The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a three month phase-in period to allow residential construction employers to come into compliance with the Agency's new directive (STD 03-11-002) to provide residential construction workers with fall protection.
Why did OSHA rescind the previous directive?
Prior to the issuance of the new directive, Standard 03-00-001 allowed employers engaged in certain residential construction activities to use specified alternative methods of fall protection rather than the conventional fall protection required by the residential construction fall protection standard. Employers could use the alternative measures described in STD 03-00-001 without first proving that the use of conventional fall protection was infeasible or created a greater hazard and without a written fall protection plan.
What does the new directive require?
With the issuance of the new directive, all residential construction employers generally must ensure that employees working six feet or more above lower levels are protected by conventional fall protection methods, or alternative fall protection measures for particular types of work, as provided in the regulations.
If the employer can demonstrate that use of conventional fall protection methods is infeasible or creates a greater hazard, it must ensure that a qualified person:
- Creates a written, site-specific fall protection plan in compliance with the regulations; and
- Documents, in that plan, the reasons why conventional fall protection systems are infeasible or why their use would create a greater hazard.
How does the phase-in period work?
The three month phase-in period runs from June 16 through September 15, 2011. During this time, if the employer is in full compliance with the old directive (STD 03-00-001), OSHA will not issue citations, but will instead issue a hazard alert letter informing the employer of the feasible methods they can use to comply with OSHA's fall protection standard or implement a written fall protection plan. If the employer's practices do not meet the requirements set in the old directive, OSHA will issue appropriate citations.
If an employer fails to implement the fall protection measures outlined in a hazard alert letter, and during a subsequent inspection of one of the employer's workplaces OSHA finds violations involving the same hazards, the Area Office will issue appropriate citations.
Where can I find additional information?
The new directive, Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction (STD 03-11-002), a detailed description of the phase-in policy, a presentation and other guidance materials about requirements for protecting workers from falls are available on the OSHA website. OSHA also encourages employers to take full advantage of its free On-site Consultation Program. In addition, there is a Compliance Assistance Specialist in most Area Offices, and employers are urged to contact their local Area Offices and use these services.
For more on employer responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, please visit the HR360 Safety & Wellness section.