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U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds OSHA Fall Protection Directive

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011
Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently upheld a directive by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration aimed at preventing workplace falls by residential construction workers.

“Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of death in construction,” said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. “These deaths are preventable, and we must prevent them.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 40 construction worker deaths a year occur as a result of falling from residential roofs. OSHA hopes that the new directive, which goes into effect June 16, will help lower this number.

“Fall protection saves lives,” said Michaels. “There are effective means available to protect residential construction workers from falls. We applaud the court’s decision upholding this updated, commonsense directive.”

The December 2010 directive mandates that all residential construction employers use conventional fall protection, such as guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. Prior to the directive, employers engaged in certain residential construction activities were allowed to use alternative methods of fall protection, like slide guards or safety monitor systems.

If conventional fall protection is infeasible or creates a greater hazard, an employer may still use other fall protection measures.

The decision to require all employers to use conventional fall protection was supported by unions like the United Steelworkers of America and opposed by (among others) the Residential Construction Employers Council and the National Roofing Contractors Association, which was the organization that unsuccessfully challenged the directive.

– Guest Contributor

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