Updated OSHA Walking-Working Surfaces Standard: What it Means for Fall Protection

January 30, 2017

“We haven’t been compliant before and we’ve never been fined.” Perhaps you’ve thought this or even heard it where you work. That rationale is dangerous, though. It puts lives at risk. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards and the fall protection equipment it requires, is not for dodging fines; it’s purpose is to prevent injury or even death. Your motivation to comply should be based on that, not avoiding penalty.

The updated rule was announced on Nov. 17, 2016, and took effect on Jan. 17, 2017. Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels explains the motivation: “OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls.” An employer’s workers who venture onto the roof to perform maintenance now must have the same protections as rooftop construction workers (i.e. roofers, etc.). This consistency between the general (1910) and construction (1926) industry rules will make compliance easier and more importantly, according to OSHA, prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually.

So what’s really changed?

You have more options for fall protection equipment.
The general industry standard now aligns with the construction industry rule. Whereby in the past, businesses could protect workers on the roof with only fixed guard rail, now they can select the fall protection system (e.g. fall arrest anchors, horizontal lifeline, roof walk, or skylight screens/nets, etc.) which works best for them.

The system will need to be inspected to ensure continued performance and safety of the equipment.

Your people are going to need training.
Employer’s workers must be trained on the use of the system(s) by what OSHA has deemed a qualified person. A qualified person has been certified by the system manufacturer to provide training and received competent person fall protection training. Users should learn the following during training:

Contact D. C. Taylor Co. to help keep your workers safe.