Be warned: the newest compliance directive from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not light reading. In fact, the compliance directive for enforcing the new steel erection standard, which became effective Jan. 18, comes in at a hefty 97 pages.

The new guidance was created to assist compliance officers in enforcing the new standard, but is a valuable tool for contractors and steel erectors as well. The directive contains a compliance officer guide with inspection tips, definitions with photos, and a question-and-answer chapter that clarifies certain provisions of the standard.

The directive addresses the standard''s key provisions and the "phase-in" of component requirements. OSHA will not apply the component requirements of the new standard to projects where the building permit was obtained before Jan. 18, 2001 or when the steel erection work began on or before Sept. 16, 2001. However, all other requirements will apply.

"We want to save lives and provide better protection for steel erection workers by directly addressing the hazards that have been identified as the major causes of injuries and fatalities in the industry," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw.

A draft of the directive was posted on OSHA''s Web site in November 2001 to provide the public an opportunity to submit informal suggestions. It was finalized after OSHA analyzed more than 400 responses from approximately 70 stakeholders.

The question-and-answer section of the compliance directive is probably one of the most useful portions of the document for contractors and steel erectors. OSHA included 56 questions and answers on all aspects of the standard.

Right now, the compliance directive is only available in PDF format. The question-and-answer chapter (Chapter 4) begins on page 44 of the directive. The questions range from general ("Which provisions in the standard are considered ''component requirements''?") to specific ("Section 1926.754 (b)(3) requires a ''fully planked or decked floor or nets'' within two stories or 30 feet, whichever is less. Can an employer''s requirement that workers be protected by fall arrest equipment at all times above 15 feet (or less) take the place of temporary floors?").

The compliance directive on policies and procedures for OSHA''s steel erection standards for construction can be found on the OSHA web site at www.osha-slc.gov/OshDoc/Directive_data/CPL_2-1_34.html.

by Sandy Smith (ssmith@penton.com)