New OSHA Directive Effective 6/16. Need to Comply?

Does RRP work fall under the June 16th directive for adherence to OSHA's fall protection standard? 

The new directive eliminates the ability for residential construction employers to use alternative procedures for worker fall protection and mandates they adhere to the 1994 standard.

But what does this mean for renovators involved with RRP work? 

The OSHA presentation on fall protection states that employers must now follow 1926.501 (b)(13), which states workers engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet (1.8m) or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system (PFAS)" or by alternative fall protection measures allowed under 1926.501(b) for particular types of work.

At first glance, one might assume that any RRP work taking place 6 feet from the ground must implement the stated fall protection measures.  However, it is important to take a closer look in regards to how the OSHA information defines the classification of a project being "residential construction."

The OSHA presentation (slide 16) defines the classification of "residential construction" as having two elements:

  1. The end-use of the structure being built must be as a home, i.e. a dwelling, and
  2. The structure being built must be constructed using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods (the limited use of steel I-beams to help support wood framing does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction.

One could point out the operative words in this statement is "structure being built."

Therefore, according to the OSHA definition of "structure being built", one could conclude that if you are engaged in RRP work such as replacing windows, sanding and painting walls, or laying carpet that disrupts more than 6 square feet of baseboard, your work would probably not be considered "residential construction" as you are not "building" but renovating.

However, if in the course of your remodeling work you are engaged in construction of the building or add-on, your work may very well be considered for fall protection requirements.

Keep in mind, if this is the case, that OSHA provides an option to guardrails, safety nets and PFA systems as discussed in its "Fall Prevention" presentation (slide 48).  That option is outlined as:
"Employers also have the option of having workers work from scaffolds (in compliance with Subpart L), ladders (in compliance with Subpart X) or aerial lifts (in compliance with 29 CFR 1926.453) instead of complying with 1926.501(b)(13)."

According to OSHA materials, this would include the use of platform ladders, step ladders, bakers or perry scaffolds.

OSHA website OSHA Fall Prevention presentation