OSHA postpones new fall-protection rule again

From Builder Online:

It was supposed to go into effect on March 15. Then September 15. Then on December 15. Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has decided to postpone enforcement of new fall protection rules for residential construction until March 15, 2013, according to a memo released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

OSHAUntil that date, OSHA will continue to enforce temporary measures (which date back to June 16, 2011) that include priority on-site compliance assistance, penalty reductions, and extended abatement dates. The Administration will also continue its industry outreach program.

In its memo, DOL notes that OSHA continues to work with the construction industry to assist employers in complying with the new directive. It states that from October 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012, OSHA had visited 3,000 jobsites, conducted nearly 1,100 training sessions, and delivered close to 500 presentations on fall protection.

Regional and area offices have also conducted more than 1,200 outreach activities about the directive.

“This wasn’t what I expected, but it’s a good thing,” says Tom Shanahan, associate executive director of the Rosemont, Ill.–based National Roofing Contractors Association. The extension of the temporary enforcement measures, he said, “certainly gives us the opportunity” to persuade OSHA to make changes to its new rule.

NRCA objects to what Shanahan calls the “one-size-fits-all” aspects of that directive. Under current guidelines, roofers can use slide guards attached to rafters on roofs with slopes up to eight inches for every foot of roof space. The new directive would require fall protection equipment for all jobs six feet or higher, which for many installers will inevitably mean wearing personal fall-arrest equipment tethered to the building. NRCA believes that these life lines could actually pose trip hazards on lower-pitched roofs.

Employers are surely breathing a sigh of relief about the postponement of the new directive, which would impose fines for noncompliance of up to $7,000 for a serious violation, and up to $70,000 for a willful violation. “These penalty sizes would be subject to adjustment based on an employer’s size, good faith, and the gravity of the violation, said Kimberly Darby, an OSHA spokesperson.

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