courtesy The Journal of Light Construction

WHAT: OSHA will begin enforcing its fall-protection requirements, ending the “interim” guideline that had exempted residential contractors and subcontractors from some provisions of the original standard.

WHEN: June 16, 2011

BACKGROUND: In 1994 OSHA enacted Standard 1926.501, subpart M, which laid out fall-protection regulations for the construction industry as a whole. Section 126.501(b)(13) mandated that employees engaged in residential construction at a height of more than 6 feet above a lower level be protected by guardrails, safety nets, or a personal fall-arrest system.

But where an employer could demonstrate — via a written, site-specific plan — that conventional fall protection was “infeasible” or created a “greater hazard,” an approved alternative method could be used.

The new standard faced staunch opposition by various industry groups. OSHA responded in December 1995, issuing an interim compliance guideline (STD 3.1) that exempted residential contractors and subs from some provisions of the standard, permitting them to use alternative fall protection at their discretion. This was intended as a grace period during which contractors could ramp up their fall-protection efforts. Fifteen years later, that temporary measure is being eliminated.

Read an in-depth article about the fall-protection guidelines in REMODELING’s sister publication, THE JOURNAL OF LIGHT CONSTRUCTION.