OSHA Announces 'Weekend Work' Initiative Focused on Fall Protection at Construction Sites in West
The U.S. Department of Labor announced a new enforcement initiative in July targeting the construction industry on weekends in select counties in Colorado, Montana, and South Dakota. The program, dubbed the "Weekend Work Initiative," will involve workplace inspections on weekends at construction sites focused on fall protection.
OSHA area offices in Denver and Englewood, Colorado; Billings, Montana; and Sioux Falls, South Dakota will conduct the initiative. Compliance officers will open workplace safety and health inspections on weekends in Arapahoe, Douglas, Jefferson, El Paso, Adams, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Larimer and Weld counties in Colorado; Yellowstone, Carbon and Stillwater counties in Montana; and Minnehaha, Lincoln, Brookings, Pennington and Union counties in South Dakota.
In announcing the initiative, OSHA noted that since 2017, OSHA has investigated 10 fatalities and numerous serious construction-related fall injuries in the geographic area targeted. In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that falls from elevation led to 351 of the 1,008 deaths among construction workers.
OSHA's fall protection standard for construction is codified in Subpart M - 29 CFR 1926.500. Subpart M requires the use of fall protection when construction workers are working at heights of 6 feet or greater above a lower level. It applies at heights of less than 6 feet when working near dangerous equipment, for example, working over machinery with open drive belts, pulleys or gears or open vats of degreasing agents or acid. It also covers protection from falling objects, falls from tripping over or falling through holes, and protection when walking and working around dangerous equipment without regard to height. Subpart M provisions do not apply, however, to workers inspecting, investigating, or assessing workplace conditions prior to the actual start of work or after all construction work has been completed.
Generally, OSHA approves conventional fall protection systems such as guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. The regulations do provide allowances for other systems and methods of fall protection when performing certain activities, such as a positioning device system when working on formwork.