OSHA Tightens Homebuilder Safety Regs

Fall protection standards are tightening for homebuilders nationwide.

Fall protection standards are tightening for homebuilders nationwide, and Minnesota is enforcing greater compliance before the national deadline. According to a top safety publishing executive, the key to meeting these tight compliance deadlines lies in a firm commitment to safety training.

"The new fall-protection compliance deadlines set by both OSHA and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry are extremely tight," said Benjamin Mangan, president of MANCOMM, a national safety and compliance publishing company. "Busy residential building contractors may find these deadlines daunting, but as with most business initiatives, knowledge is power. The first step to meeting these compliance objectives lies in training workers immediately so that everyone is on the same page. When it comes to safety, everyone has to see eye-to-eye. Teamwork is absolutely essential."

Compliance Deadlines

On June 9, 2011, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a three-month phase-in period to allow residential construction employers to come into compliance with regulation 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13), requiring homebuilders to provide residential construction workers with fall protection. Nationally, the phase-in period runs June 16 to Sept. 15, 2011. Homebuilders have been following an old OSHA directive, STD 03-00-001, and during the phase-in period, OSHA will not issue citations, but will instead issue hazard alert letters to employers, informing them of methods they can use to update their compliance.

Sept. 15 may seem like a tight deadline, but in Minnesota, the deadline already has been passed. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry stepped up the deadline in their state, stating that "Effective June 16, 2011, employers must follow 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13), which states each employee engaged in residential construction activities six feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by a guardrail system, safety net system or personal fall-arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternate fall-protection measure."

A Strict But Necessary Measure

Mangan noted that while these deadlines may seem strict, the resulting greater level of compliance is well worth the extra effort. "Inadequate fall protection in the workplace only leads to heavy OSHA fines – and worse, employee injuries and deaths," Mangan said.

The U.S. Department of Labor lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for eight percent of all workplace trauma fatalities. Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that over one-third of the 645 work-related fatal falls in 2009 involved falls from roofs or ladders. According to OSHA, any time a worker is at a height of four feet or more, the worker is at risk and needs to be protected. Generally, fall protection must be provided at four feet in general industry, five feet in the maritime industry and six feet in construction. Regardless of the distance, fall protection must be provided when working over dangerous equipment and machinery.

To help companies stay compliant with OSHA and protect workers from fall-related accidents, MANCOMM has released Fall Protection: Complete OSHA Regulations, an updated version of a book they first published in 2006. Mangan noted that OSHA named Fall Protection as No. 2 on their list of the top 10 violated OSHA standards in 2010, with 6,771 violations.

“When the book was first released in 2006, Fall Protection was No. 2 on the list with 5,746 violations," he said. "It dropped to No. 3 in 2007 – and it is clear that greater vigilance is needed to make this chronic occupational hazard leave the list altogether. The current fall-protection compliance directives will help to reduce the number of fall-related injuries and deaths substantially." Mangan added that MANCOMM also has released a fall protection training guide, Subpart M: Fall Protection (1926.500), which can be used to instruct construction industry trainees.

To find out more about Fall Protection: Complete OSHA Regulations, visit