Fall-protection requirements set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have been part of the construction landscape since the early 1970s. The basis of the rules always has been that it is your obligation as an employer to provide a safe work environment for your employees regardless of the hazard or its origins. Ordinarily, what this has meant for roofing contractors is they must consider every job site's unique characteristics and minimize or eliminate fall hazards while weatherproofing a structure. The methods employed to do so historically have been temporary—installed for a particular job but able to be dismantled and used on the next job. Guardrails, warning lines and scaffolding are examples of such temporary methods.
Recent equipment manufacturing trends, as well as initiatives from the building design community and some building owners, may indicate future advancements for fall protection in the construction industry. One such advancement is permanent fall-protection anchors. Designers are starting to include them, and more building owners have been convinced of the benefits of having them installed on their buildings.
Although OSHA law focuses on employers, other stakeholders who recently have received attention in eliminating or reducing worker exposures to falls are building owners, facility managers, designers, and state and local government building department representatives. Roofing contractors long have expressed the view that fall hazards from elevations can be reduced through building code modifications that require, for example, minimum parapet walls of 39 inches, caging over skylight domes or integrated permanent anchors.