Two builders' groups gave mixed reviews regarding new fall protection measures created by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week.

The National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA) said today that it was unhappy with the new rule, while the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) praised the new measure. The rule replaces a 15-year-old policy that was intended to be temporary when it was first enacted.

OSHA's action rescinds the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction, Standard 03-00-001, which allowed builders engaged in certain residential construction activities to use specified alternative methods of fall protection rather than the conventional fall protection standards. The new directive requires all residential builders to comply with 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.501(b)(13), which requires workers engaged in residential construction over six feet above the ground level are to be protected by conventional fall protection standards. Conventional standards include guardrails, harnesses, and safety nets, but not slide guards and other alternative measures.

The NRCA, however, argues that slide guards provide a safe alternative to conventional standards and that OSHA did not use proper data in making its decision. OSHA officials cited fall related deaths and concern from construction industry experts as the reason for the new directive.

"We're terribly disappointed OSHA took this action," said NRCA executive vice president Bill Good. "They have effectively eliminated a safe and effective method for preventing falls--one that has worked successfully for 15 years. They did this without any data to suggest that slide guards don't work, and they did it after assuring us they would take our concerns into account."

The NAHB, which recommended OSHA create the new directive, was pleased that the new guidelines set permanent standards. "Job site safety is the number one priority for builders," said NAHB chairman Bob Jones. "This action will clarify what actions builders need to take to comply with OSHA regulations while helping to ensure safer work sites."

Dan Tinker, chief operation officer of McKinney, Texas-based SRS Acquisitions, which distributes roofing products under a number of different brand names, said he was also happy to hear about the new directive.

"We are glad to see it," Tinker said. "Many of our good customers have had employees through the years that have been hurt or even killed as a result of falls."

Construction and roofing companies will have until June 16, 2011, to comply with the new directive.