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OSHA Update: New Fall Protective Requirements

Final Rule to Update General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces

Fall protection, OSHA update on fall protection, general industry walking-workers

Fall protection standards will prevent thousands of fatalities every year.

For the sixth straight year, fall protection (1926.501) has continued to be the most cited violation on OSHA’s Top 10 list . To prevent falls from heights and on the same level (a working surface), OSHA issued a final rule to update its general industry walking-working surfaces standards.

With new fall protection standards in place, employers will benefit by having greater flexibility in choosing a system that works best in a particular situation. The need to use guardrails as the primary fall protection method has been eliminated and employers are able to use a non-conventional fall protection for certain situations.

The final rule increases the consistency between the general industry and construction standards, which will make compliance easier for employers who conduct operations in both industry sectors. For example, the final rule replaces the outdated general scaffold standards with a requirement that employers comply with OSHA’s construction scaffold standards.

With the change to fall protection requirements, OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and nearly 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year.

Does this change the construction industry standards for fall protection?

The final rule affects a wide range of workers, from painters to warehouse workers. The rule does not modify the standards for the construction or agricultural industries, as they have separate fall standards in place.  

The update on fall protection specifically updates the general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards (subpart D) and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems (subpart I).

General industry walking-working surfaces include but are not limited to, workers on floors, ladders, stairways, runways, dock boards, roofs, scaffolds, and elevated work surfaces and walkways.

What are the significant changes to the OSHA's walking-working surfaces final rule?
  • Fall protection flexibility (§1910.28(b))
  • Updated scaffold requirements (§1910.27(a))
  • Phase-in of ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems on fixed ladders (§1910.28(b)(9)).
  • Phase-out of the "qualified climber" exception in outdoor advertising (§1910.28(b)(10)).
  • Rope descent systems (RDS) and certification of anchorages (§1910.27(b)).
  • Personal fall protection system performance and use requirements (§1910.140).
  • Inspection of walking-working surfaces (§1910.22(d)).
  • Training (§1910.30).

What’s the timeline to comply with the new general industry rule?

Most of the rule will become effective January 17, 2017, 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but some provisions have delayed effective dates, including:

  • Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (effective since May 17, 2017)
  • Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (effective since May 17, 2017)
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (November 20, 2017)
  • Installing personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on replacement ladders/ladder sections, including fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures (November 19, 2018)
  • Ensuring existing fixed ladders over 24 feet, including those on outdoor advertising structures, are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder safety system (November 19, 2018) and
  • Replacing cages and wells (used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet (November 18, 2036).

Protect your workers from serious injuries and communicate potential hazards with Fall Protection Signs and Labels .

Resources:
https://www.osha.gov/walking-working-surfaces/
https://www.osha.gov/walking-working-surfaces/faq.html
https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/walkingworkingsurfaces/hazards.html

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