OSHA updates walking-working surfaces standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule updating its general industry walking-working surfaces standards regarding slip, trip and fall hazards. The rule also includes a new section under the general industry personal protective equipment standard, Subpart I, that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall-protection systems.

The final rule's most significant update allows employers to select the fall-protection system that works best for them from a range of options, including personal fall-arrest (PFA), guardrail, safety net and travel restraint systems. The use of PFA, guardrail and safety net systems has been a component of the OSHA construction regulations for years. The final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry with added specifications for travel restraint not present in the construction rules in an attempt to increase the consistency between the construction and general industry rules. OSHA argues this change will benefit employees and employers that work in both industries. The new rule also introduces a fall-protection option similar to one available for roofing work under the construction rules—allowing warning lines in certain instances in "designated areas." Other updates include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level (for example, in window washing operations); prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a PFA system; and requiring worker training that addresses fall hazards, fall-protection systems and equipment.

OSHA estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule takes effect Jan. 17 and will affect about 112 million workers at 7 million work sites.

"The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries," says David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls."

Additional information about OSHA's walking-working surfaces standards final rule is available at www.osha.gov.

Santa Claus is bad news for homeowners

Maybe it's time for Santa Claus to come down from the housetop … for good.

Mark Graham, NRCA's vice president of technical services, discussed the effect Santa's beloved reindeer and sleigh would have on a roof in an interview with Popular Mechanics.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command annually tracks Santa's Christmas Eve travels and has estimated Santa's sacks of toys alone weigh about 60,000 tons. Add in the reindeer, sleigh and Santa himself—who reportedly gains about 1,000 pounds during the course of an evening from consuming cookies and milk—and that's a lot of weight to place on a roof!

"A conventional roof system on a house is designed for 20 pounds per square foot of what we refer to as snow load," Graham says. "That's a far cry underneath the 60,000 tons."

Needless to say, a roof ideal for Santa's visit would require some impressive engineering. Graham says brittle materials such as slate or clay tiles definitely would not work. And asphalt shingles, a popular roofing choice, could break when frozen.

Ultimately, Graham says: "The only thing we could really do is suggest Santa land in the driveway or the yard. The roof, though we'd like to have him stop by, is probably not the best place for him to be. I hope I don't get on the naughty list for saying that."

NRCA member discusses roofing industry labor shortage

Nelson Braddy Jr., president and CEO of NRCA member King of Texas Roofing Company LP, Grand Prairie, shared his thoughts regarding the roofing industry's labor shortage in The Wall Street Journal's Nov. 25, 2016, edition. In "Employers' Lament: Too Few Immigrants," Braddy and two other business owners discussed the growing need for low-skilled workers who can fill job vacancies.

Braddy explained his company has turned down $20 million worth of projects during the past two years because it didn't have enough workers to complete the projects. The labor shortage is a common problem among the construction, hospitality and agriculture industries. The main cause is a decrease in the number of Mexicans who are entering the U.S.

Although 350,000 undocumented immigrants entered the U.S. annually during the mid-2000s, the rate has slowed to about 100,000 per year since 2009. There are many reasons for the declining immigration numbers, such as Mexican states running campaigns to discourage Mexican youth from making the dangerous trek into the U.S. and smugglers demanding higher prices to deliver people across the border. In addition, the U.S. has taken measures to ensure the border with Mexico is more secure than ever.

Braddy's workforce is composed of mainly Latinos, a majority of whom are from Mexico. His human resources office collects identification and Social Security numbers from every person hired. In an attempt to recruit more workers, Braddy raised wages twice in 2016, putting most of his workers above $20 per hour, and asked his employees to reach out to family or friends who may have roofing experience. But, as King of Texas Roofing Foreman Adrian Herrera explained: "Everyone here already has a job, and few people are arriving from Mexico."

To combat the labor shortage, Braddy supports "some sort of work-visa program to give immigrants a means to work legally and come out of the shadows." He believes such a program would help the economy by increasing the amount of work companies that are currently experiencing labor shortages can complete.

But it remains to be seen whether President-elect Donald Trump will support any type of guest-worker program once he takes office. On the campaign trail, Trump said he would deport illegal immigrants and build a wall to prevent new ones from entering the U.S. He recently softened his stance, saying he would initially focus on removing undocumented criminals. However, Trump's 10-point immigration plan currently does not reference a guest-worker program.

