OSHA to Revise Rules for Walking-Working Surfaces

With the goal of reducing injuries caused by slips, trips and falls, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is planning to release a revised set of regulations for walking-working surfaces this summer to better reflect current industry trends that have developed as technological advancements have led to more innovative fall protection measures. The new regulations specifically impact 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D Walking-Working Surfaces. Subpart D sets forth the rules and regulations regarding a number of walking-working surfaces including:

  • Floor and wall openings
  • Stairs
  • Wood and metal ladders
  • Scaffolds
  • Elevated platforms

OSHA hopes the update provides users improved levels of clarity, harmonization and understanding. To accomplish this, OSHA has proposed incorporating several of their construction and shipyard standards to create uniform regulations across the industries. A number of regulations have also been rewritten and simplified to enhance usability.

Highlights from OSHA’s proposed rule changes include:

  • Multiple Fall Protection Options: The most significant change within the proposal will allow employers to choose from several options when providing fall protection. Existing rules mandate the use of guardrail systems whenever an employee is exposed to falling 4 feet or more.  Employers would now be able to choose from guardrail systems, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems, restraint systems and others.
  • Fall Protection Requirements: A new section is devoted to regulating the design and practice of newly approved fall protection systems. Many requirements in this section are derived from OSHA’s current construction standards.
  • Training: Employers will now be required to train all employees on how to recognize fall hazards, how to address such hazards and how to use the equipment provided to them for protection. In addition, employers will need to train employees about the hazards and limits associated with certain fall protection equipment. OSHA also proposes that retraining occur whenever work practices have changed, when new fall protection measures are introduced or when employee knowledge on this topic is no longer adequate.

To review a draft of the proposed revisions to 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D, click here. You can also visit our S.A.F.E. site for more information on how to safeguard your operations from slips, trips and falls.

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