The recent OSHA extension on fall protection does not relieve contractor employers' of the responsibility to follow the OSHA Standards. I spoke with OSHA this week and they assured me that enforcement of fall protection is one of their top priorities. (More on this below).
Fall Protection extensions and lobbying are giving contractors a false sense of security. Many contractors think that they do not have to comply until March 2013. This is simply not the case. Read on and get the facts. You will discover that you are required to work safe while on heights 6 feet above lower levels. The extension only gives you a little leeway.
In a recent article in the Journal Of Light Construction the publication reports:
“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,” says NAHB (“Under Pressure from Home Builders, OSHA Delays Fall Protection Guideline Changes”).
The home builders lobbying is causing OSHA to extend the full compliance date however it is leading uninformed and apathetic contractors to think they are all set if OSHA comes by their site. History has proven that contractors will take the path of least resistance to comply with any regulation if given a small window. It appears that OSHA is attempting to appease the builders association by extending the effective date numerous times.
Now read on an see what else is leading contractors to not take this seriously and expose themselves to citations and fines.
Ths most recent extension is is the fourth time OSHA has extended the effective compliance date. See if you can follow the bouncing ball:
- The first published effective compliance date was June 16th, 2011.
- Then in June 2011 OSHA granted the first 3 month phase in period to September 2011.
- Then on September 22, 2011 it was extended again until March 15th, 2012.
- Then in June 2012 it was extended again until December of 2012.
- Then in December 2012 it was extended until March of 2013.
If you are following the bouncing ball and read the first OSHA directive in June of 2011 you now know that the old interim fall protection directive was rescinded and replaced with STD 03-11-002.
In the new directive contractors are given a phased in time frame and leeway to implement the new standards that replace the old ones. What contractors need to know is that during the phase in period it is mandatory that the old interim conventional fall protection standard is followed.
The old standard mandates that contractors have a written plan, train their workers, document the training and use fall protection measures in the old standard while working at heights above six feet. If you are not in compliance with the old standards and OSHA comes by your job site you will cited and fined.
If you can demonstrate that you are in compliance with the old interim standard but are not in compliance with the new one you may qualify for assistance from OSHA and leeway on enforcement.
Read this from OSHA:
If conventional fall protection is feasible, the CSHO shall evaluate whether the employer is using the minimum protective measures described in the former directive, SID 03-00001. If the employer is complying fully with the old directive, the CSHO shall not issue citations, but will instead work with his or her Area Director to issue a hazard alert letter informing the employer of the feasible methods he or she may use to comply with OSHA's fall protection standard. If the employer's practices do not adhere to even the old directive, the CSHO shall issue appropriate citations per the Field Operations Manual.
What this means to you:
If you are not at least following the old interim standard and the OSHA CSHO comes by you are toast. Contractors are required to make sure their employees and subs are trained, the training is certified and documented and working compliantly.
OSHA told me most contractors have their head in the sand and they are finding most in non-compliance. They are citing and fining any contractor who is not following the old standard and that guys need to be tied off or utilizing conventional fall protection methods. The OSHA enforcement statistics report is loaded with contractors who have been cited and fined in 2011 and 2012.
OSHA Fall Protection Training is required for any contractor's employees and sub working on their jobs at heights 6 feet above lower levels.