Residential construction employers have just over two months to implement new fall hazard protections required by OSHA.
As of June 16, 2011, companies will have to protect employees working six feet or more above lower levels with fall protection methods, such as guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.
Alternative means of protection are permitted, such as the use of warning lines and safety monitoring systems during performance of roofing work on low-sloped roofs.
If an employer can prove it is infeasible or creates a greater hazards to use required fall protection systems, a qualified person must develop a written site-specific fall protection plan.
A document recently issued by OSHA, Fall Protection in Residential Construction, is aimed at helping employer prevent fall-related injuries and deaths among residential construction workers. Data shows that falls are the leading cause of death for workers involved in residential construction.
OSHA issued the Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction in December 2010 to require that residential construction employers provide workers with fall protection according to OSHA's Fall Protection in Construction standard. This new document demonstrates work methods employers may use to comply with the standard's requirements.
Directed primarily to those working on new construction, the document describes safety methods employers can implement during stages of construction. Methods for preventing fall-related injuries and deaths include using anchors for personal fall arrest systems and fall restraints, safety net systems, guardrails, ladders, and scaffolds for activities such as installing roof sheathing, weatherproofing a roof, and installing walls and subfloors, among others.
"Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths."
OSHA's Residential Fall Protection web page includes a fact sheet, and questions and answers about requirements for protecting workers from fall hazards. Additionally, the Safety and Health Topics Web page on Fall Protection – Construction provides a list of references to help employers identify fall hazards and possible solutions for eliminating such hazards. OSHA is continuing to develop additional resources to help employers.