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OSHA’s Updated Walking-Working Surfaces Ruling

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osha logoOn November 18, 2016 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued its final ruling on Walking-Working Surfaces (29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart D) and the general industry Personal Protective Equipment Standards (29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart I). The revised ruling occupies 513 pages in the Federal Record and the new requirements will impact 112.3 million employees at 6.9 million general industry establishments. With many of the provisions of the final ruling scheduled to become effective early next year, many safety professionals are left wondering about the steps their companies need to take to ensure compliance.

water-tower-2The final applies to all general industry walking-working surfaces such as floors, ladders, stairways, dockboards, scaffolds, roofs, elevated work surfaces, and walkways and includes revised and new language covering fixed ladders, rope descent systems, fall protection systems and criteria, including personal fall protection systems, and training on fall hazards and fall protection systems.
One of the most referenced sections of the new ruling is the provision granting employers greater flexibility to determine the fall protection system which is best suited for their application. Unlike the prior, guardrail-centric, Working-Walking Surfaces ruling, OSHA now allows employers to protect workers from falling to lower levels via use of personal fall protection and fall arrest systems, travel restraint, and work positioning systems.

Although recognizing a wider array of viable fall protection solutions is one of the most commonly cited provisions of OSHA’s 588 page ruling, you’ll also find additional requirements impacting your safety program during 2017, and beyond, including:
• The identification and evaluation of slip, trip, and fall hazards and the providing of appropriate personal protective equipment to protect workers from said hazards (Subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment)
• Conducting and documenting regular and periodic inspections and maintenance of all workplace walking-working surfaces
• Providing training to help employees to identify fall hazards and the procedures to be followed to minimize said hazards (e.g., use of personal fall protection, proper ladder climbing techniques, etc.)

Timetable for Compliance
The final rule is effective on January 17, 2017, 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).

Attempts to revise the Walking-Working Surfaces ruling have been decades in the making, and this initiative is the most sweeping change to General Industry regulations since OSHA’s inception in 1971.  What’s more, one post here doesn’t do full justice to all of the changes that are on the horizon as a reult of this new ruling.  We’ll break down specific provisions of the new regulations in future Tech Talk posts, so be sure to check back for new articles in the months ahead.  In the meantime, if you have questions, or need to speak with us to determine how the new ruling may impact your safety program, contact Diversified Fall Protection for further assistance.

Helpful Links:
Text of OSHA’s Updated Walking-Working Surfaces Ruling
OSHA Walking Working Surfaces Fact Sheet

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It is the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe, OSHA compliant work environment for all workers?