OSHA’s Fall Protection Clarifications for Roofers

OSHA’s fall-protection regulations are easy to find (see OSHA 29 CFR, Subpart M, 1926.500 – 1926.503 and four appendixes). Understanding them is a bit more difficult because they apply to a variety of occupations, including roofing.

The following clarifications are OSHA’s responses to questions regarding fall-protection requirements and work practices affect roofers:

ROOF OPENINGS

The “Holes” section of the regulation requires the use of fall protection— personal fall-arrest systems (PFAS), guardrails, safety nets, covers, etc.—when there is a hole in a work/walking surface. Because a roof is a work/walking surface, employees must be protected from falling through. OSHA concluded that immediately securing a cover over a cut hole is sufficient because the cover eliminates the fall hazard requiring fall protection. The rest of the environment may still require fall protection.

SUPPLYING MATERIAL TO THE ROOF

A supplier who delivers roofing material onto a roof must use all available fall protection, meaning a sufficient ladder or other means with a sturdy handhold. A supplier also must wear personal fall-protection equipment and connect to existing anchorage points when receiving and delivering materials on a roof.

If anchorage points do not exist for workers at the site, suppliers are not required to install anchorage points because they spend so little time at the job site. Anchorage points are the primary contractor’s responsibility, and it’s the supplier’s responsibility to use available fall protection.

CONTROLLED ACCESS ZONES

A controlled access zone (CAZ) is a designated work area marked by a warning line that only authorized employees can cross to work next to an unprotected edge. This less-safe approach is explicitly reserved for leading-edge work (the changing unprotected side of a roof or floor as it is installed) and overhand brickwork.

Except for steep roofs (slopes greater than 4-inches vertical to 12-inches horizontal) and non-residential roofing, CAZs are an option if you can prove traditional fall protection is not possible or too dangerous. Just be prepared to justify in writing why other fall protection isn’t effective; identify all authorized employees; and investigate all accidents and near accidents.

Some examples where traditional fall protection fails:

    ▪▪ Safe anchors cannot be provided.
    ▪▪ Lifelines may entangle or mire in grout.
    ▪▪ Fall protection prevents completion of the work.
    ▪▪ Work-area configuration causes ineffective fall-arrest systems.

At the very least, the CAZ must include a safety monitoring system.

USING SAFETY MONITORS ON LOW-SLOPE ROOFS

A safety monitor is a competent person responsible for recognizing and warning employees they are in danger of falling. The monitor counts as part of the fall-protection solution on low-slope roofs.

The following are fall-protection options on low-slope roofs:

    ▪▪ Guardrails
    ▪▪ Safety nets
    ▪▪ PFAS
    ▪▪ Warning lines and guardrails
    ▪▪ Warning lines and safety nets
    ▪▪ Warning lines and PFAS
    ▪▪ Warning lines and safety monitors
    ▪▪ Safety monitors on roofs 50-feet wide or less

The safety monitor must:

    ▪▪ Be competent to recognize fall hazards.
    ▪▪ Warn employees when it appears they are unaware of a fall hazard or are acting unsafely.
    ▪▪ Be on the same work/walking surface as monitored employees and be able to see them.
    ▪▪ Be close enough to talk to the employees.
    ▪▪ Not have any other responsibilities.
    ▪▪ Ensure employees follow warnings and directions.

Also, mechanical equipment can’t be in safety monitoring areas. Because these feasibility exceptions are only listed in specific categories (low-slope roof work, leading-edge work, precast concrete erection and residential construction), if a worker doesn’t fit those categories, such as HVAC installation, the worker must follow conventional fall protection. Alternative plans are generally for situations in which there isn’t a completed structure to attach anchor points; once anchor points are available, OSHA favors regular fall protection.

WARNING LINE FOR NON-ROOFERS

OSHA’s stance on fall protection is that there is no safe working distance away from an unprotected edge. But in an interpretation of workers on a low-slope roof, having just a warning line at least 15 feet from the edge of a roof for non-roofers (HVAC installers) would be considered a “de minimis” violation if non-roofers are prohibited from crossing the warning line. A de minimis violation violates regulations without making the workplace less safe and doesn’t result in a citation.

ASSEMBLING AND INSTALLING ROOFS

OSHA assumes traditional fall protection is safer than creating an alternative plan and has described some industry approaches to assembling and installing roofs without foregoing fall-protection precautions just because an anchor isn’t convenient:

    ▪▪ Assemble the roof on the ground and use a crane to place it.
    ▪▪ Use permanent and reusable roof anchors and reusable truss braces while working from ladders or platforms at both ends to brace the trusses without needing to be on them.
    ▪▪ Once trusses are braced, begin initial sheathing at the eaves with workers on platforms inside the structure, removing braces one at a time. Sheath the last course while tied off to existing wood anchors.

