A state regulation that took effect Jan. 1 requires Oregon construction contractors to make sure workers are protected from falls if work is done six or more feet above a surface.
The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division said the new rule will primarily affect home builders because many commercial contractors already require the protections, reported The Register-Guard. The previous state OSHA regulation required the protections for work at 10 or more feet off a general surface but at six or more feet off established floors, mezzanines, balconies and walkways with unprotected sides.
OSHA said Oregon construction firms were cited most frequently last year for violating rules about fall protection.
“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 Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood in a written statement.
Walter Custom Homes owner Tom Walter argued, however, that the new rule is a “regulation looking for a problem.” He said his firm has constructed 118 homes since 2003 and no workers have been injured in a fall.
Ed McMahon, executive director of the Home Builders Association of Lane County, said the group’s members will need to figure out how to comply with the rule for some tasks, like when workers install roof trusses.
“It would appear that we would need to go around the top of the walls and build a safety barrier, then put the trusses up, and then tear the barrier down,” said McMahon. “On commercial buildings, you see contractors build a little hand rail at the roof. And now we may have to do that for single-family homes.”
He said the extra time and expense of creating such structures will increase the cost of new homes.