OSHA Issues Final Rule on General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards

On November 17, 2016, OSHA released a final rule that addresses slips, trips and falls in the workplace and establishes employer requirements for the use of personal fall protection systems.  The rule is scheduled to go into effect on January 17, 2017.  Once the rule goes into effect, organizations will have 60 days to meet certain compliance initiatives.  OSHA says, “Most of the rule will become effective 60 days after it is published 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).”

According to an OSHA Press Release on November 17, 2016, “The final rule’s most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing 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 and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry. 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.”  OSHA estimates that the new rule will help to prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year.

There is a possibility that the rule will be overturned because it was implemented during the outgoing Obama administration.  The Trump administration may choose to review the new rule, or it could be subject to the Congressional Review Act.  If this occurs, lawmakers have 60 legislative days to overturn the regulation from the current or previous administration.  The Congressional Review Act was used in 2001 to overturn the OSHA Ergonomics standard.

Additional Information: