Fall Protection Toolkit

Falls are the No. 1 cause of accidents and injuries in home building. Keep your workers safer.

Since September 2011, home builders and trade contractors have been required to comply fully with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction. OSHA’s residential fall protection phase-in period ended on March 15, 2013, which provided home builders with more time to learn about the rule and get compliance assistance from OSHA.

What does this mean for builders and their subcontractors?

Builders and trade contractors must use guardrails, personal fall arrest systems (harnesses and lanyards), or safety nets when workers on residential construction sites are exposed to vertical drops of six feet or more in height from one elevation to another on walking/working surfaces with an unprotected side or edge, unless employers can demonstrate that it is not feasible to use those fall protection systems or using the systems creates a greater hazard.  In those cases, contractors must develop a fall protection plan that utilizes alternative fall protection measures.

All fall protection plans must be in writing and be site specific. However, the written plan developed for repeated use for a particular style/model home will be considered site specific. The use of fall protection plans is limited to residential construction, and the home must be constructed using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods. However, the limited use of structural steel in a predominantly wood-framed home, such as a steel I-beam to help support wood framing, does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction.

Which OSHA standards address fall hazards in construction work?

29 CFR Part 1926, Subpart M, which became effective on Feb. 6, 1995, contains general fall protection requirements for construction work. Additional fall protection requirements can be found throughout Part 1926.

What are the Subpart M requirements for residential construction?

Under 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13), workers engaged in residential construction six feet or more above lower levels must be protected by conventional fall protection (i.e., guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems) or alternative fall protection measures allowed under 1926.501(b) for particular types of work. A personal fall arrest system may consist of a full body harness, a deceleration device, a lanyard and an anchor point. (See the definition of personal fall arrest system in 29 CFR 1926.500.) If an employer can demonstrate that fall protection required under 1926.501(b)(13) is infeasible or presents a greater hazard it must implement a written, site-specific fall protection plan meeting the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.502(k). The fall protection plan must specify alternative measures that will be used to eliminate or reduce the possibility of employee falls.

Federal vs. State Programs

Not all states follow the federal OSHA programs. Many home builders operate in approved OSHA state plans and will need to check with their local administrators for further information on the fall protection standards applicable in their states. 

Fall Prevention Campaign 

OSHA's nationwide outreach campaign aim is to raise awareness among workers and employers about the hazards of falls from ladders, scaffolds and roofs. NAHB Supports Worker Safety and OSHA's Fall Prevention Campaign.

NAHB requests that OSHA amend its fall protection standard

In December 2012 NAHB sent a letter and petition to OSHA requesting the Agency reopen the rulemaking and try again to create a rule that applies to home building, rather than continuing to impose a one-size-fits-all approach that is better suited to commercial contracting.