Exploring New Home Construction

Hiring Painters for Your Home? What Type of Protective Equipment Is Required?

If the spring thaw has revealed your home's exterior paint to be chipping or cracking, you may already be getting quotes on a new coat of paint for your siding, gutters, and trim. While a new interior paint job can usually be tackled by most homeowners, painting the outside of a multi-story building can be a potentially dangerous prospect for anyone who doesn't have the proper training or safety equipment. Read on to learn more about the fall-protection equipment and other safety equipment your painters will need, as well as any obligations you may have as the property owner to ensure that the individuals with whom you contract are operating in a safe and responsible manner.

What safety equipment should your painters be using? 

Even if your painters are working on the first story of your home, as long as they're at least six feet above the ground, they should be using some type of fall-arrest harness that will prevent a hard impact with the ground should the painter slip and fall. There are several types of harnesses that come into play for painters—some of them can do double duty, while others are designed for a specific purpose. 

Fall-arrest harnesses are intended to prevent workers from plummeting to the ground if they slip on scaffolding or fall off the roof. These harnesses' safety mechanisms will kick in as soon as a free fall is detected, helping to quickly stop the painter in midair. The painter will then be able to pull up on this rope to return back to his or her original position on the roof or scaffolding, saving the time and effort of climbing all the way back up from the ground. 

Positioning harnesses are especially designed for painters or others doing delicate work on vertical surfaces. These harnesses won't stop a painter if he or she begins to fall, but will help support the painter while he or she leans backward or forward at a sharp angle in an attempt to cover the entire surface area with paint or touch up small or hard-to-reach areas.

Suspension harnesses are also sometimes used by painters who don't want the hassle of setting up, moving, and tearing down scaffolding. A painter in a suspension harness will be able to move him- or herself about simply by pulling on a rope that raises or lowers the painter's harness. A suspension harness (as part of a larger suspension system) is a type of fall arrest harness in that free fall will quickly be halted as soon as the harness detects this movement.

What are your obligations as a homeowner if you notice workers using inadequate or unsafe equipment?

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets forth national standards on workplace safety. If you've hired workers to perform work on your home, your home will qualify as a "workplace" for OSHA purposes. While the idea of having a general contractor is to allow you to delegate the supervision of these types of projects to someone who knows how to get the job done, you may still have some personal liability if a painter is injured on your property due to your alleged negligence in maintaining the property in a safe condition. For example, a painter who is injured after affixing his fall arrest harness to a beam in your roof that should be strong enough to hold his or her body weight may successfully bring a lawsuit against you as the property owner.

As a result, it's important for you to ensure that your property is in good condition and doesn't pose any hidden dangers to painters who are using safety equipment. Before your painters begin work, you may want to discuss safety issues with the general contractor or head painter and determine which parts of your home may be used to support the painters' safety harnesses or other equipment.