New Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection Requirements

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, November 17, 2016

OSHA issues final rule updating walking-working surfaces standards and establishing personal fall protection systems requirements

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems.

“The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls.” The final rule also increases consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both industries.

OSHA estimates the final standard will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, and will affect approximately 112 million workers at seven million worksites.

The final rule’s most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994 and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry. Other changes include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level; prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system; and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

Top Four Construction Hazards

According to OSHA, the top four causes of construction fatalities are falls, struck-by, caught in and between and electrocutions. Here are some guidelines to help prevent them.

Prevent Falls:

  • Wear and use personal fall arrest equipment.
  • Install and maintain perimeter protection.
  • Cover and secure floor openings and label floor opening covers.
  • Use ladders and scaffolds safely.

Prevent Struck-by:

  • Avoid positioning yourself between moving and fixed objects.
  • Wear high-visibility clothes near equipment/vehicles.
  • Separate foot and vehicular traffic.
  • Use overhead protection to prevent being struck by falling objects.
  • Stack materials properly.
  • Use proper rigging techniques.

Prevent Caught In and Between:

  • Make sure adequate trench protective systems are in place before you enter a trench or excavation.
  • Make sure the trench or excavation is protected either by sloping, shoring, benching or trench shield systems.
  • Isolate moving and rotating equipment parts.
  • Do periodic equipment inspections.

Prevent Electrocutions:

  • Locate and identify utilities before starting work.
  • Use lockout/tagout equipment properly.
  • Locate and maintain a safe distance from overhead power lines when operating any equipment. Learn the safe distance requirements.
  • Use portable electric tools that are grounded or double insulated.
  • Use ground-fault circuit interrupters for protection.
  • Be alert to electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds or other platforms.

It’s possible to avoid these top four construction hazards with a little planning, so you can go home safely.

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Fall Hazards

Falls are still the number one reason workers get hurt or die on the job. In 2014, a person died every day due to a fall. The most frequent reasons for falls are: slipping on walk surfaces and ladder rungs; tripping over clutter in walk areas; and inappropriate use of ladders.

It’s easy to spot and fix these hazards, but first we must perceive these conditions as safety hazards. If we continue to ignore them, workers will continue to get hurt.

Slipping, Tripping and Jumping

Here is a recently reported list of preventable accidents:

  • A worker slipped on the muddy floor of an equipment cab and fell into the control levers. He suffered bruised and fractured ribs.
  • A worker slipped off the rung of a ladder while attempting to get off a large excavating machine. He fell more than four feet to the ground, spraining an ankle and breaking a wrist bone on impact.
  • While off-loading pipe from a flatbed truck trailer, a worker stepped on a piece of unsecured pipe. The pipe rolled under his foot, and he fell off the truck bed, twisting an ankle and breaking an arm.
  • A worker jumped from an excavator cab five feet to the ground below. He severely injured his knee on impact.
  • A worker stepped on a piece of rebar, which rolled under his foot, causing severe bending and strain on the ankle.

If you pay attention to work area conditions and engage in preventative behavior, you can keep accidents like these from happening.

Ladders

The Bureau of Labor Statistics evaluated 1,400 ladder accidents and found:

  • Fifty-seven percent of the victims in the study were holding objects with one or both hands while climbing or descending the ladder.
  • Thirty percent had wet, greasy or oily shoes.
  • In 53 percent of the cases, workers had not properly secured or braced the bottom of straight ladders, and in 61 percent, the ladders were unsecured at the top.
  • In 66 percent of the cases, the accident victims never received training to inspect ladders for defects before using them.

These findings clearly indicate that it’s important to focus on safe climbing techniques. Don’t carry objects while climbing. Keep three points of contact with the ladder at all times. Don’t climb with wet, muddy, greasy or oily shoes, and inspect your ladder.

It’s up to each of us to do our part to eliminate falls, put an end to the injuries and reduce fatalities. No one wants to lose a worker per day to falls. Let’s work together to eliminate that statistic.

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The Hazards of Leading Edges – Part I: Roof Work

Falls are the number one cause of fatalities in construction. According to OSHA, more than 800 construction workers die every year while on the job. Because falls cause one in three construction worker deaths, it is important to understand the safety principles for managing this hazard, regardless of the specific type of construction.

The hazard associated with falling is at the point of the leading edge, which we define as the break of elevation between one surface and another. The leading edge can be along a roofline, where the sheer sides of a building descend to the ground. This line of demarcation is the point where an uncontrolled descent – otherwise known as a fall – can begin.

Recognizing the leading edge as the point of hazard is critical. Once we pinpoint the area of the hazard, we can take the most appropriate protective measures for the conditions.

In roofing work, the leading edge is where the side walls meet the roof. We must use some form of fall protection for any work at or within six feet of the leading edge. It may involve using a positive tie-off to an approved anchor point or performing work under the strict supervision of a safety monitor, provided that individual is a roofing craftsman and a competent person on the jobsite.

Workers on large, flat-roof projects have the option of utilizing a fall protection method we refer to as the safety monitor/warning line approach, which entails establishing a warning line at a point that is six feet from the leading edge. This warning line must be at least 19 inches high and supported on stanchions that require at least 20 pounds of force to knock over. The line itself must be highly visible. You don’t need an additional fall protection system when workers are within this warning line.

When performing work outside of the warning line – that is, between the warning line and the leading edge – a safety monitor must directly supervise workers to ensure against any action that may result in a worker stepping, tripping and/or falling over the edge. The safety monitor may not engage in any other activity beyond watching and managing the safety of other workers who are between the warning line and the leading edge. All workers must be within the eyesight and voice command of the designated safety monitor.

The safety monitor/warning line system utilized during actual roofing work is one of the few situations where we can approach fall protection without using the more demanding system of using a positive tie-off to an approved anchor point.

In Part II of this Toolbox Talk, we will discuss the leading edge in other types of construction work.