Start preparing for new OSHA fall protection requirements now

A Roof

In an effort to curb the startling statistic that 40 workers are killed in the U.S. every year as a result of falls from residential roofs, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has set a deadline for implementation of new fall safety requirements for June 16, 2011.

The directive will require any residential builder, coast to coast, engaged in construction projects more than six feet from the ground (or lower levels, on low-slope roofs, steep roofs, etc.) to comply with 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13). The requirement basically calls for conventional fall protection, such as guardrail systems, safety net systems, professional fall arrest systems, or other fall protection measured spelled out in 1926.501(b).

The new rules replace the 1995 Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction, guidelines that allowed many residential builders to ignore fall safety requirements.

Three of OSHA’s Top 10 most frequently cited standards in 2010 pertained to height concerns, including scaffolding (#1), fall protection (#2) and ladders (#3), making fall-releated issues cumulatively one of the most cited hazards for workplaces and work sites across America.

However, there is limited flexibility. As the notice of the new fall protection rules explains, “if an employer can demonstrate that such fall protection is infeasible or presents a greater hazard, it may implement a written fall protection plan meeting the requirements of Sec.  1926.502(k).”

Since the deadline for these new requirements occurs in less than three months, now is the time for residential builders to implement streamlined safety management systems to ensure they meet all the new rules.

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