Final Rule On Walking Working Surfaces And Personal Fall Protection Systems

Nearly two decades in the making, OSHA now plans to release its final rule on Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems in August 2016. The push to finalize the rule is in part due to the upcoming election and the desire to publish the rule under President Obama’s administration.

History Of The Proposed Rules

The new proposed rule is replacing the proposed rule from 1990 and the updated and republished proposed rule in 2010. To date, there has never been a General Industry final rule for Walking Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems, although requirements do already exist specifically for the Construction and Shipyard industries.

Current OSHA standards for the General Industry recognize physical barriers and guardrails as the main restraint used to prevent falls. The new proposed rule recognizes the advantage of adding personal fall protection and arrest systems to further protect employees. It also recognizes updated national consensus standards and industry practices; that is, improved technology and extensive testing that has resulted in advanced PPE. Appendices to the rule will be added to provide employers with examples of procedures and test methods used by personal protection equipment manufacturers to prove compliance with PPE criteria.

What Is Being Updated

The new final rule will make updates to subparts D and I in the General Industry 29 CFR Part 1910 standards, specifically:

“OSHA is publishing proposed rules for subpart D, Walking-Working Surfaces and subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment for Fall Protection concurrently. Proposed subpart D 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. Proposed subpart I contains performance criteria for personal fall protection systems only.” (From 2010 proposed rule)

For consistency, the proposed final rule will pull language from the existing Construction standards (CFR part 1926) and Shipyard Employment Standards (29 CFR part 1915), as well as those from Powered

Platforms for Building Maintenance (1910.66) that addresses the criteria and performance requirements for fall arrest systems used.

Impact Of The New Final Rule

OSHA estimates that the new rule and resulting compliance will result in 30 fewer fatalities and 3,706 fewer injuries due to trips, slips and falls annually. Of course, second to worker safety itself, what most employers want to know is, what will that safety cost?

The estimated annual cost to incorporate the new standards is $173.2 million, while the annual monetized benefits (savings based on $50,000 per injury and $7.2 million per fatality) are $328.5 million. This results in a net benefit of $155.4 million. This essentially breaks down to $1 in costs equating to $1.90 in benefits – a veritable positive for employers.

Optimum Safety Management Can Help You Understand Your Obligations

Once the new final rule is published later this year, many general industry employers will need to update their fall protection safety procedures. If you’re interested in getting a jump on the rule, contact Optimum Safety Management at 630-759-9908 or request an evaluation online of your fall risk and current safety processes.

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