If you work for a business that does residential construction, it is very likely that you may have to work at heights greater than 6 feet or more above the ground. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations govern much of the workplace safety rules dealing with these matters. For this work, employers are required to determine if fall protection is required.
This is done using OSHA regulations and guidelines. This may be straightforward or complex, depending on the job and the worksite. You need to understand the OSHA regulations in this area if your business performs residential roofing, siding, painting or any work performed at height, and sometimes even less than 6-feet.
For instance, while the 6-foot rule is applicable for most applications, if work is being performed above or near dangerous machinery or liquids, the regulations may apply below 6-feet of elevation.
This material is contained in Subpart M. This designation derives from where the regulations are located in the federal Code of Regulations (CFR). These regulations also cover falling object protections, where workers could be exposed to falling objects as could occur during activities such as bricklaying.
In many jobs, use of personal fall arrest systems, guardrails or nets will provide the proper protection for workers. Sometimes, employers will argue that this equipment may create greater hazards. Often this is merely an excuse for noncompliance, but if it is valid, they are still obligated to implement protection that meets OSHA standards.
Falls remain a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries. OSHA has created comprehensive regulations to protect workers from these risks because they can be so severe and because they comprise about a third of all fatal construction accidents. In 2013, they comprised 35 percent of those deadly accidents.
While it may seem tedious or a hassle to set up compliant fall protection systems, imagine what it feels like to stand on a job site where a worker has suffered only a minor injury because his fall was arrested safely, versus one where the county Medical Examiner has been called because the fall was fatal.
Source: osha.gov, “Fall Protection in Construction,” Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA 3146-05R 2015