Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has decided to push its toughest enforcement measures for its new fall-protection rule back to March 15, 2013, according to a memo released on Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Until that date, OSHA will continue to keep in place temporary enforcement measures that have been observed since September 22, 2011 (for a rule whose effective date was June 16, 2011). The temporary measures—which are meant to allow the industry time to comply with the new rule—include priority on-site compliance assistance, penalty reductions, and extended abatement periods. 

In its memo , DOL notes that OSHA continues to work with the construction industry to assist employers in complying with the new directive. It states that from October 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2012, OSHA had visited 3,000 jobsites, conducted nearly 1,100 training sessions, and delivered close to 500 presentations on fall protection.

Regional and area offices have also conducted more than 1,200 outreach activities about the directive.

“This wasn’t what I expected, but it’s a good thing,” says Tom Shanahan, associate executive director of the Rosemont, Ill.–based National Roofing Contractors Association. The extension of the temporary enforcement measures, he said, “certainly gives us the opportunity” to persuade OSHA to make changes to its new rule.

NRCA objects to what Shanahan calls the “one-size-fits-all” aspects of that directive. Under the new directive, roofers are required to use fall protection equipment for all jobs six feet or higher, which for many installers will inevitably mean wearing personal fall-arrest equipment tethered to the building. NRCA believes that these life lines could actually pose trip hazards on lower-pitched roofs. (The traditional fall protection on lower-sloped roofs--slide guards--are limited under the new rule).

Employers are surely breathing a sigh of relief about the postponement of the new directive, which would impose fines for noncompliance of up to $7,000 for a serious violation, and up to $70,000 for a willful violation. “These penalty sizes would be subject to adjustment based on an employer’s size, good faith, and the gravity of the violation, said Kimberly Darby, an OSHA spokesperson.

John Caulfield is senior editor for Builder magazine.

The first two paragraphs of this article were updated after the story was originally published.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Washington, DC.