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OSHA introduces long overdue updates to walking-working surfaces standards

A few weeks back, our blog spent some time discussing workplace falls, examining why they are so common, what construction workers can do in the unfortunate event they are injured in these types of on-the-job mishaps, and how employers in this industry are required to abide by rules and regulations designed to create a safe work environment.

Interestingly enough, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a final rule just last week that will introduce considerable change in the general industry as it relates to fall prevention, bringing it more in line with the construction industry.

Specifically, OSHA's final rule introduces much-needed updates to its general industry Walking Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip and fall hazards. For those unfamiliar with the term "general industry," it is used by the agency to refer to any and all industries not included under construction, agriculture or maritime.

According to experts, the most noteworthy aspect of the final rule, which is scheduled to take effect on January 17, 2017, is that it will enable general industry employers to select a fall protection system that best meets their needs from a listing of acceptable options. These options include personal fall protection systems, which have been authorized in the construction industry for over two decades.

Some of the other changes called for under the amended Walking Working Surfaces standards, include:

  • Banning the use of body belts as a component of a personal fall arrest systems
  • Mandating worker training on fall equipment and personal fall protection systems
  • Permitting employers to implement rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level

While some might question the need for OSHA to have taken this step, consider that agency projections show that the rule update will expand workplace hazard protections to 112 million workers in seven million workplaces. More significantly, OSHA is projecting that it will prevent over 5,842 injuries and 29 deaths per year.

If you've been seriously injured in a workplace fall or any other type of job-related accident, and have questions about securing workers' compensation benefits, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.

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