New OSHA Deadline for Fall Protection

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Slips, trips and falls are some of the leading causes of workplace injuries. They account for 20% of all workplace fatalities, disabling injuries and days away from work in general industry. The injuries and risks are so common that four of the top 10 most cited standards by OSHA are related to fall prevention. With that in mind, you should be aware of changes to OSHA regulations that take effect Nov. 19, 2018. The changes are part of a larger rewriting of the general industry walking-working surfaces standards that took effect in 2017. Specifically, those rewritten standards:
  • Clarified definitions
  • Eliminated overly specific application conditions
  • Better organized the requirements
  • Simplified general requirements
  • Aligned more closely with the construction standard, and
  • Gave flexibility to use personal fall protection systems in lieu of guardrail systems.
 

The fixed ladders provision

That said, one area that was left for later implementation was standards for fixed ladders. Under the revised standard, cages or wells for fall protection on fixed ladders higher than 24 feet are no longer acceptable. However, there are grandfather provisions and a phase-in period for the new provisions:
  • Fixed ladder systems installed before November 19, 2018 must have a cage, well, ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system
  • Fixed ladder systems installed on or after November 19, 2018 must be equipped with a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system (cages or wells for fall protection are no longer acceptable).
  • When any portion of a fixed ladder is replaced, the replacement must be equipped with a ladder safety or personal fall arrest system.
 

What’s happening on the ground

OSHA continues to take the risks of slips, trips and falls seriously and continues to focus on some of the most overlooked areas that can contribute to these incidents. The most cited citations in OSHA’s 2017 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, 2017, were for general requirements violations, including housekeeping violations (291 citations), followed by 122 citations for clean and dry floors and 53 citations for walkways free from hazards. The second-most common citation was for failure to protect against fall hazards along unprotected sides or edges that are at least four feet above a lower level, including:
  • 205 citations for unprotected sides and edges
  • 55 citations for fall protection stairways
  • 49 citations for falls – holes
  • 26 citations for falls around dangerous equipment
 

The takeaway

OSHA continues to police slip, trip and fall violations with gusto. Based on the statistics, you should make sure to keep work areas and floors clear of obstructions and slip and fall risks. You should also make sure you have protections in place to avoid any unprotected sides and edges.


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