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Walking-Working Surfaces & Fall Protection Standard Updates – General Industry

Joe Powder

Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Rule

Effective Date: 
January 17, 2017

2017 ushered in the new OSHA Final Rule for general industry standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards (subpart D), and additional requirements for personal fall protection systems (subpart I). Falls from heights, as well as falls occurring on the same level, are the leading cause of serious injuries and deaths in the US workplace. So much that, OSHA estimates the new rule will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year.

Since many general industry companies perform similar work activities, and are engaged in similar risks as their counterparts within the construction industry – OSHA attempted to align the two industries’ fall protection requirements to ease compliance, and to make America’s workforce more safe.

OSHA strongly anticipates this rule change will create a more safe workplace in general industry trades, just as we’ve seen in the construction industry since 1994, because now general industry companies have the flexibility to choose which fall protection system they feel is best for the job.

State Plans will have six months to adopt standards that are at least as effective as Federal OSHA standards.

Enforcement Timeline
The final rule became effective on January 17, 2017, however OSHA provides delayed implementation dates for some components of the final rule in order to phase-in enforcement.

6 Months (May 17, 2017)   Worker Training Deadline

  • Employers shall train exposed workers on fall hazards
  • Employers shall train workers who use equipment covered by the final rule.

1 Year (November 20, 2017) Inspection Deadline

  • Employers must Inspect and certify permanent anchorages for rope descent systems.

2 Years (November 19, 2017) Fall Protection Systems Deadline

  • Employers must install personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on replacement ladders/ladder sections, including fixed ladders on outdoor advertising structures.
  • Employers must ensure existing fixed ladders over 24 feet, including those on outdoor advertising structures, are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system.

20 Years (November 18, 2036) Cages & Wells Upgrade Deadline

  • Employers must replace cages and wells (used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet.

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