OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced plans to initiate rulemaking on fall protection for residential construction workers, and also is issuing detailed interim compliance guidelines.
"Both the residential housing and roofing industries have raised concerns about certain aspects of the current fall protection rule," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear noted. "Further rulemaking will bring us more information on the fall hazards facing residential construction workers so we can evaluate fall protection methods suggested by various industry groups including home builders and roofing contractors."
In the meantime, OSHA has published a directive with interim compliance guidelines that apply to all construction conducted using the designs, materials, methods and procedures used in typical townhouse and single-family house construction. "Residential construction" is not defined in the current OSHA rule and the term is often mistakenly interpreted to cover only townhouses and single-family homes. This interpretation is inappropriate, according to OSHA, because construction-related fall hazards and the measures for addressing those hazards are determined by the nature of the work performed, not by the ultimate use of a structure.
The final rule on fall protection in construction, published in August 1994, became effective for all but steel erection activities on Feb. 6, 1995. The rule requires residential construction contractors to use a fall protection plan if they cannot use one of the conventional means of fall protection (guardrails, personal fall arrest systems, or safety nets). Employers who demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use conventional fall protection must set out the supporting rationale in a site-specific fall protection plan, which also spells out the alternative methods to be used to protect workers.
OSHA anticipated that construction employers would want to establish the appropriateness of alternative fall protection for workers installing exterior wall panels, roof trusses and rafters, roof sheathing, floor joists and trusses. Sample fall protection language for those activities was included in Appendix E of the OSHA final rule.
The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) asked that similar consideration be given for construction employers with employees working on top of block foundation walls, concrete foundation walls and formwork, and installing electrical, environmental, safety alarm and similar systems in attics and on roofs.
The directive spells out alternative methods to protect these workers from falls. It also makes it plain that, at this time, employers can use alternative methods in both Appendix E and the directive without producing a written plan.
The National Roofing Contractors (NRCA) and the NAHB also had requested that OSHA reconsider application of the standard to residential construction roofing activities, in light of common protective measures used in the residential construction industry, but not recognized in the rule.
OSHA has acknowledged these recommendations and the directive provides for the use of alternative fall protection measures, known as slide guards, in lieu of conventional measures.
A copy of the directive may be obtained by sending a self-addressed label to the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA/OSHA Publications, P.O. Box 37535 Washington, DC 20013-7535. Telephone (202) 219-4667.
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