In September of 2011, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) extended temporary enforcement measures for fall protection of workers at residential construction sites. This extension was to expire on March 15, 2012, but has now been extended through September 15, 2012, in order to give all builders additional time to comply with the fall protection standards.
With the extended temporary enforcement, OSHA will offer:
- free on-site compliance help
- reduced penalties
- extended abatement dates
- improved consistency and increased outreach
OSHA has noted that the temporary enforcement measure only applies to employers who are following the old directive (STD 03-00-001). If the employer is not complying with either the new directive or the old directive, they will be subject to citations for any violations.
The rescinding of the old directive is intended to better protect workers. OSHA has noted that falls are the leading cause of deaths in construction industry. In 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted 260 workers were killed in construction falls, and 70 had been engaged in residential construction. Residential construction had been exempted from these standards, which date to the late 1990s.
The new regulations require all workers engaged in residential construction over six-feet above the ground level must be protected by conventional fall protection as specified in Subpart M (the location of OSHA's fall protection regulations in Code of Federal Regulations).
Roofers can no longer rely on the 25-foot, ground-to-eave height threshold, and slide guards are no longer acceptable as a form of fall protection, regardless of the roof pitch or height of the roof eave.
Residential construction had been exempted because of concerns that the systems would not be feasible for small construction sites and the necessary cables and restraints could increase the hazards workers might face.
The "interim" standard 03-00-001 was in place for almost 15 years, and during that time workers continued to die from falls. In 2008, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) urged OSHA to rescind the standard to eliminate confusion among builders as to what fall protection standards applied to their job sites.
While some builders, who can demonstrate site-specific, infeasibility of fall protection on their jobs, OSHA clearly expects that all builders will be able to achieve compliance with the fall protection regulations.