NRCA has filed a petition for judicial review of new rules issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that fundamentally change the requirements for protecting workers from falls on residential roofing projects. The new OSHA rules, which were issued in December 2010, no longer allow the use of “slide guards,” or roof brackets, as an acceptable means of fall protection except in some narrow circumstances.
NRCA’s position is that slide guards are an effective and reliable method of fall protection; they have been used successfully for more than 15 years; and OSHA’s new rules not only are unnecessarily burdensome but will result in more accidents and injuries on job sites.
A survey conducted by NRCA in 2010 showed 37 falls from roofs when “conventional” fall-protection systems, most typically harnesses with safety lines, were used but only nine falls from roofs when slide guards were used. According to the survey, the nine reports of falls when slide guards were used occurred on 17,855 roofing jobs; the 37 falls when harnesses were used occurred on 14,083 roofing jobs.
“This is a classic case of a bureaucracy believing it knows more about how to provide a safe workplace than do the people in the industry it is trying to protect,” says Bill Good, NRCA’s executive vice president. “We think it is critically important for employers to be able to decide which method of fall protection affords the best possible solution for any given project, but the new OSHA rules make that incredibly difficult in most cases and impossible in others.”
NRCA, along with four roofing contractor plaintiffs, filed the petition for judicial review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, Chicago. Subsequently, NRCA asked the court for a stay of enforcement until the matter is decided. Enforcement of the new rules is scheduled to begin June 16.
NRCA’s petition argues OSHA did not follow appropriate rulemaking procedures when it eliminated an option that has been in place for 15 years; acted without any evidence to suggest slide guards are not an effective method for fall protection; and failed to take into account the effect on small businesses the new rules would have. OSHA has argued the rule is not a new standard and is, therefore, beyond the reach of an appeal.
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