As of June 16, OSHA intends to begin enforcing residential fall protection guidelines first put in place in 1994. The change comes from a 2010 decision to lift a set of interim guidelines OSHA imposed in December 1995.
This change in policy and enforcement will have a significant impact on residential construction. The interim compliance policy, in place since December 1995, permitted employers engaged in certain residential construction activities to use specified alternative procedures instead of conventional fall protection. These alternative procedures could be used, “without a prior showing of infeasibility or greater hazard, and without a written, site-specific fall protection plan.” In essence it took the teeth out of the original rule. With a return to the original standard, OSHA will allow the use of a fall restraint system in lieu of a personal fall arrest system. OSHA explains in the announcement, “a fall restraint system may consist of a full body harness or body belt that is connected to an anchor point at the center of a roof by a lanyard of a length that will not allow a worker to physically reach the edge of the roof.”
This creates a serious concern for the structural building components industry, given that the anchor point of choice for most framers will be the peak point of roof trusses. In fact, OSHA even states explicitly in its announcement that, “fall restraint systems can be used effectively to prevent falls by tethering workers to structural members, such as braced trusses and studs.” Further, OSHA encourages the use of personal fall restraint systems in situations in which it might be problematic to use personal fall arrest systems.
During a meeting with OSHA’s Directorate of Construction at the recent SBC Legislative Conference, members and staff hashed through a set of collaboration objectives to clarify residential fall protection guidelines and amend the B11 Summary Sheet, Fall Protection & Trusses, to provide more thorough recommendations to framers working with structural building components. There will be particular emphasis on how to set the first few trusses without the ability to easily tie off during the installation process.
The positive outcome from the meeting is that SBCA staff is working with OSHA representatives to publish a comprehensive approach to setting, bracing and sheathing the first group of roof trusses consistent with OSHA’s residential fall protection requirements. In the meantime, the true challenge of providing fall protection is demonstrated by these stick framers at a jobsite in the Midwest.