Walking - Working SurfacesFinal Rule to Update General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards: Falls from heights and on the same level (a working surface) are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA has issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems to better protect workers in general industry from these hazards by updating and clarifying standards and adding training and inspection requirements.
The rule affects a wide range of workers, from painters to warehouse workers. It does not change construction or agricultural standards. The rule incorporates advances in technology, industry best practices, and national consensus standards to provide effective and cost-efficient worker protection. Specifically, it updates general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards (subpart D), and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems (subpart I). OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year.
Benefits to EmployersThe rule benefits employers by providing greater flexibility in choosing a fall protection system. For example, it eliminates the existing mandate to use guardrails as a primary fall protection method and allows employers to choose from accepted fall protection systems they believe will work best in a particular situation - an approach that has been successful in the construction industry since 1994. In addition, employers will be able to use non-conventional fall protection in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slope roofs.As much as possible, OSHA aligned fall protection requirements for general industry with those for construction, easing compliance for employers who perform both types of activities. For example, the final rule replaces the outdated general industry scaffold standards with a requirement that employers comply with OSHA's construction scaffold standards.Timeline
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 (May 17, 2017),• Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (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).
The final rule includes a number of revisions to the existing general industry standards. These changes and new requirements include:
• Fall protection flexibility (§1910.28(b)). The final rule allows employers to protect workers from falls by choosing from a range of accepted fall protection systems, including personal fall protection systems. It eliminates the existing mandate to use guardrails as the primary fall protection method and gives employers the flexibility to determine what method they believe will work best in their particular workplace situation. This approach has been successful in the construction industry since 1994. The final rule allows employers to use non-conventional fall protection practices in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slope roofs for work that is temporary and infrequent and fall protection plans on residential roofs when employers demonstrate guardrail, safety net, or personal fall protection systems are not feasible or create a greater hazard (§1910.28(b)(1) and (b)(13));• Updated scaffold requirements (§1910.27(a)). The final rule replaces the outdated general industry scaffold standards with the requirement that employers comply with OSHA's construction scaffold standards;• Phase-in of ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems on fixed ladders (§1910.28(b)(9)). The final rule phases in over 20 years a requirement to equip fixed ladders (that extend over 24 feet) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems and prohibits the use of cages and wells as a means of fall protection after the phase-in deadline. There is wide recognition that cages and wells do not prevent workers from falling from fixed ladders or protect them from injury if a fall occurs. The final rule grandfathers in cages and wells on existing ladders, but requires during the phase-in period that employers equip new ladders and replacement ladders/ladder sections with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems;• Phase-out of the "qualified climber" exception in outdoor advertising (§1910.28(b)(10)). The final rule phases out OSHA's directive allowing qualified climbers in outdoor advertising to climb fixed ladders on billboards without fall protection and phases in the requirement to equip fixed ladders (over 24 feet) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems. Outdoor advertising employers must follow the fall protection phase-in timeline for fixed ladders. However, if ladders do not have any fall protection, outdoor advertising employers have 2 years to comply with the existing standard (i.e., install a cage or well) or, instead, they may install a ladder safety or personal fall arrest system, both of which are cheaper than cages or wells;• Rope descent systems (RDS) and certification of anchorages (§1910.27(b)). The final rule codifies OSHA's memorandum for employers who use RDS to perform elevated work. The final rule prohibits employers from using RDS at heights greater than 300 feet above grade unless they demonstrate it is not feasible or creates a greater hazard to use any other system above that height. In addition, the final rule requires building owners to provide and employers to obtain information that permanent anchorages used with RDS have been inspected, tested, certified, and maintained as capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per employee attached.• Personal fall protection system performance and use requirements (§1910.140). The final rule, which allows employers to use personal fall protection systems (i.e., personal fall arrest, travel restraint, and positioning systems), adds requirements on the performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of these systems. Like OSHA's construction standards, the final rule prohibits the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system;• Inspection of walking-working surfaces (§1910.22(d)). The final rule requires that employers inspect walking-working surfaces regularly and as needed and correct, repair, or guard against hazardous conditions; and• Training (§1910.30). The final rule adds requirements that employers ensure workers who use personal fall protection and work in other specified high hazard situations are trained, and retrained as necessary, about fall and equipment hazards, including fall protection systems. Employers must provide information and training to each worker in a manner the worker understands.