A new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) directive rescinds previous rules that allowed residential construction employers to bypass conventional fall-protection methods and use specified alternatives. (There is a three-month phase-in period from June 16 to Sept. 15.)

Now, OSHA says, “all residential construction employers must comply with 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.501(b)(13). Where residential builders can demonstrate that traditional fall protection is not feasible, this new code still allows for alternative means of providing protection.”

“Residential construction,” according to OSHA, 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.”

Critics argue that OSHA has a poor record of defining “residential construction,” and that the language in this directive is no improvement.

“When we are discussing decks, siding, window replacement, etc., there is a strong technical argument that the definition of residential construction does not apply to this type of work unless such work is being performed as part of new-home construction,” says D.S. Berenson, a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in home improvement law. “Indeed, other than perhaps in regard to roofing, it can and has been argued that the definition/interpretation of residential construction really only goes to home building — not to home improvement.”

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—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.