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Understanding OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards

Understanding OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards

By on Oct 4, 2017 in Blog, OSHA | 0 comments

by India Edouard from

Earlier this year, OSHA issued a final ruling on its Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Standards. The ruling encompasses revised provisions for fixed ladders, rope descent systems, the design and implementation of fall protection systems, and training on fall hazards.

The ruling increases consistency between general and construction industry standards, which makes compliance simpler for employers working in both sectors. The final rule is also more flexible in regards to the types of fall protection systems allowed, which means employers can choose which system is best for their particular job. However, this flexibility comes with increased performance criteria for fall protection systems. In short, employers can use various fall protection systems but they must ensure total safety of employees.

Already, some firms have been fined for failing OSHA inspections. One such firm was issued $1,922,895 in penalties for their 51 safety and health violations. Specifically, businesses used ladders, stairs, loading docks, and other walking-working surfaces that were not compliant with the rule. Failure to ensure the side rails of the ladders were high enough was one hefty part of the penalty.

construction scaffolding and fall protectionAnother source of penalties comes from employers not properly training their employees on fall protection systems. According to the final rule, employees must be trained by a qualified person in a language the employee understands. Because OSHA puts the responsibility of employee safety on employers, employees who demonstrate a lack of knowledge of fall hazards can cost employers millions in fines.

As a result, many general industry workers opt to take an OSHA 10-Hour or 30-Hour General Industry course. These courses provide instruction on the Walking-Working Surfaces rule as well as other important industry topics. Often times, these courses are the difference between a job well done and a tragic accident.

As we approach the end of the year, employers must complete their hazard assessment and implement fall protection and training. Industry workers should be trained on fall protection and the new ruling. If not, businesses can expect to be penalized for being out of compliance with the final ruling.

For more information on the Walking-working Surfaces rule, visit the Federal Register. For more information on OSHA training resources, visit or Karl Environmental Group’s course listing.

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