WORK-ZONE SAFETY: OSHA updates rules to reduce fall and trip hazards

Nov. 21, 2016

Employers will be able to choose from a variety of general and personal fall protection systems

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has issued final revised rules for its walking-working surfaces and fall protection standards, a change the agency estimated will affect 112 million workers at 7 million job sites.

The agency said the biggest change is that employers will be able to choose from a variety of general and personal fall protection systems. The new rule will also resolve inconsistencies between OSHA's general and construction industry standards.

OSHA predicted the rule, which goes into effect Jan. 17, 2017, will allow the industry to avoid at least 29 fatalities and more than 5,800 injuries.

According to OSHA, the revised regulations will also reflect the latest technology and give employers more flexibility in protecting workers.

OSHA has eliminated the requirement for guardrails as a key fall protection method and will accept "non-conventional" fall protection systems, dependent on work conditions.

One of OSHA's primary, ongoing safety campaigns revolves around fall protection. It routinely fines contractors large amounts for fall violations, and this hazard consistently appears at the top of the agency's annual "most violations" list. This year, fall protection violations outnumbered all other categories at 6,929.

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