A new twist

New fall-protection rules add another layer of regulations

When it comes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it seems the agency always has something new in store for roofing operations.

Roofing contractors who operate in states that enforce federal OSHA regulations certainly are familiar with OSHA's construction rules under 29 CFR §1926; they also need to follow OSHA's general industry rules under 29 CFR §1910. In particular, roofing contractors need to comply with general industry rules applicable to construction operations involving hazard communication, respiratory protection and forklift requirements.

OSHA issued another final rule that took effect Jan. 17 that affects a majority of building owners for whom roofing contractors provide services and also may affect some roofing contractors' work. The regulation revises OSHA's general industry rule in Subpart D that addresses slips, trips and falls on walking and working surfaces in all general industry workplaces. In a positive development, the new rule contains some innovative concepts regarding worker safety and fall hazards along with a fall-protection system that has its origins in an established system for roofing work found in the construction regulations.

This new regulation marks one of the few instances where OSHA has placed an affirmative burden on building owners to test, certify and maintain fall-protection anchorages used with a specific fall-protection system. It also may serve to initiate a more comprehensive dialogue among business operators and OSHA to prod the agency to clarify the meaning of "repair" work as the term is used in the construction rules and the concept of "maintenance activities," which OSHA casually uses to outline a segment of the general industry rules, so employers better understand the applicability of both sets of rules.