How to Navigate OSHA’s New Walking-Working Surfaces Ruling

Posted by: Kent Huber

Preventing falls in the workplace should always be high on every employer’s list of “things to do”.  OSHA’s new Walking-Working Surfaces standard update outlines more specifics on requirements within the 1910 framework of regulations. Falls from varying heights and on common working surfaces are some of the leading reasons for work-related injuries. OSHA recently issued a final ruling on the “Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems” to protect workers. With new updates, adding clarification to standards, as well as training, and inspection requirements, OSHA will better be able to protect workers.

OSHA updates standards for one primary reason – to reduce the likelihood that injuries or fatalities occur in America’s workplaces. This rule change summary is estimated by OSHA to prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday cases every year. The rule affects a wide range of workers from painters to warehouse workers. It does not change construction or agricultural standards. 

Many falls in the workplace can be prevented by simply using the Hierarchy of Controls and Fall Prevention  Hierarchy of Access, which offer a simple “Sore Safe – Less Safe”, common sense approach to workplace risks that can be applied to preventing falls.

Benefits to Employers

This new ruling will not only benefit workers, but also employers. Offering greater flexibility for choosing a fall protection system, the ruling will remove the existing requirement for fixed guardrails as the primary fall protection method. It will now let employers choose from various fall protection systems that they believe will work best for their specific situations. Also, employers will now have the ability to use non-conventional fall protection systems.

OSHA’s new ruling will also help align the requirements for the general industries with those in  construction. This will help to ease compliance for employers who are in both spaces.

OSHA’s new ruling will also help align the requirements for the general industries with those in construction. This will help to ease compliance for employers who are in both spaces.

Important Dates To Remember

Below are some important dates to keep in mind as you prepare your workplaces for the changes.  Employers need to complete training, installation, inspection, and certification by the following dates:

May 17, 2017

Training workers on fall and equipment hazards

FlexPAC offers onsite, fall prevention training courses (see www.flexp.com for more information). We also offer Competent Inspector courses for employers looking to educate their employees on the regulations, fall hazard elimination methods, responsibilities of competent persons, and inspection criteria. You may email us at safety@flexp.com for more information as well.

1910.30(a) and (b)

November 20, 2017

Inspection and certification of permanent building anchorages for rope descending systems

1910.27(b)(1)

November 19, 2018

Installation of fall protection (personal fall arrest systems, ladder safety systems, cages, wells) on existing fixed ladders (over 24 feet) that do not have any fall protection

1910.28(b)(9)(i)(A)

November 19, 2018

Installation of personal fall arrest systems or ladder safety system on all new fixed ladders (over 24 feet) and replacement ladders/ladder sections

1910.28(b)(9)(i)(B)

November 18, 2036

Installation of ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders (over 24 feet)

1910.28(b)(9)(i)(D)

Falls from ladders account for over 20% of all fatal and lost work-day injuries in general industry workplaces. 

We have all seen the movie “Christmas Vacation” starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold. Clark’s experience with a ladder, while installing his exterior lighting, makes for fun movie watching, but it certainly doesn’t depict the pain involved in real-life ladder mishaps. In real life, the fall from the ladder results in severe pain, major injuries even death. Ladders are considered the last option in the Hierarch of Access methodology and, if not used properly, do result in many serious injuries per year at home and at work. Limiting their use in the workplace is a common-sense approach to fall prevention. The new OSHA update to Subpart D includes requirements to protect workers from falling off fixed and portable ladders, as well as mobile ladder stands and platforms. FlexPAC offers a variety of improved ladder access options that make life easier and more productive for employees who use these “tools” every day. 

The final rule will be easier for employers and workers to understand and follow because it uses flexible performance based language instead of detailed specification and design requirements. Under the revisions, employers must ensure that: rungs and steps are slip resistant; portable ladders used on slippery surfaces are secured and stabilized; portable ladders are not moved, shifted, or extended while a worker is on them; top steps and caps of stepladders are not used as steps; ladders are not fastened together to provide added length unless designed for such use; and ladders are not placed on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases to obtain added height.

Please contact your FlexPAC Solutions Provider today to learn more about our Fall Prevention Assessment services and training options as well as products offered at www.flexp.com.