Residential contractors now have until March 15, 2013, to get up to speed on a federal fall protection rule that was issued in 2010, according to OSHA.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday (Dec. 11) that it would extend its "temporary enforcement" period for the directive—for the fourth time. The period was set to expire Saturday (Dec. 15).
Published in December 2010, the fall protection rule replaces policies last updated in June 1999.
The directive, Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction (STD 03-11-002), requires employers to provide roofers and construction workers with fall-protection equipment whenever work is performed six feet or higher above the ground.
The temporary enforcement measures include priority free, on-site compliance assistance, penalty reductions, extended abatement dates, measures to ensure consistency and increased outreach.
Temporary Enforcement Periods
The directive, which replaces policies issued in 1999, was approved in December 2010. It was supposed to take effect June 16, 2011, but the building industry sought more time for implementation.
A three-month "phase-in period" was implemented June 16, 2011, through Sept. 15, 2011.
"I am confident that this phase-in period will provide employers the additional time and flexibility they need to alter their work practices in accordance with the requirements of the new directive," David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in June 2011.
Then, in September 2011, the government agency approved a period of "temporary enforcement" measures that was scheduled to expire March 15, 2012. The temporary period was then extended until Sept. 15.
In September, the agency again extended the measures for an additional three months.
Then on Tuesday, four days before the directive was to take effect, the agency announced it would keep the temporary enforcement measures in place until March 15, 2013.
Is the Industry Ready?
Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace death in construction, OSHA said. In addition, fall protection was also the number one residential construction violation cited by OSHA in 2011, with 2,979 citations issued.
The agency stated that it has been "working closely with the industry to assist employers in complying with the new directive."
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. The directive requires workers working six feet or more above lower levels must be protected by conventional fall protection.
From Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012, OSHA's On-site Consultation Projects performed more than 3,000 on-site visits, conducted nearly 1,100 training sessions and delivered about 500 presentations related to fall protection in residential construction.
OSHA’s regional and area offices also conducted more than 1,200 outreach activities covering the directive, OSHA noted.
The agency said it will continue to work with employers to ensure a clear understanding of, and to facilitate compliance with, the policy.
Requirements, Alternative Plans
The directive requires that workers engaged in residential construction six feet or more above lower levels be protected by conventional fall protection (i.e., guardrail systems, safety-net systems or personal fall-arrest systems) or other fall-protection measures allowed elsewhere in 1926.501(b).
If an employer can demonstrate that such fall protection is infeasible or presents a greater hazard, the employer may implement a plan that meets the requirements of 1926.502(k).
The alternative plan must be "site-specific" and use safe work practices that eliminate or reduce the possibility of a fall, OSHA said.
A written plan developed for repetitive use for a particular style or model home will be considered site-specific with respect to a particular site only if it fully addresses all issues related to fall protection at that site.
OSHA said it will also continue to develop materials to assist the industry, including a wide variety of educational and training materials (in Spanish and English) to assist employers with compliance.
The directive, details of the phase-in policy, a presentation, and other guidance materials are available here.