WALKING WORKING SURFACES: OSHA RULE UPDATE
- Date Posted
On November 17, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Final Rule designed to better protect workers at risk of falls from heights or on the same level. The Rule updates and clarifies standards, and adds training and inspection requirements. It will incorporate technology advances, best practices, and national consensus standards. OSHA updated “1910 Subpart D – Walking-Working Surfaces” (also known for covering “slip, trip, and fall” hazards) and added personal fall protection system requirements to “1910 Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment.”
The rule will affect a variety of workers in the General Industry, from painters to warehouse workers. It will not have an effect on Construction or Agriculture standards.
The idea is to get General Industry caught up to the fall protection procedures already in place in Construction and improved upon by industry best practices. These changes also affect the fall protection elements throughout the General Industry regulation such as: “Subpart F Powered Platforms, Manlifts, and Vehicle Mounted Work Platforms”, “Subpart I Personal Protective Equipment”, “Subpart N Materials Handling and Storage”, and “Subpart R Special Industries.”
OSHA estimates that an average of 202,066 serious injuries and 345 fatalities occur annually as a result of falls from heights or the same level. By implementing this Final Rule, the agency hopes to prevent at least 5,842 serious injuries and 29 fatalities on average per year among affected workers. Currently, employers are required to install guardrails as their primary method of fall protection; the Rule will allow those same employers to select their own fall protection system from an approved list of options to address specific fall hazards with targeted solutions.
The Final Rule will allow non-conventional fall protection methods in some situations, like low-slope roofs. Additionally, it will replace outdated General Industry scaffold standards with a requirement to follow the more current Construction scaffold standards, as well as phase out a dangerous exception for the outdoor advertising industry that allows qualified climbers to forego fall protection.
The General Industry will see updates to fall protection requirements in specific situations, such as hoist areas, runways, areas above dangerous equipment, wall openings, repair pits, stairways, scaffolds, and slaughtering platforms. Standards involving the performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of fall protection systems will see upgrades as well.
Under circumstances where fall protection is required (such as when individuals are working 4 feet or more above a lower level, or on runways, near wall openings or stairways, etc.), there are now numerous additional protection options. Here are some examples:
Guardrail System: A barrier along on unprotected side of a walking working surface.
Safety Net System: Stops falling workers before they hit a lower level or obstruction
Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS): A device (or combination of devices) which stops a fall before worker hits a lower level. It uses a body harness, anchorage, connector and even a combination of a lanyard, deceleration device, and lifeline. Body belts are not a PFAS.
Positioning System: A device which allows an employee to be suspended on a vertical surface and work hands free using a body harness or body belt.
Travel Restraint System: Eliminates the ability of falling off an unprotected edge using an anchorage, anchorage connector, lanyard, and body support.
Ladder Safety System: Eliminates or reduces the possibility of falling off a fixed ladder using a carrier, safety sleeve, lanyard, connectors, and body harness. Cages and wells are not a ladder safety system.
Rope Descent Systems: OSHA will mirror its current Powered Platforms standard by codifying Rope Descent Systems (RDS) used by window washers using a roof anchorage, support rope, descent device, carabiners, and a chair to perform work while suspended. The Final Rule includes a 300-foot height limit for RDS use, and requires building owners to ensure in writing that anchorages have been tested, certified, and maintained to support 5,000 pounds per worker.
Ladder Safety Requirements: According to OSHA, 20 percent of workplace fatalities and severe injuries in the General Industry are a result of falls from ladders. To help remedy this, the Final Rule addresses fixed ladders, portable ladders, mobile ladder stands, and platforms. Current standards regarding the use of ladders in emergencies, or those which are an integral part of or are designed into a machine or equipment, will not be affected.
Fixed Ladders: These are permanently attached to a structure, building, or equipment. The Rule will phase in requirements for ladder safety systems or PFAS on fixed ladders which extend more than 24 feet, and phase out cages and wells.
Portable Ladders: Portable ladders are either self-supporting, or lean against a structure. The changes incorporated by the Rule focus on performance language rather than specification and design requirements. Examples include ensuring rungs and steps are slip resistant and that ladders are not placed on unstable bases, such as boxes or barrels.
Training: Employers who use personal fall protection and work in high hazard situations must be trained by a qualified person about fall and equipment hazards and fall protection systems so they can correctly:
- Identify and minimize fall hazards
- Use personal fall protection systems and rope descent systems
- Maintain, inspect, and store fall protection equipment and systems
Retraining is required whenever:
- Change in workplace operations
- Change in equipment
- A worker can benefit from additional training because of a lack of knowledge or skill
For help ensuring your business is prepared to incorporate the changes found in OSHA’s Final Rule, visit www.safetyservicescompany.com.
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