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OSHA Final Rule: Walking-Working Surfaces Standards coming in January 2017

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Final Rule updating walking-working surfaces standards

Update 5/16/17: While the Final Rule went into effect on Jan. 12, 2017, you should be mindful of the following important dates:

  • Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (6 months – 5/17/2017),
  • Ensuring workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (6 months – 5/17/2017),
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (1 year – 11/17/2017),
  • 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 – 11/17/2018).

Towards the end of 2016, OSHA issued their final ruling updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slips, trips, and fall hazards. The rule adds a section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standard that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems. The final rule is expected to increase workplace protection  from fall hazards, which are a leading cause of death and injury to workers.

OSHA’s release indicates that the new rule will help prevent 29 fatalities and over 5800 injuries per year. The rule will also increase consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both industries. The final rule’s most important update allows employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them and allows them to choose 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.

Other changes in the final rule include allow the use of rope decent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level; prohibiting the use of body belts as part of personal fall arrest systems; and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.

Related Course: 10-Hour OSHA General Industry Health & Safety Training

The new rule is set to become effective on January 17, 2017 and will affect approximately 112 million workers in over 7 million work sites. You can get the full release on OSHA’s website, here.