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Final Rule Alert: OSHA Finalizes 500-page Walking-Working Surfaces Rule

Posted on 11/22/2016 by Roger Marks

On November 18, OSHA published a Final Rule to revise and update the walking-working surfaces standards for general industry workplaces. The new Final Rule updates and revises the general industry standards for walking-working surfaces.

The updates in the Final Rule take effect on January 17, 2017 are intended to harmonize the general industry walking-working surface standards with those that apply to construction industry workplaces. 

OSHA walking working surface safety standard
 

What Is a Walking-Working Surface Under 29 CFR?

Regulated under OSHA’s rules at 29 CFR 1910.21, Subpart D, a walking-working surface is anywhere an employee may be exposed to slip, trip, or fall hazards: floors, ladders, stairways, runways, dockboards, roofs, scaffolds, elevated work surfaces, walkways, etc.

OSHA safety rules for walking-working surfaces in general industry have been in place since 1971.

See a full list of definitions from the walking-working standard here. 

What’s Changing in OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Final Rule?

OSHA’s revised Walking-Working Surfaces Final Rule makes a number of updates and revisions to the standard, including:

  • Adding and revising provisions to address things like fixed ladders, rope descent systems, fall protection systems and criteria, and employee training. 
  • Allowing employers to protect workers with personal fall arrest, travel restraint, and work positioning systems instead of guardrail systems previously required. 
  • Replacing specification language with performance-based language to increase compliance flexibility for employers.
  • Harmonizing to some extent the general industry and construction industry walking-working surfaces rules to simplify compliance for employers responsible for worker safety in both industries. 
  • Incorporating provisions from more recent OSHA standards like the Powered Platforms for Building Maintenance (29 CFR 1910.66) and Scaffolds, Ladders, and Other Working Surfaces in Shipyards (29 CFR 1915, Subpart E).
  • Drawing from national consensus standards like ANSI/ASSE A1264.102007m ANSI/ASSE Z359.1-2007, and ANSI/IWCA I-14.1-2001.
  • Consolidating provisions, simplifies language, and adds tables illustrations, and appendices.

What Does OSHA Mean by “General Industry”?

OSHA uses the term “general industry” to differentiate these workplaces from Construction and Maritime workplaces, industries for which OSHA maintains two separate sets of work safety standards.
Construction is a unique business and requires standards that sometimes differ from workplace safety rules for other industries.


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