Kentucky, Utah: It Is "Feasible" to Provide Fall Protection in Residential Construction

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Occupational Hazards Magazine

Summary Statement

Kentucky and Utah have issued regulations requiring fall protection in residential construction.
June 2005

On the surface, Kentucky and Utah have about as much in common as horse racing and downhill skiing.

But when it comes to workplace health and safety, both states have quite a bit in common. For one thing, both states’ top workplace safety administrators are concerned that there have been too many fatal falls in their respective construction industries in recent years.

And those same administrators share the view that OSHA’s current enforcement policy for fall protection in residential construction – STD 3-0.1A – lacks the teeth to reverse those trends.

Consequently, Kentucky and Utah – both of which have OSHA state programs – no longer follow the federal guidelines.

In Utah, where falls “far and away” are the biggest cause of fatalities in the construction industry, it made sense to back away from the federal guidelines, which “seem to ease off fall protection for people working on residential construction projects,” explained Larry Patrick, administrator for Utah Occupational Safety and Health (UOSH).

“People wonder why we’re the only states that have done this, and I wonder why the other states haven’t,” Patrick said.

As of this past January, the fall protection guidelines for construction set forth in 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M are the law of the land in Utah.

In Kentucky, where there were 61 construction falls reported from 1999 through 2004 – two of those resulting in fatalities in 2004 – the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Program (KY OSH) similarly was “uncomfortable with the provisions” of the federal fall protection guidelines, according to KY OSH Safety Standards Specialist Chuck Stribling.

On Feb. 16, 2005, KY OSH issued its own instruction for fall protection in residential construction, which explains that residential construction firms must provide fall protection measures either in accordance with 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M or with state guidelines detailed in the Kentucky instruction.

“Back in 1994, when the interim guidelines came out, feasibility was the issue,” said Steve Morrison, executive director of KY OSH. “Here it is, 2005, and there are methods, products and procedures that have been developed to facilitate compliance. The program believes it’s feasible now to provide fall protection to employees during residential construction.”