OSHA Has New Fall Protection Rules

OSHAThe roofing industry is in an uproar right now.  Even the NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association) filed lawsuits against OSHA to fight the adoption of the new rules.  Well, they are relatively new.  These laws were actually written in 1994 or 17 years ago.  Not that roofers are procrastinators.


All the lawsuits went through the appeals courts and the rules were finally set to be implemented on June 16, 2011.  Roofers were warned that they better be ready because OSHA was going to be out in full force and fine roofing companies $7,000 per person per violation.  With six to eight roofers on a job site at any time, you don’t have to be a math whiz to realize that those fines are going to hurt.


My fellow roofers didn’t really believe that the laws were actually going to be enforced.  Seventeen years of delays taught us all to be skeptical.  Kirkey Roofing took the position that we needed to get off the sidelines, do the right thing for our employees and implement an enhanced safety program that met the 1994 guidelines.  Not surprisingly, safety equipment was hard to find in June.  Alas, the weekend before “zero hour” an extension until September 16, 2011 was granted by OSHA.


I have to admit that initially I was pretty upset that I shelled out thousands of dollars on equipment when the rules weren’t going to be enforced.  You see, in the construction industry, we are constantly undercut by contractors who ignore the laws, rules and regulations.  I don’t know how some contractors sleep at night, knowing they are one visit away from a Worker’s Compensation inspector or an IRS auditor before they have to shut their doors for good.


Then it hit me.  I remember when I was first in the roofing business and I couldn’t sleep at night.  What kept me awake were thoughts of one of my employees falling off a roof and getting severely hurt, disabled or worse.  As employers, we are responsible for the safety and well being of our employees.  As a human being, I don’t know how I could live with myself if something terrible happened to one of my employees.  But, after a few months, complacency began to set in and I slept much better.


A meeting with a safety consultant ruined my peaceful nights sleep when he told me that in southernFloridaalone, 50 construction workers are killed each year due to falls.  That number seems unreal, but read the news inSarasotafor a few months and you’ll be surprised by the number of deaths just inSarasotaandManateeCounties.


I count my blessings that we have never had a serious injury.  Roofing is dangerous work.  Roofing employees deserve to be protected from serious injury.


I may be alone right now in the roofing industry, but I hope that OSHA implements the rules as planned in September.  I also hope they enforce the rules.   It’s going to hurt for a while.  The economy has been tough on the roofing industry.  Profit margins are at an all time low and the equipment is expensive.  Productivity will be hurt which will raise the cost of putting on a new roof.  But in the end it is the right thing to do for roofing workers and will protect the financial stability of roofing companies.


I always try to look at the bright side and keep thinking that maybe we’ll get rewarded with lower Worker’s Compensation rates.   Hint, hint.


For further information:  email psquier@kirkeyroofing.com  or call (941)  474-2113.

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