In the meantime, Braddy and other employers stand ready to hire anyone qualified to fill their companies' empty positions—Braddy would hire 60 roofing professionals right now if he could.

"Without Mexican labor our industry is at a standstill," Braddy said. "It's the worst I have seen in my career."

"Employers' Lament: Too Few Immigrants" can be viewed on The Wall Street Journal's website at www.wsj.com/articles/small-businesses-lament-there-are-too-few-mexicans-in-u-s-not-too-many-1480005020.

ICC supports efforts to develop Gulf Building Code

The International Code Council (ICC) has signed a historic agreement supporting the efforts of The Standardization Organization for the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GSO) to develop a unified Gulf Building Code (GBC) for the region.

The GBC will be based on the Saudi Building Code and incorporate the most recent provisions from the 2015 International Codes® to reflect the most recent advances in building safety, affordability and sustainability. In addition, the GBC will support the harmonization of building practices, facilitate commerce and be a driving force for innovation and safety advances in building design and construction in the region.

ICC will support GSO's efforts with training and other resources to facilitate the development and implementation of the GBC. The GSO also will participate in ICC's code development process on future versions of the International Codes.

"When the global building community comes together to promote health, welfare and safety in the built environment, everyone benefits," says Dwayne Garriss, president of ICC's board of directors. "ICC is proud to support the GSO efforts to this end."

"We look forward to the GSO and its member states beginning a sustainable partnership and a continuing technical cooperation with the ICC before and after the launch of the GBC," says GSO Secretary-General Nabil Amin Molla.

OSHA can enforce rule for drug testing and safety incentives

On Nov. 28, a federal judge ruled the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could begin enforcing its rule restricting safety incentives and drug-testing programs, according to Bloomberg BNA.

Judge Sam Lindsay of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas said the industry organizations and employers seeking a temporary injunction against enforcing the rule had failed to show there would be irreparable harm to them if OSHA moved forward with enforcing the rule. The enforcement start date was Dec. 1, 2016.

The challenged standard requires about 466,000 work sites with more than 20 employees to electronically submit annual injury and illness log data to OSHA, enabling OSHA to post on its public website summaries of each establishment's records. The electronic submission requirement will start taking effect this year and be phased in through 2019.

Lindsay said his order isn't an indication OSHA will prevail against the industry request for a permanent injunction. Among those seeking the injunction were the National Association of Manufacturers; Great American Insurance Group, Cincinnati; and construction organizations.

The standard also says workplaces "must establish a reasonable procedure for employees to report work-related injuries and illnesses promptly and accurately." A procedure isn't reasonable if it "would deter or discourage a reasonable employee from accurately reporting a workplace injury or illness."

To implement the reporting procedure, OSHA said safety-incentive programs rewarding workers and supervisors for low injury and illness rates may violate the standard because cash and other benefits could persuade workers to not report cases.

In addition, OSHA said drug-testing programs requiring any worker reporting an injury to be tested could violate the standard because the threat of testing would discourage reporting.

DOL appeals judge's preliminary injunction to overtime rule

On Nov. 22, a federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction to the Department of Labor's (DOL's) overtime rule. The rule would have taken effect Dec. 1, 2016.

DOL's overtime rule more than doubles the current salary threshold of workers who are eligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act from $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week ($47,476 per year) and also provides the threshold be updated automatically every three years and tied to the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage region of the U.S. (currently the Southeast).

NRCA opposes the rule based on concerns the rule would add an additional paperwork burden and increase labor costs for employers while reducing workplace flexibility and pay for some workers. With the injunction in place, businesses do not need to adhere to the new overtime rule requirements until the rule is fully litigated.

DOL filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Dec. 1, 2016, along with a motion for an expedited briefing. After the court reviews the merits of the case, it still could allow the rule to take effect. If the court grants DOL's motion, it likely won't reach a decision regarding the injunction until at least February, according to HR Daily Advisor. Employers now must wait to find out whether the overtime rule will take effect.

NRCA will continue to update members as information becomes available, as well as continue to support all efforts to halt or reduce the costly effects this rule has on its members.


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