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OSHA’s Updated Rule on Fall Protection

Slip, trip, and fall hazards are some of the leading causes of worker deaths and injuries, and the most commonly cited OSHA violation (see the other nine most cited OSHA violations here). In order to address this important component of worker safety, OSHA has released a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. Here is OSHA’s summary of the rule – see here for the complete final rule.

This rule works to harmonize the standards between the general industry and construction, the construction industry having already implemented many standards in this ruling. Because workers often operate in both industries, it is important to create standards in which compliance is not confusing, and workers are not at a disadvantage when moving from one industry to another.

Notable updates and additions to the Walking-Working standards include:

  • Employers are allowed to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options (including personal fall protection systems).
  • Employers are allowed to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level.
  • Prohibiting of the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system.
  • Requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.
  • An entirely new component to the rule is a section establishing certain employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems.

The effective date for this rule is January 17, 2017, although certain provisions have delayed effective dates. for details on those provisions please review this article by Hugh Hoagland.

As employers begin assessing their compliance to the updates and additions to this rule, it makes sense to reassess all the hazards in your workplace. If you haven’t already, establish a safety training plan and update it when new risks are identified or standards are redefined. For help establishing and maintaining such a plan, check out the National Safety Council’s guide, which has been approved by OSHA.

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