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Questions about OSHA rule update

A final rule released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated the agency's standards to allow workers to conduct certain types of work close to the edge of low-slope roofs without having fall protection systems in place. Workers in Louisiana should know that only work that is temporary in nature and occurs with relative infrequency qualifies.

The rule states that work that is performed less than 6 feet from a roof's edge requires traditional fall protection. This can include travel restraint systems, guardrails or a personal fall arrest system.

Fall protection systems are not required by OSHA for work that is temporary, occurs only occasionally and is conducted 6 to 15 feet from the roof's edge. Questions about what type of work this refers to were part of a panel discussion at an American Society of Safety Engineers conference held in June 2017.

Upon the rule's release, OSHA had admitted that what qualified as a temporary task had not been defined. However, the agency approved of a description provided by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association that defined short duration tasks as those that took one to two hours to finish. Such tasks may include cleaning a chimney, replacing a satellite dish part, resealing the flashing for a skylight or replacing a filter for a HVAC system on the roof. OSHA also stated the infrequent work referred to tasks or duties that are conducted occasionally or only when necessary. This may include replacing batteries or HVAC filters every month or quarter or the annual servicing of equipment.

People who sustain a workplace injury may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. They might find it appropriate to have legal assistance when preparing and submitting their claims.

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