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OSHA Has Issued a Final Rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems for General Industry

Falls are still among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA is continuing to try to reduce these, and in November issued a final rule on walking-working surfaces and personal fall protection systems for general industry. OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year. Note that this rule does not affect construction.

The new rule incorporates advances in technology, industry best practices, and national consensus standards to make fall prevention both more effective AND more cost-effective.

How Employers Benefit from the New Rule

Workers are not the only ones that benefit. Employers are given greater flexibility in choosing fall protection systems–this flexibility has been working in the construction industry since 1994, so OSHA is extending that flexibility to general industry. The goal is to make it easier for employers to comply with safety standards while not sacrificing safety. OSHA is also allowing non-conventional fall protection in certain situations.

Timeline

While most of the provisions are now active, the following have delayed effective dates:

  • Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (6 months after publication date),
  • Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (6 months after publication date),
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (1 year after publication date),
  • 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 after publication date),
  • 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 after publication date), 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 after publication date).

For more information, check out OSHA’s Fact Sheet.

 

image credit: Medsafe

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