Value of Membership: Sensible fall protection

We recently finished a short series of highlights of the more than 100 initiatives by your HBA that have saved HBA members during the last year.  But there are many others which have saved home builders about $7,250 per housing start in 2012, including both single-family and multifamily.

In the coming days we will highlight more of our initiatives.  Below is one of them.

Sensible Fall Protection Regulations from OSHA. NAHB is committed to training and educating its members on how to reduce fall-related injuries and to comply with OSHA regulations. NAHB has been working closely with OSHA on its fall protection regulations for the construction industry. These rules affect all segments of the industry, including single-family home builders, multifamily builders and remodelers. It is important that OSHA rules provide for safety and compliance without being excessively burdensome. NAHB is urging OSHA to review its fall protection standard to make it more effective, less burdensome, and more easily understood, implemented and enforced. The standard should also recognize that alternative fall protection methods should be a viable option in certain situations.

OSHA Delays Fall Protection Guideline Changes

Under pressure from Home Builders and your HBA, the Federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has given Home Builders and remodelers a reprieve from new, more stringent fall protection regulations that were expected to take effect next week.

The previously announced phase-in period for home builders to comply with the new Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction has been extended until March 15, 2013 to allow the industry more time to learn about the rule and get compliance assistance from the federal agency.

“We are very pleased that OSHA heeded our calls,” said NAHB Chairman Barry Rutenberg, a longtime advocate of sensible, practical regulations that protect workers from falls – the most-cited violation by OSHA in residential construction.

NAHB has long held that the new regulations — including requirements that all residential construction companies must ensure that any employees or subcontractors doing work that’s six feet above ground or floor level must be protected with guardrail, safety net or personal fall arrest systems — could actually cause greater danger on the job site than using alternate methods that home builders say are safer.

NAHB again made that argument and asked for the delay as recently as Dec. 10, sending a letter and petition to OSHA officials asking them to reopen the rulemaking and try again to create a rule that applies to home builders, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that is better suited to commercial contracting.

“NAHB’s builder and contractor members make safety a priority and regularly take steps to reduce or eliminate falls during residential construction activities and comply with OSHA’s fall protection standard. However, after years of interpretations, compliance directives, and guidance documents that have failed to ensure compliance and improve safety, NAHB is convinced that the most beneficial way to address falls in the residential construction industry is for OSHA to promulgate a standard specifically tailored for residential construction,” the letter said.

What to Expect in March
In its announcement Dec. 11, OSHA indicated that more time was needed to make sure the construction industry knows how to comply with the rule.

“The agency will continue to work with employers to ensure a clear understanding of, and to facilitate compliance with, the new policy,” the press release said.

“OSHA will also continue to develop materials to assist the industry, including a wide variety of educational and training materials to assist employers with compliance, which are available on the Web pages for residential construction and the Fall Prevention Campaign.

The continuation of the temporary enforcement measures through March 15 “include priority free on-site compliance assistance, penalty reductions, extended abatement dates, measures to ensure consistency and increased outreach,” the OSHA release said.

NAHB has provided its members an array of resources — including a sample fall protection plan, a residential fall protection fact sheet and an OSHA fall protection webinar replay — to help builders with this transition. They can be found at

More Inspections, More Fines
Not only do builders have to understand these changes to the fall protection guidelines, they need to know about all other workplace hazards that can lead to fines from OSHA, and be aware of plans for more inspections that are on the horizon.

In 2011 fines doubled from 2010, averaging $2,132 per violation. That means that a builder that gets 10 violations in one visit could see a bill for more than $21,000 in fines from the agency.

NAHB held a webinar to help builder members prepare for a possible OSHA inspection, which gave these tips:

  • Review your written safety program
  • Conduct an assessment to identify and correct safety hazards on the job site
  • Understand any OSHA national and local emphasis inspection programs
  • Develop procedures – and your company philosophy – for when OSHA comes knocking, and train your employees in those procedures
  • Update records and make sure they are readily available (300 logs, training records, etc.)
  • Conduct appropriate safety training for employees

In addition to fines, an injury or fatality on the job site carries significant costs. The National Safety Council estimates that the per-case average cost of wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, and administrative expenses to an employer would be $53,000 for a disabling injury and $1.35 million for a fatality.

