FINAL RULE ESTABLISHES PERSONAL FALL Protection Systems Requirements
OSHA has issued a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards.
The rule also includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems. “The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls.” The final rule also increases consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both industries.
OSHA estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule becomes effective on January 17, 2017, and will affect approximately 112 million workers at 7 million worksites.
Falls from heights and on the same level (a working surface) are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA estimates that, on average, approximately 202,066 serious (lost-workday) injuries and 345 fatalities occur annually among workers directly affected by the final standard. OSHA’s final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems better protects workers in general industry from these hazards by updating and clarifying standards and adding training and inspection requirements. The rule affects a wide range of workers, from window washers to chimney sweeps. It does not change construction or agricultural standards.
The rule incorporates advances in technology, industry best practices, and national consensus standards to provide effective and cost-efficient worker protection. Specifically, the rule updates general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards (subpart D), and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems (subpart I).
OSHA estimates this rule will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year. The rule benefits employers by providing greater flexibility in choosing a fall protection system. For example, it eliminates the existing mandate to use guardrails as a primary fall protection method and allows employers to choose from accepted fall protection systems they believe will work best in a particular situation – an approach that has been successful in the construction industry since 1994.
In addition, employers will be able to use non-conventional fall protection in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slop roofs. As much as possible, OSHA aligned fall protection requirements for general industry with those for construction, easing compliance for employers who perform both types of activities.
For example, the final rule replaces the outdated general industry scaffold standards with a requirement that employers comply with OSHA’s construction scaffold standards.
The rule phases out a 1993 exception for the outdoor advertising industry that allows “qualified climbers” to forego fall protection. At least three workers have fallen from fixed ladders under this exception. One of them died. The final rule phases in the fixed ladder fall protection requirements for employers in outdoor advertising.
FALL PROECTION OPTIONS
The rule requires employers to protect workers from fall hazards along unprotected sides or edges that are at least 4 feet above a lower level. It also sets requirements for fall protection in specific situations, such as hoist areas, runways, areas above dangerous equipment, wall openings, repair pits, stairways, scaffolds, and slaughtering platforms. And it established requirements for the performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of personal fall protection systems.
OSHA defines fall protection as “any equipment, device, or system that prevents a worker from falling from a elevation or mitigates the effect of such a fall.” Under the final rule, employers may choose from the following fall protection options:
Guardrail System – A barrier erected along an unprotected or exposed side, edge, or other area of a walking-working surface to prevent workers from falling to a lower level.
Safety Net System – A horizontal or semi-horizontal, cantilever-style barrier that uses a netting system to stop falling workers before they make contact with a lower level obstruction.
Personal Fall Arrest System – A system that arrests/stops a fall before the worker contacts a lower level. Consists of a body harness, anchorage, and connector, and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline, or a suitable combination. Like OSHA’s construction standards, the final rule prohibits the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system.
Positioning System – A system of equipment and connectors that, when used with a body harness or body belt, allows a worker to be supported on an elevated vertical surface, such as a wall or window sill, and work with both hands free.
Travel Restrain System – A combination of an anchorage, anchorage connector, lanyard (or other means of connection), and body support to eliminate the possibility of a worker going over the unprotected edge or side of a walking-working surface.
Ladder Safety System – A system attached to a fixed ladder designed to eliminate or reduce the possibility of a worker falling off the ladder. A ladder safety system usually consists of a carrier, safety sleeve, lanyard, connectors, and body harness. Cages and wells are not considered ladder safety systems.
The rule adds a requirement that employers ensure workers who use personal fall protection and work in other specified high hazard situations are trained, and retrained as necessary, about fall and equipment hazards, including fall protection systems. A qualified person must train these workers to correctly: identify and minimize fall hazards; use personal fall protection systems and rope descent systems; and maintain, inspect, and store equipment or systems used for fall protection.
When there is a change in workplace operations or equipment, or the employer believes that a worker would benefit from additional training based on a lack of knowledge or skill, then the worker must be retrained. The training must be provided in a language and vocabulary that workers understand.
The final rule’s most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994 and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry. Other changes include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level; prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system; and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.
If you have not been trained on fall protection, please contact us at CCTI 336.337.1043.
The life you save may be your own. Work Hard, Play Safe!!!