Credit: Nigel Carse

In September 2011, the same year that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) announced its stepped-up requirements for on-site safety, fall protection violations topped OSHA’s list of the 10 most frequent causes for citations. The year before, the agency issued 7,139 citations for fall protection. In that same year, 260 workers in the U.S. died from falls.

Three Ways To Halt Falls

OSHA’s requirements for fall protection state that “each employee on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surfaces) with an unprotected side or edge that is 6 feet (1.8 meters) or more above a lower level shall be protected from falling by the use of guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems.”

National Roofing Contractors Association senior vice president Bill Good says that the first two options are impractical and that personal arrest fall systems — where workers are tethered to a spot on the roof — is the way to go. No protection? An OSHA spokesman told REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR that “the current maximum penalty for a serious violation, one capable of causing death or serious physical harm, is $7,000,” and the maximum penalty for “willful violation” is $70,000. Wesley Graham, a roofing contractor from Graham Roofing, in North Carolina, attended his first International Roofing Expo in San Antonio in February partly to look for affordable safety equipment — especially any new railing systems. What he saw that he liked was a HitchClip guardrail system.

Difficulties of Enforcement

If up to now OSHA inspections were directed mostly to commercial sites, that’s because “most residential roofing jobs only last a day or two,” Good points out. He says that OSHA relies on tips from workers or the public, or the unexpected appearance of an OSHA compliance officer on a site where workers “appear to be in danger.”

—Jim Cory is editor of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.

Related Content

For more information about the requirements see OSHA’s online fact sheet.

Read an interview with Mark Paskell, a contractor business coach who trains in OSHA compliance, about OSHA’s roof safety rules.