In an effort to reduce fatalities in the residential construction workplace, in 2010, the OSHA made significant changes to their fall protection guidelines. For residential roofing jobs that call for a worker to be higher than 6 feet in the air, they are required to be protected by the use of guard-rail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. If an employer can prove that these systems create a greater hazard for the worker, then the employer will be required to implement a fall protection plan. All fall protection plans must be prepared and approved by a qualified person and also re-approved by a qualified person if anything in the protection plan changes.
When working in aerial lift or boom-type platforms, including scissor lifts and bucket trucks, the worker must either have a guardrail system in place (where applicable) or be tied off. The acceptable methods for tie-offs are explained below.
Restraint Systems – Restraint systems include a body belt or harness. There must be a fall protection plan in place that prevents a worker from falling any distance.
Positioning Devices – Typically used in construction work, a positioning device is defined as a body belt or harness system that is rigged to allow an employee to be supported on a vertical surface, such as up a pole, and work while leaning and having both hands free. Positioning devices are allowed to have a maximum fall of up to 2 feet. These devices are not allowed for use in scissor lifts or bucket trucks as they are working on a horizontal platform.
Fall Arrest Systems – Also used in construction work, this is a device that allows an arrested fall when the aerial lift or scaffold is able to withstand vertical and lateral loads caused by an arrested fall. With this system, you must use a body harness instead of a body belt.
Recently, the OSHA has started cracking down on enforcing these guidelines. They claim there are weekly deaths related to falls that could have been prevented by utilizing the proper safety procedures and equipment. Safety should be the first concern for workers in these industries. Penalties accrued by not following using safety methods can be very expensive. Back in 2010, the OSHA proposed a $70,000 penalty against Johnson Controls for allowing their workers on roofs without fall protection. The worst penalty of all, though, is serious injury or death caused by something so easily prevented as putting on your harness