When OSHA regulations meet the real world, they can leave you wondering how they should be interpreted, and roofing is no exception. Hopefully this summary of how OSHA has interpreted fall protection for roofing situations clarifies some of the questions.

This Week: NRCA and United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers Jointly Support National Safety Stand-Down

This is a joint statement attributable to William Good, executive vice president of the National Roofing Contractors Association, and Kinsey M. Robinson, international president of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers

On behalf of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers (UURWAW) and National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), we would like to voice our support for the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, organized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), taking place throughout the U.S. from June 2-6, 2014.

The latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show 65 workers in the roofing industry died in 2012 from falls that occurred as they were doing their jobs. Those numbers are not just cold statistics but reflect 65 families that have been changed forever by the loss of a loved on—a spouse, father, mother, son or daughter whose death has left a void in the hearts of family and friends.

The National Safety Stand-Down is an effort to focus company and worker attention on the significance of fall hazards in construction and emphasize the importance of effectively implementing fall-protection systems on every project. NRCA and UURWAW encourage their members and all involved in the roofing industry to participate in the National Safety Stand-Down by delivering focused fall-protection awareness toolbox talks at the start of each day during that week and throughout the year. Special materials have been developed by UURWAW and NRCA for this purpose that can be accessed on our websites and printed for use each day.

Let’s pledge to continue the efforts to increase awareness of fall hazards, not just that week but throughout the year so all workers are safe performing the critical, quality work they do and are able to go home to their families each day!

2012 Fatal Work Injuries Are Second Lowest Reported Since 1992

The final count of fatal work injuries in the United States in 2012 was 4,628, up from 4,383 preliminarily reported in August 2013. The final 2012 total was the second-lowest annual total recorded since the fatal injury census was first conducted in 1992. The overall fatal work injury rate for the United States in 2012 was 3.4 fatal injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, down slightly from the final rate of 3.5 reported for 2011.

The final fatal work injury rate for 2012 is the lowest rate published by the program since the conversion to hours-based rates in 2006. The final 2012 numbers reflect updates to the 2012 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) file made after the release of preliminary results in August 2013. Revisions and additions to the 2012 CFOI counts result from the identification of new cases and the revision of existing cases based on source documents received after the release of preliminary results. A table summarizing the results of the update process appears on the next page.

Among the changes resulting from the updates:

  • The total number of contractors fatally injured on the job in 2012 rose to 715 fatalities after updates were included. Contract workers accounted for over 15 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2012. For more information, see the
    table on contractor data.
  • Roadway incidents were higher by 109 cases (or 10 percent) from the preliminary count, increasing the total number of fatal work-related roadway incidents in 2012 to 1,153 cases. The final 2012 total represented a 5-percent increase over the final 2011 count.
  • The number of fatal work injuries involving Hispanic workers was higher by 40 fatalities after updates were added, bringing the total number of fatally injured Hispanic workers to 748. That total was about the same as the 2011 total (749), but the fatality rate for Hispanic workers declined to 3.7 per 100,000 FTE workers in 2012, down from 4.0 in 2011.
  • Work-related suicides increased by 24 cases to a total of 249 after updates were added. Workplace homicides were higher by 12 cases after the updates, raising the workplace homicide total in 2012 to 475 cases.
  • In the private transportation and warehousing sector, fatal injuries increased by 9 percent from the preliminary count, led by a net increase of 44 cases in the truck transportation sector.
  • A net increase of 31 fatal work injuries in the private construction sector led to a revised count of 806 for that sector. The 2012 total was an increase of 9 percent over the 2011 total and represented the first increase in fatal work injuries in private construction since 2006.

Overall, 36 states revised their counts upward as a result of the update process. CFOI has compiled an annual count of all fatal work injuries occurring in the U.S. since 1992 by using diverse data sources to identify, verify and profile fatal work injuries. For more information, see Chapter 9 of the BLS Handbook of Methods.

NRCA Testifies about OSHA’s Proposed Crystalline Silica Rule

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) provided testimony on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) proposed rule to amend its existing standards for occupational exposure to respirable crystalline silica. The testimony was part of a three-week public hearing process held by OSHA.

“In roofing, as OSHA understands very well, our overriding safety concern is falls. The best safety practices in the industry include keeping roofing workers away from the edge of the roof, protecting them from tripping on the roof, and minimizing their trips up and down ladders,” said NRCA Executive Vice President William Good, who testified on behalf of the association. “Unfortunately, we fear the new rule will dramatically increase the risk of falls, because of the nature of roofing work.”

