A Review of Walking Working Surface OSHA Requirements

Did you know that there are about 350 fatalities each year among workers that are protected by OSHA’s walking working surfaces and fall protection standards? Earlier in the year there were changes made to the walking working surface OSHA requirements. Let’s take this opportunity to review the changes specifically for the general industry.


Walking Working Surfaces

According to OSHA a walking working surface is, “any horizontal or vertical surface on our through which an employee walks, works or gains access to a work area or workplace location.” To be in compliance with the standard it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure:

Surface conditions are clean, orderly and sanitaryFloors are maintained free of sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, leaks, spills, snow, and iceEmployers must inspect, maintain and repair walking working surfaces as often as necessaryHazardous conditions on walking working surfaces must be corrected or repaired. If corrections or repairs cannon be made immediately, the hazard must be guarded to prevent employees from using the surface until repairs are completed

Ladder Safety Requirements

Falls from ladder account for 20 percent of all fatal and lost time work injuries in the general construction industry.

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Here are the general rules for safety on ladders:

Ladders must be inspected before initial use in each work shiftEmployers must ensure that steps and rungs of ladders are slip- resistantPortable ladders are not moved, shifted or extended while under useTop steps and caps are not used as steps and labeled accordinglyFastening multiple ladders together is not allowedLadders cannot be placed on top of other items such as boxes or barrels to gain added height

Fall Protection Updates

Fall protection is defined by OSHA as “any equipment, device or system that prevents a worker from falling from an elevation or mitigates the effect of such a fall.” The update requires all employers to protect employees from fall hazards along edges that are 4 feet or higher above a lower level. Here are the options for fall protection under the new rule:

Guardrail System – A barrier erected along an exposed side, edge or another area of a walking-working surface to prevent workers from falling to a lower levelSafety Net System – A netting system to stop falling workers before they make contact with a lower level or obstructionPersonal Fall Arrest System – Consists of a body harness, anchor, connector and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline or a combination meant to stop a fall before the worker contacts a lower levelPositioning System – Equipment and connectors that when used with a body belt or harness allows a worker to be supported on an elevated vertical surface and work with both hands freeTravel Restraint System – Combination of anchor, connector, lanyard or other means of connection to eliminate the possibility of a worker going over the unprotected edge or side of a surfaceLadder Safety System – A system attached to a ladder designed to eliminate or reduce the possibility of a worker falling; Cages and wells are not considered ladder safety systems