Court upholds OSHA’s directive on residential construction fall protection

Washington – An April 7 appeals court decision backs OSHA’s recent move to issue a new compliance directive regarding fall protection for residential construction.

In the case, the Rosemont, IL-based National Roofing Contractors Association petitioned the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside OSHA’s recent directive stating residential construction employers must provide workers with fall protection in line with the agency’s fall protection standard (1926.501).

Scheduled to go into effect in June, the directive replaces a 1999 directive that had allowed residential construction employers to use specific alternatives to conventional fall protection measures without a written plan, or without showing the conventional methods were not feasible or safe.

NRCA argued that the new directive is a new standard because it subjects employers to requirements they had not needed to meet for more than a decade.

In his ruling (.pdf file), Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook said the 1999 directive did not alter the original standard but merely “exercised the prosecutorial discretion” allowed by the secretary of labor. Any changes in such discretionary decisions – including the most recent directive – may be done without altering the regulation, he said.

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