According to the United States Department of Labor, approximately 1.6 million individuals are employed in the residential construction industry. An average of 38,000 injuries is reported on a yearly basis. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, on average, 40 workers are killed every year due to falling from a residential roof. Improper or unprotected ladder use can also lead to fall injuries and deaths.
Unfortunately, the residential construction industry often lacks enforcement, until an injury or death brings the employer to the attention of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Members of the industry often lack sufficient knowledge of safety requirements. However, poor awareness of the regulations is not an acceptable excuse, and the employer must face the consequences of such accidents.
In order to comply with OSHA fall protection requirements, employers must be able to understand the definition of residential construction, be knowledgeable of the requirements and changes to existing requirements, and be aware of general and specific guidelines. Finally, businesses must know the significant consequences of failure to comply with these safety requirements.
Definition of Residential Construction
In order to be considered as residential construction, the work must meet two guidelines:
- The finished structure must be used as a dwelling
- The structure must be predominantly constructed with wood frame methods and materials
Steel fabrication is permitted in residential construction for I-beam support. Framing support can include wood or sheet metal studs. Masonry block or brick may be used on the exterior. The construction of motels, hotels, nursing homes, and similar projects can be considered residential depending on the framing and fabrication method.
Changes on Compliance Requirements
The original guidelines of the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction (STD 03-00-001) have been revised. Under the former terms of STD 03-00-001, an employer could use specified alternatives to conventional fall protection methods. Moreover, the employer was not required to prove that the conventional methods were not feasible or the methods created a larger hazard prior to using alternative measures. Employers were also not required to have site-specific, written fall protection plans.
With the changes to STD 03-00-001, an employer may be in violation of 1926.501(b) (13), unless the employer can prove that a conventional method of protection is not feasible. The employer must implement an alternative form of fall protection that meets the requirements of elements in 1926.502(k). In addition, the employer must have a written and site-specific plan.
A plan can be considered site-specific if it is used for the construction of similar models or styles of home construction. STD 03-11-002 supersedes STD 03-00-001—with new requirements effective on June 16, 2011. Not being economically feasible is an unacceptable excuse for failure to provide appropriate fall protection measures.
General Regulations in Residential Construction
Part 1926 of Standards – 29 CFR covers the Safety and Health Regulations for Construction. Subpart C covers the general requirements. Residential construction contractors and subcontractors need to pay attention to two sections of this standard:
- 1926.20(f) (1) requires the employer to provide the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for each worker, depending on the hazards identified in the job.
- 1926.20(f) (2) requires all employees to be trained on work safety requirements. Training may be provided by the employer or an outside training program. Workers must be trained according to current standards, including the proper use of PPE. Based on 1926.28(a), the employer is also responsible for ensuring that workers use the provided PPE.
While contractors may place the responsibility on any subcontractors, failure to meet either of the regulations can be considered as a separate violation.
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