Federal safety regulators will propose new rules to require improved worker protection from tripping, slipping and falling hazards on walking and working surfaces.
On Monday (May 24,) the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced in a notice in the Federal Register that it would propose rules to help prevent these falls, which cause about 20 worker fatalities and 3,500 serious injuries each year.
The Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems) Rule resurrects and updates rules that OSHA unsuccessfully proposed in 1990 (55 FR 13360). The new rule would include specific performance and use requirements for certain types of personal protective equipment and would incorporate current protection technology and methods.
The measure would give OSHA the authority to fine employers who allow employees to climb certain ladders without fall protection. It would also increase consistency in construction, maritime and general industry standards.
“This proposal addresses workplace hazards that are a leading cause of work related injuries and deaths,” said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.
The agency cited a July 2009 incident in which a worker at a chocolate processing plant suffered a fatal fall from an unguarded work platform.
“This is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored or inadequate,” said Michaels. “The loss of a worker’s life might have been prevented if the protective measures in these revised standards had been in place and in use.”
The current walking-working surfaces regulations allow employers to provide outdated and dangerous fall protection equipment, such as lanyards and body belts, which can result in greater injury from falls.
Construction and maritime workers already receive safer, more effective fall protection devices such as self-retracting lanyards and ladder safety and rope descent systems, which these proposed revisions would also require for general industry workers.
A public hearing on the revised changes will be held after the public comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rule Making. More information is available in the Federal Register notice at http://s.dol.gov/3J.