New OSHA Walking-Working Standards Released

Dec. 1, 2016

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has updated its Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards for general industry. 

The final rule, issued Nov. 17, comes after many years of data collection and analysis and draws from both industry best practices and advancements in technology and methods developed in the years since OSHA adopted the existing rule.

“The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said in a press release.

OSHA estimates the final standard rule will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 injuries annually. The rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, and will affect approximately 112 million workers at seven million worksites.

Details of the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard

The final rule allows employers to choose from a range of accepted fall protection options to select the system that works best for them. The rule includes revised and new provisions addressing fixed ladders, rope descent systems, fall protection systems and criteria (including personal fall protection systems), and training on fall hazards and fall protection systems. 

The rule also adds new requirements on the design, performance, and use of personal fall protection systems to the general industry Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards.

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. The rule no longer requires the use of guardrail systems, in favor of workplace-specific personal fall arrest 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. The rule is designed to increase consistency between general and construction industries, helping employers and workers in both industries. 

The final rule incorporates provisions from more recent OSHA standards, including Powered Platforms for Building Maintenance and Scaffolds, Ladders and Other Working Surfaces in Shipyard Employment