ehs wire



blog horizontal banner

Environmental Health and Safety Blog | EHSWire

Fall Protection for Residential Workers – New Standards and New Tools to Help with Understanding Compliance Requirements

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jul 23, 2011 11:51:15 PM

Lee Scott Bishop, CIH, MPH

Have you ever driven by a crew constructing a new house or installing a new roof?  Have you noticed a guardrail system in place to keep workers from falling when working on the upper levels?  Or have you seen a personal fall arrest systemsthat will lock and hold a falling worker like a seatbelt in your car?  Most likely you have not seen either of these fall protection systems in place for residential projects!

Nearly one residential construction worker dies each workday as a result of falls.  OSHA believes that no job is worth a life.  Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA has said “ Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction.”  “ We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths

For workers employed by a mid-sized contracting group or a small crew engaged in house painting or outside repairs, OSHA has published a new directive which mandates the use of fall protection for all residential construction workers at heights of 6 feet off of the ground. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Fall Protection Policy for Residential Construction went into effect on June 16, 2011. Employers engaged in residential construction are required to follow the provisions of 29CFR1926.501(b)(13) which states:
"Residential construction." Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.

Note: There is a presumption that it is feasible and will not create a greater hazard to implement at least one of the above-listed fall protection systems. Accordingly, the employer has the burden of establishing that it is appropriate to implement a fall protection plan which complies with 1926.502(k) for a particular workplace situation, in lieu of implementing any of those systems.

This is not a new Standard.  Previous to 6/16/11, the existing policy directive (which was never intended to be a permanent solution) allowed residential construction employers to follow alternative fall protection methods instead of using conventional fall protection, like safety nets, personal fall arrest or guardrail systems.  OSHA INSTRUCTION DIRECTIVE NUMBER STD 03-11-002, Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction has replaced that policy.  The Agency is also reviewing all letters of interpretation that referenced the cancelled directive.  This new directive neither creates new legal obligations nor alters existing obligations created by OSHA standards or the Occupational Safety and Health Act.  The new policy directive merely implements the Standard as originally intended.

While sharing the procedures and equipment available to employers and in use in the industry, OSHA itemizes other forms of protection against falls such as

  • 1926.501(b)(2)(ii) - Controlled access zones and control lines - leading edge applications.

  • 1926.501(b)(4)(i) and (ii) - Covers - falling through holes.

  • 1926.501(b)(5) - Positioning devices - face of formwork or reinforcing steel.

  • 1926.501(b)(7)(i) and (ii) - Barricades, fences and covers - falling into excavations.

  • 1926.501(b)(8)(i) - Equipment guards - falling into dangerous equipment.

  • 1926.501(b)(10) - Warning line system and safety monitoring system - roofing work on low-slope (4:12 or less) roofs.  Or, on roofs 50-feet (15.25 m) or less in width, the use of a safety monitoring system without a warning line system is permitted.

The Directive/Standard requires training of workers, by the employer, so they can recognize potential hazard areas and are familiar to the resources they can implement to protect themselves from those hazards.  Trained workers receive certification which must be updated when the tools used change.  There is an option for the employer to find this Standard “not feasible”.  However, this avenue requires a written Fall Prevention Plan which is site specific, approved by a “qualified person”, kept up-to-date, and kept on the premises where the work is being conducted, and addresses all of the requirements found in section K of the standard.

OSHA further allows fall protection elements not covered in the “501” Standard such as Scaffolds, Ladders, and Aerial lifts which can be found covered in 29 CFR 1926.453.

Information for this blog was obtained from  This presentation is an excellent resource for identifying acceptable fall protection options.  Pictures portray each type of protection as well as Bakers and Perry scaffolds; wall bracket, or top plate, scaffold system; Pump-jack Scaffold; and other options such as Extensible Boom Aerial Lifts.

So, if you are a residential contractor who needs fall protection, what’s the next step for you?  First, be aware that if you ignore the OSHA compliance laws, you are still accountable (ignorance is no excuse!).    OSHA has developed a dedicated and easy-to-understandOSHA Construction webpage with  a variety of comprehensive residential fall protection compliance assistance and guidance materials at  For more information and research

U.S. Department of Labor
Occupational Safety & Health Administration
Directorate of Construction – Room N-3468
200 Constitution Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20210

Read More

Topics: OSHA, OSHA Compliance, General EHS, Construction H&S, H&S Training, Compliance, construction, safety, residential, fall, fall protection, workers

Subscribe to!


Latest Posts

Posts by category