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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

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

Expensive, damaging and possibly fatal…the truth about occupational slips, trips and falls!

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Jun 13, 2011 3:00:40 AM

By Eileen Lucier

Slips, trips, and falls aren’t at the top of anyone’s “most glamorous” EHS topics list.  Many people perceive slips, trips, and falls as minor incidents resulting solely from either carelessness or clumsiness. In fact, losing your footing is the basis for basic comedic art (ever watch “The Three Stooges” or “America’s Funniest Home Videos”?)  

Quite the opposite -- slips, trips, and falls are a very costly and serious worker safety issue. In 2008, these incidents cost American businesses a staggering $13.67 billion in direct workers compensation costs. That’s more than any other cause and more than the combined cost of the third through sixth ranked causes. 

Injury, Illness and Death Facts You Should Know

Slips, Trips, and Falls….

How can slips, trips, and falls be prevented?

As with most safety hazards, slip, trip, and fall hazards can be minimized with a combination of good work practices, proper use of appropriate equipment, proper facility and equipment maintenance, and worker training. OSHA’s Walking/Working Surfaces - Safety and Health Topic page provides links to all the applicable standards. Some basic preventive practices include:

  • Good housekeeping

    • Keep floors clean, dry, and sanitary

    • Clean up spills promptly

    • Keep aisles and walkways free of obstructions and clutter

  • Footwear

    • Fit properly

    • Require slip-resistant foot in areas prone to wet or slippery conditions

  • Fall prevention and protection

    • Provide appropriate fall arrest systems

  • Facilities and equipment

    • Walking and working surfaces

      • Floor surfaces should not be slippery or uneven

      • Install non-slip flooring in areas prone to wet or slippery conditions

      • Maintain floors in good condition

      • Equip elevated working surfaces and stairways with guardrails

      • Protect floor holes such as drains with grates or covers

      • Promptly remove ice and snow from walkways, parking lots, etc.

      • Adequate lighting

      • Ladders

        • Provide properly rated ladders

        • Maintain ladders in good condition

  • Training

    • Provide worker training for

      • Slip, trip, and fall hazards

      • Ladder use

      • Personal fall arrest systems

Don’t Slip Up on Safety!

Bruising, twisting or breaking a bone makes your work life and personal life extra challenging – it’s worth it to take a few minutes to prevent the accident from ever happening. On TV and in the movies, slips and other footing mishaps are carefully orchestrated with hidden padding, stunt doubles, some great camera tricks, and, of course, an endless supply of retakes. When you’re working on the job, there’s only one chance! 

Using the tips listed above, take a look around your workplace to see if it meets the criteria to prevent slips, trips and falls.  Don’t forget to look at your own feet to see that you are properly dressed for the environment and job duties. If you see a situation that is unsafe or could potentially be a slip, trip and fall hot spot, make sure you point it out to your coworkers and safety officer so that a permanent solution can be found.

Has it happened to you?

Have you experienced a slip, trip or fall on the job?  Could it have been prevented? What was the outcome for you and your company?
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Topics: health and safety, General Industry H&S, OSHA Compliance, General EHS, Construction H&S, Emergency Response, H&S Training, Compliance, worker safety, Occupational Safety, Lab Safety & Electrical, construction, General Industry, Fire Safety, fall protection, trips, slips

May 2011 was Busy for OSHA

Posted by Shivi Kakar

May 31, 2011 6:18:05 AM

Paula Kaufmann, CIH

As an occupational and safety professional, I’ve noticed that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been busy over the last few weeks!  The following is a summary of highlights of interest to Emilcott clients.  Did any of these catch your attention?

Highlight #1: Up-to-Date OSHA Standards

Announcement of a final rule to help keep OSHA standards up-to-date and better enable employers to comply with their regulatory obligation. The concept should allow OSHA to easily remove outdated requirements, streamline and simplify standards without reducing employee protection. The rule is to be published soon in the Federal Register:  OSHA Standards Improvement Project-Phase III final rule.

Benefit to employers:  OSHA estimates that the final rule will result in annual cost savings to employers exceeding $43 million. Now that’s an improvement to cheer about!

In the news release, OSHA stated that there will not be any NEW requirements set by this rule, so employers will be able to comply with it immediately. (However, it seems that there will be modifications...Emilcott will be keeping a lookout for those and post an update below or as a new EHSWire post.)  Here are some examples listed in the news release on this rule:

  • Respiratory Protection

    • Aligning air cylinder testing requirements for self-contained breathing apparatuses with U.S. Department of Transportation regulations

    • Clarifying that the provisions of Appendix D, which contains information for employees using respirators when not required under the standard, are mandatory if the employee chooses to use a respirator.

  • Sanitation

    • Defining “potable water” to meet the current Environmental Protection Agency

  • Access to Exposure and Medical Records

    • Deleting a number of requirements for employers to transmit exposure and medical records to NIOSH

  • Slings

    • Requiring that employers use only slings marked with manufacturers' loading information

Highlight #2: OSHA Injury and Illness Logs - Musculoskeletal Disorders (“MSD”)

Reopening the public record on proposed record-keeping rule to add work-related musculoskeletal disorders column.  This keeps popping up!

  • In January of  2010, OSHA proposed to revise its Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements regulation to restore a column to the OSHA 300 log that employers would have to check if an incident they already have recorded under existing rules is an MSD.  

  • On January 25, 2011, OSHA withdrew this proposed revision.

  • On May 17, 2011, OSHA reopens the public record on a proposed rule.

Highlight #3: A Survey of Private Sector Employees

Launch of a targeted employer survey to collect information that would improve the development of future rules, compliance assistance and outreach efforts.

  • The survey will be sent to private sector employers of all sizes and across all industries under OSHA's jurisdiction. Questions include whether respondents already have a safety management system, whether they perform annual inspections, who manages safety at their establishments and what kinds of hazards they encounter at their facilities. Participation in the survey is voluntary.

Highlight #4: Fall Protection for Residential Construction Workers

Online presentation about fall protection specifically designed for residential construction workers. (This is really great as residential construction crews frequently overlook safety – just look at all the roofers walking around the top of your neighborhood homes!)

On a personal note, my son is currently volunteering as a roofer on a Habitat for Humanity home construction site … he informs me that he is wearing fall protection and the roof has anchor points! 

So, can you tell that Emilcott is pretty excited about these changes? Instead of putting the onus on employers to become more aware of OSHA, OSHA is streamlining existing rules to match other government agencies (radical!), listening to employers before leaping into new regulations, and looking at alternative messaging techniques to market segments that frequently fall in the cracks.

If you’re interested in what’s happening at OSHA, just take a look at the loooooong list of May press releases…Are there any highlights that you think important to you or American businesses? Any predictions for June?
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Topics: OSHA, General Industry H&S, OSHA Compliance, General EHS, Construction H&S, Compliance, worker safety, reporting, regulation, construction, fall protection, federal register, log, standards, musculoskeletal disorder

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