Changes apply to rules protecting workers from falls
Salem - In 2017, employers who do construction work in Oregon will see two major changes to rules they must follow to protect their workers from falling and injuring themselves.
The changes are as follows:
- Starting Jan. 1, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division’s (Oregon OSHA) 10-foot trigger height – the minimum height at which workers must be protected from falls – will lower to six feet.
- Starting Oct. 1, slide guards will no longer be allowed as a method of protecting workers from falling off of sloped roofs.
The new requirements mean that construction contractors will need to use some form of fall protection to prevent their employees from falling six feet or more to a lower level. Moreover, construction contractors using slide guards as a primary means of fall protection will need to use a different protection method.
Equipment is available to meet the new standards, including personal fall arrest and fall restraint systems. It is also important for construction contractors to make fall protection an essential part of an overall safety program that keeps workplaces free of hazards.
“We’ve come a long way in Oregon in reducing injuries and deaths from falls, particularly in construction, but we still have a ways to go,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “The new standards further underscore the importance of employers and employees working together to bring all of their safety tools to bear as we enter 2017.”
Falls to a lower level are the leading type of fall in Oregon’s construction industry. From 2013 to 2015, a total of 774 construction workers were injured by falling to a lower level. In 2016, general fall-protection requirements were the most-cited construction-industry rule, with 289 total violations (221 serious and 68 repeat) and initial penalties totaling $603,010.
Nationwide, the construction industry has the greatest number of both fatal and nonfatal traumatic brain injuries among workplaces, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. From 2003 to 2010, 2,210 construction workers died because of a traumatic brain injury.
The six-foot trigger-height requirement is not entirely new for Oregon construction contractors. It has been required for many years for work on established floors, mezzanines, balconies, and walkways that have unprotected sides and edges. Many large commercial construction contractors already require the use of fall protection at six feet.
More likely to be affected by the new requirements are contractors who do construction projects on single-family homes that have a ground-to-eave height between six and 10 feet, and those who do projects where slide guards are used for fall protection.
The rule changes stem from a federal OSHA decision several years ago to begin enforcing its existing fall protection requirements in residential construction. As a result, federal OSHA advised Oregon OSHA that the Oregon rules no longer met the requirement of both state and federal law and that the Oregon rules must be at least as effective as the comparable federal requirements.
In drafting changes to existing rules during the summer of 2015, Oregon OSHA took input from an advisory group of leaders in the commercial and residential construction sectors. Following those meetings, Oregon OSHA formally proposed changes to the rule and accepted public comment at five hearings held throughout the state in January 2016.
Oregon OSHA’s technical staff can answer questions to help employers understand how to apply rules to their workplace:
Toll-free in Oregon: 800-922-2689
Online contact form
Employers may also contact Oregon OSHA’s no-cost consultation services for help with safety and health programs:
Toll-free in Oregon: 800-922-2689
Fact sheet about the fall-protection rule changes
For more information about fall protection, visit Oregon OSHA’s Fall protection topic page.