OSHA issues final Rule Updating Walking-Working Surfaces Standards and Requirements

On November 17, 2016, OSHA issued a final ruling to update and align General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces with Fall Protection Standards. Falls from heights and on the same level of a surface are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. Approximately 200,000 serious (lost-workday) injuries and 345 fatalities occur annually among workers directly affected by the final standard. OSHA estimates that the rule will prevent 29 fatalities and over 5,842 lost-workday injuries each year.

New and updated sections of 29 CFR 1910 include the following:

Subpart D – Walking-Working Surfaces

  • 1910.21 Scope and definitions
  • 1910.22 General requirements
  • 1910.23 Ladders
  • 1910.24 Step bolts and manhole steps
  • 1910.25 Stairways
  • 1910.26 Dockboards
  • 1910.27 Scaffolds and rope descent systems
  • 1910.28 Duty to have fall protection and falling object protection
  • 1910.29 Fall protection systems and falling object protection – criteria and practices
  • 1910.30 Training requirements

Subpart F – Powered Platforms, Manlifts, and Vehicle-Mounted Work Platforms

  • 1910.66 Powered platforms for building maintenance
  • 1910.67 Vehicle-mounted elevating and rotating work platforms
  • 1910.68 Manlifts

Subpart I – Personal Protective Equipment
• 1910.132 General requirements
• 1910.140 Personal fall protection systems

Subpart N – Materials Handling and Storage

  • 1910.178 Powered industrial trucks
  • 1910.179 Overhead and gantry cranes

Subpart R – Special Industries

  • 1910.261 Pulp, paper, and paperboard mills
  • 1910.262 Textiles
  • 1910.265 Sawmills
  • 1910.268 Telecommunications
  • 1910.269 Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution

The rule requires employers to protect employees from fall hazards along unprotected sides or edges that are at least 4 feet above a lower level. It also sets requirements for fall protection in specific situations, such as hoist areas, runways, areas above dangerous equipment, wall openings, repair pits, stairways, and scaffolds. The rule will additionally establish requirements for the performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of personal fall protection systems.

The new rule includes requirements to protect workers from falling off fixed and portable ladders as well as mobile ladder stands and platforms. Ladders must be capable of supporting their maximum intended load, while mobile ladder stands and platforms must be capable of supporting four times their maximum intended load. Each ladder must be inspected before initial use in a work shift to identify defects that could cause injury. The new rule phases in a requirement for employers to have ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems for fixed ladders that extend more than 24 feet, and phases out the use of cages or wells for fall protection.

OSHA now requires that employers ensure workers who use personal fall protection and work in other specified high hazard situations are trained, and retrained as needed, on fall and equipment hazards, including fall protection systems. A qualified person must train these workers to correctly: identify and minimize fall hazards; use personal fall protection systems and rope descent systems; and maintain, inspect, and store equipment or systems used for fall protection.

Most of the rule will become effective on January 17, 2017, but some provisions have delayed effective dates, including to:

  • Ensure exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (May 17, 2017).
  • Ensure workers who use equipment covered by the final rule are trained (May 17, 2017).
  • Inspect and certify permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (November 17, 2017).
  • 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 (November 17, 2018).
  • 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 (November 17, 2018).
  • Replace cages and wells (used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet (November 17, 2036 – 20 years from the publication date).



U.S. Department of Labor – Final rule updating walking-working surfaces standards and establishing personal fall protection systems requirements. OSHA National News Release, November 17, 2016. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=33438



For additional information or assistance in training and regulatory compliance call Michael Howe, CIH, at (315) 445-0847 or reach him by email at colden@colden.com.