Contractors, take note: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is currently stepping up its vigilance with new regulations and a new national safety campaign to prevent jobsite falls.

Of the many steps being taken to improve jobsite safety, OSHA has replaced its interim regulation regarding fall prevention with the Fall Protection Standard 1926.501, which falls under the Safety and Health Regulations for Construction, Subpart M. Under this standard, fall protection is not considered a choice, but rather a duty, according to the wording and documentation.

“Falls are the leading cause of on-the-job deaths in construction,” said OSHA in a release. “Most ladder deaths involve falls of 10 feet or less and each year thousands of workers are injured and approximately 225 die from construction-related falls.”

Residential Construction Standard

Safety campaigns may not inspire contractors to adjust and evaluate their safety procedures, but ignoring governmental standards and regulations could prove to be detrimental. The new safety standard created by OSHA is broken down into specific subtopics and sections. Section 1926.501(b)(13) applies directly to anyone involved in residential construction.

“Each employee engaged in residential activities six feet or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, a safety net system, or a personal fall arrest system unless another provision in paragraph (b) of this section provides for an alternative fall protection measure.”

The section then explains that exceptions are only made when an employer can show that the safety measures aren’t feasible. It assumes that specified measures are feasible and leaves the burden of proof otherwise with the employer. If granted an exception, the employer must then provide a safety alternative.

Plan, Provide, Train

To further its efforts in fall prevention and job safety, OSHA partnered with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH’s) National Occupation Research Agenda program to create a new national campaign. Also included were the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) and the NORA Construction Sector Council.

“OSHA and NIOSH will work with trade associations, labor unions, employers, universities, community and faith-based organizations, and consulates to provide employers and workers — especially vulnerable, low-literacy workers — with education and training on common-sense fall prevention equipment and strategies that save lives,” explained Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

“Falls are the most fatal out of all hazards in the construction industry, accounting for almost one in every three construction worker deaths. Our simple message is that safety pays, and falls cost.”

The campaign message is broken into three pieces — plan, provide, train — and spread across multiple organization and association websites. CPWR hosts and OSHA hosts Both sites contain campaign materials, links to campaign news and resources, as well as information on ordering supplies and training materials. Offline, posters and training materials are available in both English and Spanish.

According to the campaign, employers must plan ahead to get the job done safely. “When working from heights such as ladders, scaffolds, and roofs, employers must plan projects to ensure that the job is done safely.”

To accomplish this, it is suggested that employers take a job inventory of sorts that allows them to evaluate what has to be done, what safety equipment will be involved, and what precautions must be taken.

Next the campaign encourages employers to provide the right equipment. “Workers who are six feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To protect these workers, employers must provide fall protection and the right equipment for the job, including the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds, and safety gear.”

The final piece of the three-part campaign instructs employers to train everyone to use the equipment safely. “Falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment, so they need training on the specific equipment they will use to complete the job.”

OSHA provides numerous tools to help employers train their employees and will continue to add training resources to its offerings throughout the campaign.

Getting Involved

OSHA is encouraging employers involved in the construction trades to get involved and help spread the messages of this fall safety campaign. It suggests that those interested should join the campaign, add a link to the website to their company website, send out an e-blast and run an article in their company newsletter, link to the campaign’s Facebook page by searching “stop construction falls,” and follow @NIOSHConstruct on Twitter.

“Last year we made over 27,000 visits to small businesses to provide free, onsite safety consultations. But here’s the truth: We can’t do it alone,” said Solis in remarks made during the campaign announcement. She explained that OSHA has approximately 1,000 safety inspectors that could not feasibly accomplish inspecting the 8 million workplaces in America and encouraged employers to get involved in taking care of safety business.

“Safety must come first. Workplace tragedies must be prevented. Making a living should never mean dying.”

For more information, visit

Sidebar: Ladder Choice (Source: OSHA)

There are four things to consider when choosing a ladder to use. The first is the type, fixed or portable. With a fixed ladder, the choice is already made. If portable, however, it is important to know if the job requires an “A” frame or a straight extension ladder.

The second thing to consider is its length. Find the sticker that gives the ladder’s duty rating at the highest level and then add 5 feet.

The third consideration is the duty rating. It is important to know that the height is correct, but it is necessary to consider if the ladder can support the worker and his tools.

The final consideration is the material the ladder is made of. For example, fiberglass ladders should be used when there is a chance that it will come into contact with electricity.

Sidebar: Ladder Set-Up (Source: OSHA)

When setting up a portable ladder, consider the following checklist.

• Look for a safe location.

• Prepare firm, level footing.

• Set ladder at a 75 degree angle.

• Extend ladder 3 feet above landing.

• Secure ladder at the bottom.

• Secure ladder at the top.

• Keep area clear of hazards and barricade bottom to protect from traffic.

Sidebar: Ladder Inspection (Source: OSHA)

• Check for cracks, bends, splits, or corrosion.

• Check all rungs and step connections.

• Make sure the ladder’s feet work properly and have slip resistant pads.

• Make sure rung locks and spreader braces are working.

• Be sure all bolts and rivets are secure.

• Make sure steps, rungs, and other ladder parts are free of oil, grease, and other materials.

• On extension ladders, make sure the rope and pulley work and the rope is not frayed or tangled.

Note: If any damage to the ladder is found, it should be labeled “Do Not Use” and removed from the work site for repair or disposal.

Sidebar: Ladder Climbing (Source: OSHA)

• Face ladder going up and down.

• Keep centered between rails.

• Use three-point contact.

• Carry no loads.

• One person at a time.

• Avoid leaning, stretching, or making moves that could throw you off balance.

• Stay alert when getting on or off.

• No standing on top or top step of stepladder.

• No standing on top three rungs of a straight or extension ladder.

Publication date: 11/26/2012