“With OSHA’s stepped up enforcement and increases in the overall dollar amount of penalties, builders need to be prepared,” said Rob Matuga, NAHB’s assistant vice president of labor, safety and health. “Employers taking some simple steps to pre-plan for safety, such as identifying and correcting safety hazards on the job site, will go a long way toward reducing the likelihood of an accident occurring, and therefore eliminate the potential sources of loss.”

Federal vs. State Programs
Not all states follow the federal OSHA programs. Many builders/members are operating in approved state plans. South Carolina operates its own occupational safety and health program under a plan approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.More safety resources can be found on NAHB’s website at

New Fall Protection Regulations will be Phased in by OSHA Over the Next 90 Days

Be prepared for increased OSHA enforcement action

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced last month that it will phase in enforcement of its fall protection regulations for residential construction sites.
In a June 8 letter to NAHB, Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, announced a three month phase-in period to allow residential construction companies additional time to come into compliance with the Agency’s new directive Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction (STD 03-11-002).
This decision is in response to a meeting between NAHB and OSHA’s leadership on May 26, during which NAHB First Vice Chairman Barry Rutenberg and Dean Mon, Chairman of NAHB’s Construction Safety and Health Committee, argued that builders need additional time to fully understand the steps that must be taken and to properly plan for the fall protection change. NAHB also stressed there is a continued need for more fall protection training and compliance assistance for residential construction employers.
The effective date of the new regulation is June 16 and the 90-day phase-in period will run through September 15.

OSHA’s field staff have now been instructed that for the first three months in which the new directive is in effect, the agency will not issue fall protection citations to home builders who are using the protective measures in the old residential construction fall protection directive (STD 03-00-001). Instead, where necessary, OSHA will issue a hazard alert letter informing the builder of the feasible methods that can be used to comply with OSHA’s fall protection standard or the need for a written fall protection plan to be implemented. If the builder’s practices do not meet the minimum requirements set in the old directive — or if a company fails to implement the fall protection measures outlined in a hazard alert letter and during a subsequent inspection OSHA should find violations involving the same hazards — the agency will at that time issue a citation.

In addition, OSHA has announced that it is increasing the dollar amounts of fines associated with citations. Fines are expect to increase from an average of $1,000 to $4,000. The maximum penalty is $70,000. Click here to read a detailed assessment of OSHA’s new fines in NAHB’s EH&S Monthly newsletter.

Builders and trade contractors should pay particular attention to the following hazards, which are the top 10 most frequently-cited OSHA standards for construction in 2010 (with the reference to the specific OSHA standard in parentheses):
  1. Scaffolding, general requirements, construction (29 CFR 1926.451)
  2. Fall Protection, construction (29 CFR 1926.501)
  3. Ladders, construction (29 CFR 1926.1053)
  4. Fall Protection, training requirements (29 CFR 1926.503)
  5. Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200)
  6. General Safety & Health Provisions (29 CFR 1926.20)
  7. Head Protection (29 CFR 1926.100)
  8. Aerial Lifts (29 CFR 1926.453)
  9. Eye & Face Protection (29 CFR 1926.102)
  10. Excavation, specific excavation requirements (29 CFR 1926.651)
There are a few simple things that builders and trade contractors should do to be prepared for OSHA inspections. These include:
  • Conducting an assessment to identify and correct safety hazards on the job site.
  • Conducting appropriate safety training for employees — such as fall protection and ladder safety training.
  • Updating records and making sure they are readily available.
  • Understanding the OSHA inspection process.
NAHB has multiple resources that are designed to assist member in achieving compliance with OSHA’s rules, including handbooks and videos. Order these materials at by clicking here. Additional compliance safety information is available at by clicking here.
Additional resources are available from OSHA:
Additional resources have been added to the HBA of Greenville’s website. Click here to access these construction site resources at
Additional resources also are available on NAHB’s website. Click here to access these construction site resources at