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New 2017 OSHA Slip, Trip, and Fall Rule

After 45 years of requirement revisions, proposals, and attempts to address occupational slip, trip, and fall hazards, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has finalized a new rule that will impact around 112 million employees across all general industries. This rule applies to Walking-Working Surfaces standards and regulations, as well as personal fall protection systems. OSHA estimates the new rule will prevent at least 5,842 injuries and 29 deaths per year – a major achievement made possible with new technologies and safety methods.

What Does the New Rule Entail?

The main update in OSHA’s new slip, trip, and fall rule is an employer’s flexibility to decide which safety systems work best for certain operations. Currently, general industry employers must abide by specific standards and guidelines or face OSHA safety citations. After the new rule goes into effect on January 17, 2017, employers will have the freedom to select the optimal safety system for their specific operations out of a range of acceptable options. Employers can choose the fall protection system that works best for them, including personal fall protection.

Personal fall protection has been an option in the construction industry since 1994 but has not been available to general industry employers. The new OSHA rule will make personal fall protection systems a requirement for general industry employers. Personal fall systems use a harness on the worker’s body that minimizes stress to the body if a worker falls. OSHA’s current guidelines for personal fall protection systems limit a worker’s free fall to no more than six feet, significantly reducing the rate of serious injuries and fatalities relating to falls.

The new flexibility employers will enjoy thanks to the OSHA rule will allow them to tailor fall protection efforts according to the best interests of employees. Instead of following a one-size-fits-all plan, employers can choose the system that will best protect employees working from great heights.

Other Requirements of the New OSHA Rule

On top of the flexibility to choose a more personalized fall protection system, the new OSHA rule will also allow general industry employers to:

  • Use rope descent systems as far as 300 feet above a lower level. A rope decent system is a typical type of safety equipment people use for high-rise window cleaning. This system allows workers to safely reach great heights and prevents landing shock injuries from quick descents.
  • Prohibit workers from using body belts as part of a personal fall protection system. Body belts are a class 1 type of fall safety equipment and are not intended for protection from falls. Body belts restrain a person who is working from a hazardous position, helping to reduce falls. They do not prevent injuries if a worker does fall.
  • Require employee training regarding fall safety equipment and personal fall protection. Employee training can significantly reduce the odds of a hazardous fall accident. When employees understand proper safety procedures to prevent injury when working from higher than six feet, they minimize their chances of serious or fatal fall injuries.

While the finalized rule does not affect current OSHA standards for the construction and agricultural industries, it is a positive step toward eliminating a major cause of death in general industries.

Protect Yourself as a Worker

As a worker in the general industry, it’s your responsibility to report your employer’s OSHA violations. If your employer disregards the new OSHA slip, trip, and fall rules after its start on January 17, 2017, it’s within your rights to report unsafe working conditions to OSHA. If you suffer an injury due to an employer’s neglect to follow OSHA rules, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. Protect your rights as a worker by understanding industry regulations, reporting violations, and speaking with an attorney about injuries.

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