Good explained that in the roofing industry, silica exposures are limited to operations where tile roofs are being installed because the tiles need to be cut to fit in place on the roof. The proposed rule’s engineering controls would require roofing workers to either use wetting or vacuuming, both of which could introduce new tripping hazards because they involve placing hoses on rooftops. In addition, wetting would result in slippery tiles, which is particularly dangerous on steep-slope roofs.

Visuals of a typical tile roofing job site were presented during Good’s testimony to illustrate NRCA’s concern.

“Ours is a unique industry with unique hazards, and a one-size-fits-all approach to reducing silica exposures not only won’t work for us but will likely, in fact, create other hazards that are more immediate and life threatening,” Good continued.

OSHA’s public hearing on the new crystalline silica rule is scheduled to conclude April 4.

Construction Industry Safety Coalition Urges U.S. Department of Labor to Withdraw ‘Significantly Flawed’ Silica Proposal

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition, which represents 25 different construction trade associations, issued the following statement recently as it filed comments regarding the Washington, D.C.- based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposed Crystalline Silica Rulemaking:

“After an exhaustive analysis that involved hundreds of construction safety professionals, builders, construction managers and specialty trade contractors representing virtually every facet on the industry, it is our conclusion that the administration’s proposed new silica rule is significantly flawed and will do little to improve workplace health or safety. Specifically, the proposed rule sets a silica exposure standard that cannot be accurately measured or protected against with existing equipment and includes a series of data errors that undermine many of the rule’s basic assumptions.

“The proposed rule’s new silica exposure limit is virtually impossible to accurately measure or protect against using existing technology. For example, commercially available dust collection technology is not capable by itself of protecting workers from the rule’s new silica exposure limit. A limitation the agency appears to acknowledge in its additional requirement that workers also wear respirators, something that would not be necessary if the dust collection technology was effective.

“Even more troubling, the proposal is rife with errors and inaccurate data that call into question the entire rulemaking process. Agency officials, for example, omitted 1.5 million construction workers from its assessment of the size of the affected workforce. The agency also did not consider the broad range of tasks and variety of settings and environments in which construction occurs. And the agency’s assessment of the rule’s cost was off by a factor of four.

“Given the lack of scientific explanation justifying the new exposure limits, the many contradictions between the rule and the realities faced in the construction industry, and the fact that agency officials made significant errors in the basic data the rule is based on, we are urging the administration to withdraw this proposed rule. We strongly urge agency officials to work with us and employee groups to craft a silica measure that will build upon the work all of us have done to reduce silica-related deaths by 93 percent during the past three decades.”

OSHA Extends Comment Period on Proposed Workplace Safety Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that the comment period on the proposed rule to improve workplace safety and health through improved tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses will close on March 10, 2014. The comment period was originally scheduled to close March 8. However, this date falls on a Saturday. OSHA will accept comments submitted March 10 as timely submittals.

The proposed rule would amend OSHA’s record-keeping regulations to add requirements for the electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers are already required to keep.

Comments may be submitted electronically, the Federal eRulemaking Portal or by mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for more details. (Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA’s Office of Communications at (202) 693-1999 for assistance accessing PDF materials.)

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

OSHA Forms Safety Alliance with Chicago Roofing Contractors Association

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established an alliance with the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association that will focus on sharing information about OSHA emphasis programs and occupational safety and health laws and standards, including the rights and responsibilities of workers and employers.

“This alliance is an opportunity for OSHA and the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association to work together to train employers and workers about the unique hazards of the roofing industry, including falls,” says Angie Loftus, area director for OSHA’s Chicago North Area Office. “Our focus is to continue to improve the safety and health of workers at Illinois construction sites.”

OSHA and the Chicago Roofing Contractors Association will provide information and guidance to employers and workers. They will develop training and education programs for roofing contractors regarding hazards in construction and promote understanding of workers’ rights. Training programs on common hazards in the construction industry will be discussed quarterly. Additionally, the alliance will provide a forum for OSHA personnel to appear and speak at events sponsored by the association, including its annual trade show. OSHA will raise awareness of best practices, regulatory updates and national campaigns.

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with businesses, trade associations, unions, consulates, professional organizations, faith- and community-based organizations, and educational institutions to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses. The purpose of each alliance is to develop compliance assistance tools, resources and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

OSHA’s Illinois area offices in Des Plaines, North Aurora and Calumet City are participating in this alliance. Employers and workers with questions about this or other OSHA alliances and partnerships can call the Chicago Regional Office at (847) 803-4800.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

OSHA’s Pending IIPP Standard

The Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration is directing its efforts toward enforcing a standard in which employers nationwide will be required to establish a thorough, written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

OSHA’s Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels calls the IIPP the organization’s highest priority and said it could go into effect in the next one to two years. Its goal is to reduce injuries and the associated costs to business. In fact, California, which implemented the requirement in 1991, has experienced overwhelmingly positive results from it.

