building a typical single-family home or townhouse.
  2. Residential construction is characterized by:
    • Materials: Wood framing (not steel or concrete); wooden floor joists and roof structures.
    • Methods: Traditional wood frame construction techniques.
  3. In addition, the construction of a discrete part of a large commercial building (not the entire building), such as a wood frame, shingled entranceway to a mall, may fit within the definition of residential construction. Such discrete parts of a commercial building would qualify as residential construction where the characteristics listed above are present.

Under this directive, an employer is permitted to use alternative fall protection procedures without having to show the infeasibility of conventional fall protection where the methods and materials of the structure as a whole are essentially the same as those used in the construction of stick-built, single-family homes. The methods and procedures set forth in STD 3-0.1A were specifically designed to address the hazards unique to traditional stick frame, single family home construction.

The work site you describe falls beyond the scope of STD 3-0.1A. In your case, based on the submitted photos, the structural frame is predominantly structural steel, not stick-framing. The fact that the roof trusses are typical of the materials used for roofs in single family and townhouse construction covered by STD 3-0.1A is not, by itself, sufficient to bring the work within the scope of that directive. As explained in our recent letters to Dennis Vance dated December 8, 2003, and Alberto Torres dated June 30, 2003, (copies enclosed) where one component aspect of a structure (such as the roof) is typical of what is used in structures covered by the directive, but the structure when considered as a whole is not, STD 3-0.1A is inapplicable.

[This document was edited on 12/5/12 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy.]

1926.501(b)(13) does not apply.

Section 1926.501(b)(13) states:

(13) Residential construction. Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of §1926.502.
note: There is a presumption that it is feasible and will not create a greater hazard to implement at least one of the above-listed fall protection systems. Accordingly, the employer has the burden of establishing that it is appropriate to implement a fall protection plan which complies with §1926.502(k) for a particular workplace situation, in lieu of implementing any of those systems.

In light of the predominant use of structural steel, your project would not be considered "residential construction" for purposes of §1926.501(b)(13).

Question (2): In light of the information we have submitted, does OSHA agree that we have demonstrated that the use of conventional fall protection would be a greater hazard for workers operating within and between the trusses?

You describe an analysis you did for this work in which you determined the following:

  1. The framing members used to build the trusses were not designed to support a 5,000- pound anchoring point which would be necessary to tie-off.
  2. The structural steel is spaced 30 feet apart and has many obstructions between members. Therefore, the steel is only useful as a tie-off point when work is performed in the immediate area.
  3. Due to the clusters of bracing and bridging, the few clear paths through the trusses restricted or eliminated the ability to put up a life line or cable type device. Tie-offs would have to occur at a vertical level, which would limit lateral movement to the length of the lanyard.
  4. Lifts cannot be used to erect trusses because the space between the trusses cannot accommodate the platform and rails of a lift.
  5. When working with this truss system, the attachment point would have to be relocated constantly in order to be effective. This could potentially cause a greater fall hazard.
  6. Where workers must be relocated within the trusses in increments of a few feet and require dual lanyards, there is a greater potential to become entangled, trapped, or strangled.

You also found that you could use conventional fall protection methods in three instances:

  1. Where workers are performing leading-edge work within a platform or bucket lift.
  2. Where workers engaged in sheathing operations on top of the trusses are tethered to a lifeline.
  3. Where avenues for lateral movement are somewhat available in the early stages of erection, planks are laid on top of the bottom of the trusses to create walkways are created by laying planks on top of the bottom of trusses.

The evaluation of a fall protection analysis such as this is more appropriately done by your OSHA Area Office, as it is difficult to make an assessment without seeing the site.1  We have therefore forwarded your letter to the Parsippany Area Office, 299 Cherry Hill Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 07054, (973) 263-1003 and asked that office to contact you.

If you need additional information, please contact us by fax (202-693-1689) at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance. You can also contact us by mail at U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Office of Construction Standards and Guidance, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction

1We note, though, that one method that you do not appear to have considered is the use of catch platforms (which are available as mobile units) positioned under the areas where employees are working. [ back to text ]