OSHA changes the rules

” Here we go again!” a residential contractor recently complained to me, and I couldn’t really disagree with him. On June 16th, 2011, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be enacting yet another new residential fall protection compliance directive – STD 03-11-001. An STD is a written directive meant to instruct local OSHA Area Compliance officers in how to evaluate and cite a possible violation of an established standard found in 29 Code of Federal Regulations.

In no way does it change either the language or intent of any standard. In particular, this is a new compliance guideline for officers for safety and health reference while inspecting construction sites where single -family homes and multi-family dwellings are being built. This guideline will eliminate (or cancel) any previous compliance guidelines and require all contractors performing residential construction to comply in full with 29 CFR, Part 1926.50(b)(13), the residential fall protection standard, which, in turn, requires compliance with 1926.502(k), the construction fall protection written program.

What does all of this alphabet soup mean for roofing contractors? In short, it means that in most cases guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems must be used on residential job-sites.

Why the change? At the start of this most recent building boom, the residential building community complained to OSHA that they needed more “compliance flexibility” than the Fall Protection Standard (1926.500) permitted. In response, OSHA published a compliance directive (STD 3.1) in 1995. STD 3.1 permitted employers performing certain residential operations to use “alternate procedures” such as slide guards to protect their workers from falling., instead of complying with the standard fall protection procedures stipulates in Subpart M. OSHA made a few changes to STD 3.1 and issued STD 3-0.1A as a temporary fall protection instruction in 1999. It was eventually re-designated as STD 03-00-001.3.

In this period, inspections were lax and enforcement was lenient, with 50 percent to 60 percent penalty reductions common. The existing fall protection compliance directive, which has been followed for almost 13 years, has apparently done little to reduce fall fatality rates or clear up the confusion in the residential constructions industry. OSHA obviously felt there was a need for a course change.