Residential Construction - Jobsite Safety Handbook


The residential construction industry represents a significant percentage of the construction work force. Safe work practices of small building companies play an important part in reducing injuries and fatalities in the residential construction industry.

OSHA defined residential construction in the December 1995 "Interim Fall Protection Guidelines for Residential Construction" as "structures where the working environment, and the construction materials, methods, and procedures employed are essentially the same as those used for typical house (single-family dwelling) and townhouse construction. Discrete parts of a large commercial structure may come within the scope of this definition (for example, a shingled entranceway to a mall), but such coverage does not mean that the entire structure thereby comes within the terms of this definition."

This Jobsite Safety Handbook highlights the minimum safe work practices and regulations related to the major hazards and causes of fatalities occurring in the residential construction industry. The information presented in this hand book does not exempt the employer from compliance with all the requirements contained in Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1926, any state or local safety laws and regulations and applicable standards for the residential construction industry. You should use the Jobsite Safety Handbook only as a general guide to safety practices.

For additional specific legal requirements and safety practices relevant to your particular job, you should rely on the specific regulations and generally accepted safe work practices that are accepted in your area.

Safety and Health Program Guidelines

Employers need to institute and maintain a company program of policies, procedures, and practices to protect their employees from, and help them recognize, job-related safety and health hazards.

The company safety program should include procedures for the identification, evaluation, and prevention or control of workplace hazards, specific job hazards, and potential hazards that may arise.

An effective company safety program will include the following four main elements:

1. Management Commitment
The most successful company safety program includes a clear statement of policy by the owner, management support of safety policies and procedures, and employee involvement in the structure and operation of the program.

2. Worksite Analysis
An effective company safety program sets forth procedures to analyze the jobsite and identify existing hazards and conditions and operations in which changes might occur to create new hazards.

3. Hazard Prevention and Control
An effective safety program establishes procedures to correct or control present or potential hazards on the jobsite.

4. Safety and Health Training
Training is an essential component of an effective company safety program. The complexity of training depends on the size and complexity of the worksite as well as the characteristics of the hazards and potential hazards at the site.

Employee Duties

Employer Duties

Orientation and Training

Each worker must receive safety orientation and training on applicable OSHA standards, company safety requirements and/or have enough experience to do his/her job safely. You should evaluate this training occasionally to ensure proper understanding and implementation of the company safety requirements and OSHA standards.

Personal Protective Equipment

Workers must use personal protective equipment, but it is not a substitute for taking safety measures.  Workers still need to avoid hazards (Figure 1).

Worker with personal protective equipment

Figure 1. This worker is preparing to cut lumber while wearing the proper personal protective equipment. He is wearing a hard hat and safety glasses, and the saw is guarded correctly. His employer has determined that he should use hearing protection.

Head Protection Eye and Face Protection Foot Protection Hand Protection Fall Protection

Housekeeping and Access at Site

Clean jobsite

Figure 2. The builder keeps this jobsite clean by using an onsite trash collection bin

Stairways and Ladders

Properly guarded stairs

Figure 3. Worker is walking up properly guarded steps.
Two ways to secure the base of a ladder  

Figure 4. The drawing shows two ways to secure the base of a ladder to ensure proper footing.
Ladder for access to upper level

Figure 5. When ladders are used for access to an upper level they must extend at least 3 feet above the roof surface.

Proper angle for ladder and three-point contact

Figure 6. This worker is climbing a ladder set at the proper angle (4:1) with a three-point contact grip (two hands and one foot).

Scaffolds and Other Work Platforms


Scaffold footing, mudsill, and baseplate

Figures 7a and 7b. Stable footings/mud sills for this scaffold ensure the stability of the work platform. In this example (right), the siding contractor actually had the base plate manufactured to penetrate the ground while stabilizing the pump jack poles.
Figure 8. Safe Scaffold Use

  • DO NOT use damaged parts that affect the strength of the scaffold.
  • DO NOT allow employees to work on scaffolds when they are feeling weak, sick, or dizzy.
  • DO NOT work from any part of the scaffold other than the platform.
  • DO NOT alter the scaffold.
  • DO NOT move a scaffold horizontally while workers are on it, unless it is a mobile scaffold and the proper procedures are followed.
  • DO NOT allow employees to work on scaffolds covered with snow, ice, or other slippery materials.
  • DO NOT erect, use, alter, or move scaffolds within 10 feet of overhead power lines.
  • DO NOT use shore or lean-to scaffolds.
  • DO NOT swing loads near or on scaffolds unless you use a tag line.
  • DO NOT work on scaffolds in bad weather or high winds unless the competent person decides that doing so is safe.
  • DO NOT use ladders, boxes, barrels, or other makeshift contraptions to raise your work height.
  • DO NOT let extra material build up on the platforms.
  • DO NOT put more weight on a scaffold than it is designed to hold.
Scaffold Guardrails
Safe fabricated frame scaffold  

Figure 9. Workers stand on a fabricated frame scaffold. They have ladder access to the top of the scaffold (out of view); guardrails, cross bracing, and complete planking to prevent falls. The workers are also wearing hard hats and using eye protection.

Properly erected pump jack scaffold

Figure 10. This pump jack scaffold was erected properly with guardrails and roof connectors. Because of the pump jack's limited strength only two workers or up to 500 pounds are allowed on the unit.

Fall Protection

Floor and Wall Openings

Guardrail for window opening  

Figure 11. This window opening has a guardrail because the bottom sill height is less than 39 inches. Because the distance between the studs is less than 18 inches, no guardrails are needed between the studs.

Guardrail around a floor opening

Figure 12. This photograph shows a proper guardrail around a floor opening.

Correct height for guardrail and midrails  

Figure 13. This drawing shows the correct height for guardrails and midrails - about 42 and 21 inches high respectively.

Safe work practices for truss work  

Figure 14. This worker uses a recognized safe work practice by standing on a work platform to secure the end of the roof truss.

Work on Roofs
Slide guards for fall protection  

Figure 15a and 15b. These photographs show properly installed slide guards along the roof eave. The slide guard is a roof bracket with a 2x6 at a 90-degree angle.

Slide guards for 7:12 pitch roof  

Figure 16. This 7:12 pitch roof has properly installed slide guards.

Excavations and Trenching


Profile of a residential excavation  

Figure 17. The dotted line shows the profile of this excavation, as it was sloped at
1½ :1. Usually residential excavations are type C soil and will require such a slope. The spoils pile is at least 2 feet back from the edge of the excavation.
Trench box  

Figure 18. This trench box is being used correctly.


After the foundation walls are constructed, take special precautions to prevent injury from cave-ins in the area between the excavation wall and the foundation wall (Figure 19).

Benched trench along a house foundation  

Figure 19. This drawing shows properly benched trench along a house foundation.

Tools and Equipment

Properly guarded power saw

Figure 20. This worker is using a power saw that has all moving parts, including the saw blade, properly guarded.

Vehicles and Mobile Equipment

Earth-moving equipment with safety devices  

Figure 21. This worker has been properly trained to operate this piece of equipment, and it is equipped with the appropriate safety devices.


Extension cord protected by ground fault circuit interrupter  

Figure 22. The generator is a temporary power source so the builder has used a cord protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) to protect workers against electrocution. If the extension cord was plugged into an outlet in the house,it would still need a GFCI because the extension cord provides temporary power.

Fire Prevention

The PASS method  

Figure 23. Employees should be trained to use the PASS method to extinguish a fire.

Safety can for flammable liquids  

Figure 24. Gasoline and other flammable liquids need to be stored in a safety can.