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New OSHA Ruling has Builders Worried

Builder on top of roof

In the world of workers’ compensation and workplace injuries, governing bodies can create a great deal of controversy. Organizations such as OSHA that are in charge of enforcing safety measures and holding employers accountable for their employees would, in a perfect world, remove any competitive edge and improve statistics year-in and year-out.

But employers in the construction industry are feeling a bit short-changed by OSHA’s recent ruling that requires residential and commercial builders to integrate fall-arrest systems at work.

“We’re getting beaten by the people who say they don’t care about the rules,” says Bill Moore of Legacy Contracting Solutions, a roofing contractor in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

Overall, the feeling among residential and commercial builders is that OSHA’s new rules shift the field of play so that those cheating the system – those who don’t follow the new rules – are better off than those who oblige.

According to Moore, the new rules result in a higher quote for his clients and therefore, lost business. The fall-arrest systems are expensive to equip, and require more labor time; both of which cause significant increases in costs. As part of the new ruling, OSHA dismissed originally permissible slide guards as acceptable protection for workers.

And to add even more turmoil to the controversy, Tom Shanahan of the National Roofing Contractors Association says that the fall-arrest systems are only effective under certain circumstances. Shanahan says that if a roof has a lower level of slope, lines can become entangled and actually result in higher fall risk for workers.

Moore says his company is constantly losing business to lower bidders who likely do not follow the rules, and is worried about the possibility of going out of business.

“It’s now us against who’s cheating,” Moore says. “And that’s a tough battle to fight.”

Providing an opportunity for loopholes, which is what OSHA appears to have done here, actually creates an incentive and motivation for companies to bend the rules. What do you think OSHA could do to even the playing field?

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