OSHA – New walking-working surfaces proposed rule features drastic changes

OSHA published a long-awaited proposed rulemaking, which will revise the walking-working surfaces and personal protective equipment standards to improve worker protection from tripping, slipping, and falling hazards.

The proposed revisions include a reorganization and redesignation of the standards to make the rule clearer, as well as a performance-oriented approach to compliance. The proposed rule establishes requirements for general industry walking-working surfaces and prescribes the use of fall protection systems (including personal fall protection systems) to protect employees from falls. It also contains performance criteria for personal fall protection systems.

According to OSHA, the current walking-working surfaces regulations allow employers to provide outdated and dangerous fall protection equipment such as lanyards and body belts that can result in workers suffering greater injury from falls. Construction and maritime workers already receive safer, more effective fall protection devices such as self-retracting lanyards and ladder safety and rope descent systems. The proposed revisions would also require similar protections for general industry workers.

In addition, the current walking-working surfaces standards do not allow OSHA to fine employers who let workers climb certain ladders without fall protection. Under the revised standards, this restriction is lifted in virtually all industries, allowing OSHA inspectors to fine employers who jeopardize their workers’ safety and lives by permitting the climbing of these ladders without proper fall protection.

OSHA is also adding an entirely new section (1910.140) under Subpart I, “Personal protective equipment,” which provides requirements for selection, use, testing, inspection, maintenance, and training with regard to personal fall protection systems.

These revisions are estimated to help prevent 20 workplace fatalities per year and more than 3,500 injuries serious enough to cause people to miss work.

Comments must be received by August 23, 2010..

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