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Lawmaker with roofing industry ties blasts OSHA for fall protection requirement

RoofingAt this week's hearing of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) vigorously criticized the head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), David Michaels, over a directive requiring fall protection equipment for workers on residential roofing projects. Ribble insisted that the rules were too costly and a burden on business.

Until recently, residential roofing contractors were exempt from OSHA rules about fall protection. In 2007, the National Association of Home Builders, which includes roofers, asked OSHA to remove the residential exemption. OSHA complied with the request earlier this year. The association reversed its position soon after, arguing that the rule could be too difficult to follow in certain situations.

Financial disclosure records indicate that in 2010, Ribble earned more than $50,000 in interest payments resulting from the sale of his roofing company, the Ribble Group, Inc. He also received $10,000 in campaign contributions from the National Roofing Contractors Association, an industry group for which he served as president in 2005-2006.

Public Citizen, a national consumer advocacy group, said Ribble should have recused himself from the hearing. Ribble, who is not a member of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee, asked to participate in today's hearing.

“With the House GOP trying to stop OSHA from issuing lifesaving regulations, we need to have an objective conversation about keeping workers safe,” said Justin Feldman, worker health and safety advocate with Public Citizen. “Rep. Ribble has a clear conflict of interest on this particular issue."

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that 176 roofers died on the job between 2003 and 2010.

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