Occupational Health & Safety

OSHA Extends Residential Construction Enforcement Policies

In effect for six more months, until Sept. 15, 2012, are measures giving compliance assistance requests top priority and reducing penalties up to 10 percent.

OSHA announced that its temporary enforcement measures applying to fall protection on residential construction jobs will stay in place for six more months –- until Sept. 15, 2012. The key benefits they afford to contractors in this sector are having OSHA area offices give their requests for compliance assistance top priority and potentially having penalties cut by 10 percent.

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry.

The temporary measures resulted from OSHA's relatively new interpretation that requirement that workers performing "residential construction" must be protected with guardrail systems, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems or other fall protection measures allowed in 1926.501(b) unless the employer can show such protection is infeasible or would present a greater hazard. (The changes became effective in June 2011 and replaced an interpretation that had existed since 1995.) Building a home or dwelling using traditional wood frame materials and methods qualifies as "residential construction."

Roofing contractor associations are paying close attention and offering assistance. The National Roofing Contractors Association is presenting a full-day "Roofing Industry Fall Protection from A to Z" course on Feb. 21 in Orlando, Fla., in conjunction with its 125 Annual Convention and Hanley Wood’s 2012 International Roofing Expo at the Orange County Convention Center.

The National Association of Home Builders offers numerous fall protection tools –- including sample fall protection plans in English and Spanish, a link to OSHA's residential fall protection website, recall notices, and a PowerPoint presentation about preparing for an OSHA inspection –- at this online page.

OSHA's announcement of the six-month extension said during the past year, the agency's personnel have conducted more than 1,000 outreach sessions nationwide to help employers comply with the requirements.

NAHB announced Feb. 15 that home builders' confidence in the market for new, single-family homes rose in February for the fifth consecutive month and reached its highest level in more than four years. NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg said confidence as measured by the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index has doubled since September 2011.

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