Fall Protection in Residential Construction: Extension of Temporary Enforcement Measures to End March 15, 2013

In December of 2010, OSHA issued its Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction (STD 03-11-002). This stated that OSHA would be enforcing 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13) for all residential construction work.

OSHA memos announced a “transition period” that was originally intended to end on March 15, 2012 and was then extended to March 15, 2013 (right around the corner). During the extension, OSHA made fall protection requests the “highest priority” for their Compliance Assistance Specialists, reduced penalties by 10% in some instances, and offered 30 days for employers to correct fall protection violations.

So what does all this mean? It means that very soon–on March 15, 2013–those extensions expire and you’ll need to begin complying with 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13) for all residential construction work. So let’s look into that more.

How about looking at 1926.501(b)13 first, huh? Here’s what it says:

“Residential construction.” Each employee engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8 m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure. Exception: When the employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use these systems, the employer shall develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.

Note: There is a presumption that it is feasible and will not create a greater hazard to implement at least one of the above-listed fall protection systems. Accordingly, the employer has the burden of establishing that it is appropriate to implement a fall protection plan which complies with 1926.502(k) for a particular workplace situation, in lieu of implementing any of those systems.

To help people comply, OSHA published a handy Residential Construction Fall Protection Guidance Document and an informative Residential Constuction Question and Answer Document that provide a lot of helpful answers, explanations, and examples. You can read each document by clicking the links above, and we recommend you do. Or you can read some highlights that we’ve quoted for you below.

What is residential construction?
According to the Question and Answer document, “The Agency’s interpretation of “residential construction” for purposes of 1926.501(b)(13) combines two elements – both of which must be satisfied for a project to fall under that provision:

  • The end-use of the structure being built must be as a home, i.e., a dwelling; and
  • The structure being built must be constructed using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods.

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.

Traditional wood frame construction materials and methods will be characterized by:

  • Framing materials: Wood (or equivalent cold-formed sheet metal stud) framing, not steel or concrete; wooden floor joists and roof structures.
  • Exterior wall structure: Wood (or equivalent cold-formed sheet metal stud) framing or masonry brick or block.
  • Methods: Traditional wood frame construction techniques.”

What if an employer demonstrates that it is infeasible or presents greater hazards to use conventional fall protection methods at a site?
If this is so, then the employer must develop and implement a fall protection plan which meets the requirements of paragraph (k) of 1926.502.

Is there an example of a compliant sample fall protection plan?
Yes, you can find one at 1926 Subpart M Appendix E.

Can an employer create a standardized fall protection plan and implement it for the construction of dwellings that are of the same basic structural design?
According to the Question and Answer document, “Fall protection plans must be site-specific to comply with §1926.502(k). A written fall protection plan developed for repetitive use, e.g., for a particular style or model of home, will be considered site-specific with respect to a particular site only if it fully addresses all issues related to fall protection at that site. Therefore, a standardized plan will have to be reviewed, and revised as necessary, on a site by site basis.”

What about personal fall restraint systems?
According to the Guidance Document, “Although the standard does not mention personal fall restraint systems, OSHA will accept a properly utilized fall restraint system in lieu of a personal fall arrest system when the restrain system is rigged in such a way that the worker cannot get to the fall hazard.”

What are the training requirements for the use of fall protection systems?
According to the Question & Answer document, “In accordance with 29 CFR 1926.503, the employer must ensure that each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards has been trained by a competent person to recognize the hazards of falling and in the procedures to be followed in order to minimize those hazards. In addition, the employer must verify the training of each employee by preparing a written certification record that contains the name/identity of the employee trained, the date(s) of training, and the signature of the employer or the person who conducted the training.”

What about work performed on scaffolds?
For requirements, see 1926, Subpart L.

What about work performed on ladders?
For requirements, see 1926, Subpart X.

What about work performed on aerial lifts?
For requirements, see 1926.453.

What about state plans?
Yes, state plans may have additional requirements. For more information, check out http://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/statestandards.html.


Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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