Interim Residential Fall Protection Guidelines To Be Rescinded Effective in June 2011

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is formally rescinding interim residential fall protection guidelines and replacing them with a new directive outlining required fall protection measures, according to a notice due to be published in the Dec. 22 Federal Register.

The new directive (STD 03-11-002) will require employers to use conventional fall protection systems--guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems--unless it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard, sources close to the issue told BNA Dec. 21.

The new directive was to be released Dec. 22 and will take effect June 16, 2011, according to OSHA.

The interim guidelines allowed employers to use alternatives to conventional fall protection measures if conventional protection proved infeasible or created a greater hazard.

The agency decided to change the policy after determining advances in fall protection equipment since the interim guidelines were issued made conventional systems feasible, the notice said.

In addition, the new directive will define “residential construction,” a key gap the National Association of Home Builders has said made the interim guidelines unclear.

Many workers still die from falls in residential construction, including 43 in 2009, according to preliminary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The home builders, the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association, and others have criticized the interim guidelines, saying they allow employers to choose less expensive, alternative fall protection in cases where more conventional fall protection, specified under the construction standard (29 C.F.R. Section 1926, Subpart M), might in fact be feasible.

OSHA issued the guidelines in 1995. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said recently that the agency would rescind the guidelines soon (40 OSHR 974, 11/25/10).

Representatives from NAHB met with OSHA officials Dec. 17 to discuss the policy change and said they planned to promote the revisions through its long-standing OSHA alliance, Marcus Odirizzi, a member of the association's safety and health policy staff, told BNA Dec. 21.

The National Roofing Contractors Association, meanwhile, has previously opposed rescinding the policy, arguing that because of the short-duration of most re-roofing jobs, fall protection strategies other than conventional methods, such as slide guards, are also necessary for certain roofs.

 

By Greg Hellman