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OSHA postpones enforcement

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration previously announced it would begin enforcing fall protection plans for residential contractors as of Oct. 1 this year. However, on Sept. 29, Jeffry Carter, deputy commissioner of labor for Indiana OSHA, issued a memo that said federal OSHA administrators decided to push back enforcement to March 15, 2012. The memo said that employers using fall protection that met interim requirements would not be cited for violations.

The federal OSHA memo can be found on its website: http://www.osha.gov/doc/residential_fall_protection/residential_guidance.html.

Fall protection plans have long applied to commercial construction, but 2012 will be the first year that OSHA will require residential contractors to exercise the same level of caution when employees are working more than six feet above the ground.

Under OSHA regulation section 1926.502, all residential construction companies must ensure that workers are protected from falling by means of safety nets, guardrails or other safety mechanisms like harnesses. This new directive seems to be a direct response to the high number of workplace fatalities caused by falls.

Preliminary findings of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries show that 115 people died on the job in Indiana last year, 18 of whom worked in construction. Across all occupations, falls were the third most common cause of fatal workplace injury, accounting for 17 deaths. Transportation incidents and contact with objects and equipment were the most common causes of workplace fatalities.

OSHA has already given contractors the better part of a year to make sure they’re in compliance with the fall protection guidelines. In December 2010, OSHA announced that it would begin enforcing the guidelines this spring, but that date was pushed back a few times. Before the September announcement, OSHA had said Oct. 1 would be the end of the “grace period” for contractors to adapt to the new standards.

Chetrice Mosley, spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Labor, the agency that oversees the Indiana OSHA office, said IOSHA has not hired additional inspectors to enforce the revision to its regulations. Generally, she explained, IOSHA investigates a business when a complaint has already been filed; but there are times when businesses are randomly selected for inspection. In any workplace where a fatality has occurred, IOSHA investigates.

Rehearing "New OSHA guidelines" IL Sept. 14-27, 2011

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