Homebuilders Brace for Fall Protection Enforcement

Originally published by: NAHBMarch 13, 2013

The following article was produced and published by the source linked to above, who is solely responsible for its content. SBC Magazine is publishing this story to raise awareness of information publicly available online and does not verify the accuracy of the author’s claims. As a consequence, SBC cannot vouch for the validity of any facts, claims or opinions made in the article.

Editor’s Note: SBCA has created a step-by-step approach to fall protection and the installation of roof and floor trusses: www.sbcindustry.com/fp. This guidance is intended to assist component manufacturers in helping their builder and framing contractor customers comply with OSHA’s fall protection requirements.


With the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) set to begin enforcing new, more stringent fall protection regulations on March 15, NAHB is working diligently to ensure that builders are fully aware of the updated policy and know how to comply with the new rules in order to eliminate workplace hazards, boost worker safety and avoid costly fines. 

Since September 2011, contractors have been required to comply fully with the Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction. However, at NAHB’s urging, OSHA implemented a phase-in period to provide home builders with more time to learn about the rule and get compliance assistance from OSHA. During this period, the federal agency’s temporary enforcement measures allowed for penalty reductions and lengthened abatement times if a contractor was inspected. 

The phase-in period has been extended twice since the Compliance Guidance went into effect, and it is unlikely that OSHA will extend it again. 

What does this mean for builders and their subcontractors? 

Roofing contractors must use guardrails, personal fall arrest systems (harnesses and lanyards), or safety nets on all roofs with slopes exceeding 4-in-12 when working six feet or more above a lower level.

All other trade contractors must use guardrails or personal fall arrest systems (harnesses and lanyards), or safety nets when the height from one elevation to another is greater than six feet, unless employers can demonstrate that it isn’t feasible to use those fall protection systems or using the systems creates a greater hazard. In those cases, contractors must develop a fall protection plan that utilizes alternative fall protection measures.

All fall protection plans must be in writing and be site specific. However, the written plan developed for repeated use for a particular style/model home will be considered site specific.

The use of fall protection plans is limited to residential construction, and the home  must be constructed using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods -- although the limited use of structural steel in a predominantly wood-framed home, such as a steel I-beam to help support wood framing, does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction. 

NAHB strongly believes that the current fall protection standard can be improved and should be amended to acknowledge the unique nature of residential construction. 

In a Dec. 10 letter and petition to OSHA officials, NAHB asked the agency to reopen the rulemaking and try again to create a rule that applies to home building, rather than continuing to impose a one-size-fits-all approach that is better suited to commercial contracting. 

NAHB has provided its members an array of resources — including a sample fall protection plan, a residential fall protection fact sheet and an OSHA fall protection webinar replay — to help builders with this transition at www.nahb.org/fallprotection. 

OSHA has also recently posted Spanish versions of its residential fall protection fact sheets online

Federal vs. State Programs

Complicating the situation for some members, not all states follow the federal OSHA programs. Many builders/members are operating in approved state plans and will need to check with their local administrators for further information on the fall protection standards applicable in their states. 

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