ARI Blog: Article

Fall Protection in Residential Construction


The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a directive rescinding the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction.

• Residential construction employers must ensure that employees are working six feet or above lower levels use guardrails, safety nets, or personal fall arrest systems. A personal fall arrest system may consist of a full-body harness, a deceleration device, a lanyard, and an anchor point.

• Other fall protection measures may be used to the extent allowed under other provisions of 29 CFR 1926.501(b) addressing specific types of work. For example, 1926.501(b)(10) permits the use of warning lines and safety monitoring systems during the performance of roofing work on low-sloped roofs.

• OSHA allows the use of an effective fall restraint system instead of a personal fall arrest system. To be effective, a fall restraint system must be rigged to prevent a worker from reaching a fall hazard and falling over Fall Protection in Residential Construction the edge. A fall restraint system may consist of a full-body harness or body belt connected to an anchor point at the center of a roof by a lanyard of a length that will not allow a worker to physically reach the edge of the roof.

• If the employer can demonstrate that the use of conventional fall protection methods is infeasible or creates a more significant hazard, it must ensure that a qualified person:

  • Creates a written, site-specific fall protection plan in compliance with 29 CFR 1926.502(k); and

  • In that plan, documents show why conventional fall protection systems are infeasible or why their use would create a more significant hazard.

The new directive interprets “residential construction” as construction work that satisfies both of the following elements:

  • The end-use of the structure being built must be as a home, i.e., a dwelling.

  • The structure being built must be constructed using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods. The limited use of structural steel in a predominantly wood-framed home, such as a steel I-beam to help support wood framing, does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction.

  • Traditional wood frame construction materials and methods will be characterized by Framing materials: Wood (or equivalent cold-formed sheet metal stud) framing, not steel or concrete; wooden floor joists and roof structures.

  • Exterior wall structure: Wood (or equivalent cold-formed sheet metal stud) framing or masonry brick or block.


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