Florida Case Highlights Residential Fall Protection Requirements

OSHA is about to begin enforcing an interpretation of 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13), which requires workers 6 feet or more above lower levels to be protected by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or alternative fall protection measures allowed by other provisions of 29 CFR 1926.501(b) for particular types of work.

OSHA recently announced an enforcement case with $72,600 in proposed penalties has been filed against Palm Coast, Fla.-based GP Roofing & Construction LLC. It includes three allegedly willful safety violations for exposing workers to fall and other hazards at a new residential site in the Aberdeen subdivision of St. Johns. OSHA began the inspection in June as part of its Local Emphasis Program on Fall Hazards in Construction.

The case highlights the fact that enforcement of a new OSHA interpretation begins Dec. 15 for contractors engaged in residential construction. By that date, they must comply with 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13), which requires workers 6 feet or more above lower levels to be protected by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or alternative fall protection measures allowed by other provisions of 29 CFR 1926.501(b) for particular types of work.

OSHA, a partner agency in a two-year national campaign to reduce construction fatal falls, said the violations in this case involved failing to provide eye protection for workers using pneumatic nail guns, fall protection for workers installing roofing materials on steep-pitched roofs, and a safe means for workers to access and exit a 19-foot-high roof. "The danger of fall hazards cannot be overstated. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry," said Brian Sturtecky, OSHA's area director in Jacksonville. "When fall protection is absent, workers are only steps away from a deadly or disabling plunge. This employer must take effective steps to ensure that proper safeguards are in place and in use at all job sites."

According to the agency, more than 10,000 construction workers were injured in 2010 from falling while working from heights, and more than 250 were killed.

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