The leading cause of injury and death in residential construction is falls from elevations on the work site. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has made changes to its regulations in an attempt to reduce this leading cause of injury while making it possible for builders to be compliant.
In 1994, OSHA enacted fall protection for the construction industry as a whole under Subpart M 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13). This section required the use of fall protection in the form of guard rails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems for work involving elevations of six feet or more above lower levels. An exception however, existed in this requirement that permitted builders to utilize a site specific fall protection plan only if they could show that the fall protection was “infeasible”.
Not surprisingly builders and organizations opposed this 1994 regulation as over burdensome. After much debate, effective June 16, 2011 a new OSHA policy with regard to residential construction mandates that employers must comply with Section 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13). As a result, workers engaged in residential construction working six feet or more above lower levels must be protected by conventional fall protection such as personal fall arrest systems, safety nets, guard rails and other approved methods set forth in the OSHA standards.
Due to the implementation of this standard, general contractors and builders are well advised to ensure that they enforce all fall protection measures for workers on the job site. Failure to do so will result in enforcement penalties and fines.