Sunday, April 15, 2007

OSHA and the Home Improvement Contractor-- Part 2

Maybe home improvement workers are immortal. Look at the attached photo. These guys are on the third floor. Maybe they are not affected by gravity. If you cannot spot OSHA violations in this picture, you need to get some training.

Protection against falls is something OSHA emphasizes all the time. It is one of their biggest concerns. They look for fall hazards on every construction inspection, and they almost always find them. Between October 1, 2006 and January 31, 2007 8 workers died from falls in New England. Violations of fall–protection rules are among those most frequently cited by OSHA for residential construction.

One worker fell to his death while cleaning gutters. 4 workers died in separate incidents while performing residential roofing work. In one recent fatality a worker fell 2 stories from a roof when his step ladder slipped. (Did you notice the unopened step ladder in the photo? It was used for access to the roof. It is very unstable when used folded up. It would not take much for it to slip sideways.)

For residential construction there is a 6-foot fall rule. Every employee who is engaged in activities that are 6 feet or more above a lower level must be protected against falls by guardrails or a personal fall arrest system (harness and lanyard attached to an anchor capable of holding 5000 lbs.) or some other means. If it is not feasible to use conventional fall protection, and you can prove it, you can use your own fall protection plan instead.

“Be careful!” is not a fall protection plan. You need to really think it through. You need to train workers and make sure they follow the rules. There are detailed regulations about what a plan must include. You can find the basic rules for fall protection at 29 C.F.R. 1926.501. The specific rules for residential construction are under 1926.501(b)(13). The rules for developing a fall protection plan are at 1926.501(k).

Get to know these rules and follow them. It will save you grief with OSHA. More importantly, it might save the life of an employee or a good buddy.

Jerry Solomon
Law office of Jerrold Solomon
617-244-7345
http://www.oshastrategies.com/

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Good point. I had a contractor fall off the roof of my house. 30 feet down. He survived and was eventually ok but a safety harness would have been nice. Its too late on the way down.

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