OSHA Issues Final Rule Updating Walking-Working Surfaces Standards and Establishing Personal Fall Protection Systems Requirements
On December 1, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems in a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards.
While the rule affects a wide range of 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).
The rule provides employers flexibility in choosing a fall protection system as it eliminates the existing mandate to use guardrails as a primary fall protection method and allows employers to choose from accepted fall protection systems that the employer believes will work best in a particular situation. Employers will be able to use non-conventional fall protection in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slope roofs.
Most of the rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but some provisions have delayed effective dates, including:
- Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (6 months);
- Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (6 months);
- Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (1 year);
- 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 (2 years);
- 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 (2 years); and
- Replacing cages and wells (used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet (20 years).