OSHA Issues Illustrated Fall Prevention Guide for Residential Construction

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To help residential building contractors comply with the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration directive on preventing residential construction falls, the agency on April 8 released a 20-page guidance document illustrating acceptable fall prevention measures.

David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in the guide's summary that it “provides information on various work methods that may be used at different stages of the residential construction process.”

The new guide covers the fall prevention directive (STD 03-11-002, Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction) that was issued Dec. 16, 2010, replacing STD 03-001, an interim directive that had been in place since 1999 (40 OSHR 1056, 12/23/10).

Overall, the new directive requires residential contractors to have OSHA-approved fall prevention measures in place where workers are 6 feet or higher above a floor or the ground. One change included in the new directive is a ban on the use of “slide guards” in most situations, where protective measures such as netting or safety lines would be required instead.

OSHA's employer guidance has 36 photographs of construction sites with OSHA-approved fall prevention measures. The measures illustrated include bracket scaffolds mounted on walls for workers to stand on, safety nets, permanent anchor points on roofs for workers to attach safety lines, and guardrails around floor openings or beside unfinished stairways.

The guide does not answer policy questions raised in the directive. For example, the guide does not address what is required in a “site-specific” fall prevention plan or explain OSHA's definition of residential construction. For those details, contractors need to check the standard and other OSHA information.

Reducing the number of deadly falls has been a priority for OSHA. “Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction,” Michaels said in written statement announcing the guide's release. “We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths.”

Falls from roofs under repair or construction resulted in 43 of the 88 residential construction deaths during 2009, the most recent year for which numbers are available, according to Department of Labor accident statistics. Overall, 277 workers died from construction-related falls in 2009.

By Bruce Rolfsen

The fall prevention guidance document is available at http://www.osha.gov/doc/guidance.pdf.

The text of OSHA's Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction(STD 03-11-002) is available at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=DIRECTIVES&p_id=4755.

OSHA's explanation of the standard in a question-and-answer format is available at http://www.osha.gov/doc/residential-construction/residential-construction-qa.html.

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