What’s Involved

IIPPs aren’t a new idea; most companies already have a program in place designed to reduce or eliminate worksite health and safety hazards. OSHA’s standard, however, will make it a requirement and will set guidelines for what must be included in the program. OSHA is accepting input during the drafting phase but has officially stated the following will be required IIPP inclusions:

Hazard Identification/Assessment: A written process by which hazards will be identified. This will include investigating incidents, inspecting the workplace for hazards, and identifying new hazards created by worksite changes or emergencies.

Hazard Prevention/Control: Control methods by which hazards will be isolated or eliminated. This portion of the IIPP also will require documentation of the control methods and their determined effectiveness.

Management: This will cover a company’s chain of command, including managerial duties, resource distribution and allocation, and the proper network for employee communication.

Education and Training: Training requirements, such as specific hazard training, control methods and timetables, will be required. In addition, incidents would dictate the need for residual or refresher training.

Employee Involvement: This will ensure employees participate in creating and maintaining the IIPP. It provides employees with access to important safety information and sets guidelines for employee involvement in risk assessments and incident investigations.

Program Evaluation and Improvement: Employer IIPPs will need to be considered a living document, constantly being evaluated and updated. These evaluations will include performance monitoring and using incident investigations to identify and correct program deficiencies.

Why?

OSHA’s goal in making its IIPP standard a federal requirement is to encourage employers to implement clear directives for reducing health and safety hazards in the workplace. By mitigating hazards and reducing safety incidents in this way, employers should expect to see an overall improvement in workplace health conditions.

The standard will also allow OSHA to look more deeply at an employer’s systems and efforts to reduce workplace hazards. By making safety at work more transparent, OSHA will be able to get more involved in evaluation and risk reduction.

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Connect to and Motivate Your Staff

A friend of mine recently lost his job because of budget cuts. He was employed at a satellite office and not a single manager who made the decision about his livelihood took the time to commute to the satellite location to share the news. Instead, he was called to a conference room where human resources personnel laid him off via speakerphone. My friend was not surprised he was let go, nor was he surprised by how it was done, considering how disconnected he believes the “worker bees” at his former corporation are from management. He had been disgruntled by the lack of communication and management’s questionable decision-making for some time.

I can attest that managing people is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in any line of work. Being a leader requires a thick skin, excellent communication skills and the ability to make tough decisions, among other talents. However, at a time when budgets are tightened and everyone is doing less with more, becoming too consumed in your own tasks and disconnecting from employees is a fatal mistake. Now is the time to embrace your team, make them feel appreciated, motivate them to take on new roles, and identify and reward their strengths. Employees who feel disconnected from what is occurring within a business will feel unappreciated and will not perform at their best. In addition, without employee buy-in, it will be difficult to enforce new programs and procedures within a company.

In this issue, we feature articles about two safety programs you should seriously consider implementing within your roofing business not only to protect your employees, but also to protect your business as a whole. For example, “Business Sense,” addresses distracted driving. I think you’ll be surprised by the broad interpretation of the law in some of the court cases mentioned within the article: Your roofing business could be liable if a worker has an accident while using a mobile device in his personal vehicle or sightseeing on a business trip. According to the author, state and federal mobile-device laws are not enough; developing and enforcing a reasonable mobile-device safety program is a major step toward minimizing your business’ liability.

In “Safety,” Michael Rich explains the Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s priority to require all businesses to have a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program probably within the next two years. California employers already have been operating under this requirement since 1991, providing a model you can duplicate within your business before the requirement is mandated across the country.

Establishing these programs within your business offers a wonderful opportunity to connect to and motivate your staff. You can create teams of volunteers to explore and create policies. When the teams meet, buy them lunch. When your staff goes six months without a distracted driving incident or an injury, celebrate with awards or a party. Take the time to show your employees you appreciate their efforts not only to make your business safer, but also to successfully execute their daily tasks.

In addition, consider setting aside some time on a regular basis specifically to reconnect with the “worker bees”. Join a roofing crew for a week, or answer phones in the front office. Your efforts will establish a new level of trust with your employees and, ultimately, create a better workplace. Perhaps most importantly, your staff will feel as though operational changes, like the safety programs mentioned in this issue, are happening “with” them rather than “to” them.