For the first time in over 45 years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment Standard (subparts D and I) for the General Industry. The revised ruling, which became effective last January 17, 2017, is estimated to affect around 7 million worksites in the United States. Are you keeping up with the new requirements? Don’t fret! After discussing the purpose and major changes in our previous blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits, fall protection options, and even the compliance timeline of this regulatory development.
The latest updates aim to improve the safety of employees who are exposed to slip, trip, and fall hazards—which are some of the leading causes of accidents and injuries in general industries. Aside from enhanced worker protection, the updated requirements will also benefit employers for a number of reasons:
- Flexibility in Fall Protection – The updated rule allows employers to choose the fall protection system that suits their work environment the most.
- Compliance Alignment – The revised rules for general industry work are now aligned with fall protection standards in the construction industry. This makes compliance easier for employers who must meet both construction and general industry requirements.
Fall Protection Options
Employers are required to protect workers from falling off an exposed edge or an unprotected side that is at least four feet above a lower walking/working surface. After taking decades of technological advancements into account, the regulatory authority specified other methods to give employers more flexibility in choosing the appropriate fall protection system. OSHA considers these additional options for employers as the most significant update of the final rule:
- Guardrail System
- Safety Net System
- Personal Fall Arrest System
- Positioning System
- Travel Restraint System
- Ladder Safety System
While most of the provisions went into effect last January, some compliance deadlines are staggered to give workers and employers enough time to meet specific requirements:
- Within 6 months – All workers who are exposed to fall hazards must be trained accordingly.
- Within 6 months – All workers who use/operate equipment related to the final rule must also be trained.
- Within 1 year – Permanent building anchorages must have proof of certification and inspection in compliance with the new requirements.
- Within 2 years – Ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems must be installed on new fixed ladders and even replacement ladders/ladder sections over 24 feet. All existing fixed ladders over 24 feet (including those on outdoor advertising structures) must also be equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder safety system.
- Within 20 years – The cages and wells (used as fall protection) on all fixed ladders over 24 feet must be replaced with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems.
In line with the updated OSHA requirements, employers must ensure that all workers who (1) use personal fall protection equipment and (2) work in hazard-specific environments are properly trained and retrained. Aside from hazard identification and mitigation, the fall protection general industry training should include how to use, maintain, and inspect fall protection and rope descent systems. Visit 360training.com to find out more about the latest health and safety training solutions for general industry workers in our OSHA 10 and 30 courses for general industry!