OSHA’s Final Rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards

By updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip and fall hazards, OSHA on Nov. 17 took steps to reduce injuries and fatalities for 112 million workers at 7 million workplaces.

The final rule also increases consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both industries, and includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems.

OSHA estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017.

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.