New OSHA Guidelines for Residential Fall Protection Compliance

December 2011Newsletters In the Zone

On September 22, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor initiated a temporary compliance assistance program to aid construction companies in the implementation of OSHA’s new Residential Fall Protection Directive.

On June 16, 2011, OSHA established a new Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction. Under 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13), workers engaged in residential construction six feet or more above lower levels must be protected by conventional fall protection (i.e., guardrail systems, safety net systems or personal fall arrest systems) or other fall protection measures allowed elsewhere in 1926.501(b). However, if an employer can demonstrate that such fall protection is infeasible or presents a greater hazard, it may implement a fall protection plan meeting the requirements of 1926.502(k).

However, concerns have been expressed by the construction industry over the hardship associated with compliance in the current housing market climate. In response, OSHA has established a temporary program to ease the industry into compliance.

Effective September 22, 2011, and until March 15, 2012, OSHA has established the following general policy guidance for enforcement of the new residential fall protection directive and for compliance assistance related to that directive:

(1) OSHA will make it a priority for its Compliance Assistance Specialists (CAS) to provide assistance to the residential construction industry. Residential fall protection requests are to be the CAS’s highest priority.
(2) During inspections of employers engaged in residential construction that are not complying with the new residential fall protection directive but are following the old directive (STD 03-00-001), the Regional Administrators and Area Directors will take the following actions:

  • Area Directors will allow an additional good faith reduction in penalties of up to 10 percent for employers engaged in residential construction. In addition to the safety and health management system good faith determination in Chapter 6 of the Field Operations Manual, the Area Director shall consider examples of attempting to comply in good faith to include: requesting and scheduling an Onsite Consultation visit, ordering protective fall equipment for its employees or performing a documented evaluation of feasible means of abatement. This good faith reduction does not apply in cases of a fatality, catastrophe or serious injury resulting from a fall during residential construction activities.
  • Area Directors will allow residential construction employers at least 30 days to correct fall protection violations identified under the new residential fall protection directive. During that time, if such employers are not in compliance at that site or another site, no additional citations or repeat citations shall be issued. This policy does not apply in cases of a fatality, catastrophe or serious injury resulting from a fall during residential construction activities.

(3) All proposed citations under this enforcement policy shall be submitted to the OSHA Regional Office to ensure consistency and clarity.

All of the measures described in this policy apply only to employers that are, at a minimum, following the old directive (STD 03-00-001). If the employer is not complying with either the new or new directive, the Area Director shall issue appropriate citations.

More information can be found at OSHA’s Residential Fall Protection web page.

For more information, please contact Clair E. Wischusen at 215.918.3559 or [email protected].

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