OSHA updates standards for walking-working surfaces, fall protection

by Brianna Crandall — December 16, 2016 — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems.

OSHA expects advances in technology combined with greater flexibility in compliance options will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls. The agency estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually.

The final rule increases consistency between general and construction industries, which is expected to help employers and workers who work in both industries. The rule becomes effective on January 17, 2017, and will affect approximately 112 million workers at 7 million worksites.

The final rule’s most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994, and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry.

Other changes include:

  • Allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level;
  • Prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system; and
  • Requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.

For more information, see the Final Rule to Update General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards page on the OSHA Web site.