Recent OSHA reporting identifies falling hazards as the leading cause of death on construction projects. OSHA or the Occupational Safety Health Administration was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act enacted by Congress in 1970. Under the Act, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace that complies with OSHA safety and health standards - including fall protection measures. Virginia’s Department of Occupation and Labor enforces parallel regulations at the state level.

The residential construction standard is OSHA STD 03-11-002, issued on December 16, 2010, which rescinded interim fall protection guidelines under STD 03-00-001. The standard provides compliance guidelines for residential construction established in Subpart M at 29 CFR 1926.501(b) (13). Lack of compliance may subject an employer or other responsible party to OSHA citations.

Employers and other responsible parties must determine when fall protection is required. Under 1926.501(b) (13), workers engaged in residential construction activities 6 feet or more above lower levels shall be protected by guardrail systems, safety net systems, personal fall arrest systems, or by alternative fall protection measures allowed under 1926.501(b) for certain types of work.

For fall protection, as well as all project safety requirements, employers, contractors, builders, and owners, should plan to provide the right equipment and training necessary to execute projects in accordance with OSHA standards. Compliance is good business for many reasons, but from just the financial standpoint, regulatory non-compliance can result in citations and penalties, ranging up to a maximum penalty of $12,675 for each serious violation or failure to abate and $126,749 as of January 13, 2017 for repeat or willful violations. Additionally, failure to knowingly or repeatedly comply with safety standards can also result in increased exposure to damages through separate legal actions, increased insurance premiums, or even loss of insurance coverage.