Many Cleveland workers and their employers will most likely be affected by OSHA’s impending rule changes on walking-working surfaces. On Nov. 17, 2016, OSHA made an announcement that the rule, which has been anticipated for some time, would update its general requirements for walking and working surfaces in general industry. This rule is expected to impact workers in many job positions, from chimney sweeps to window washers and other maintenance employees. While it does not affect the construction or agricultural industries, it will have a major impact on jobs that involve tasks with a high risk of trips and falls.
OSHA indicated that the new rule accounts for changes in technology and best practices in general industry. The goal is to provide more cost-efficient protection for workers to reduce the rate of on-the-job slips and falls. The new rule requires employers to protect workers from unprotected edges and fall hazards of at least 4 feet in height. It also codifies a 1991 memorandum that allows workplaces to utilize rope descent systems.
Most provisions of the final rule are expected to take effect on Jan. 17, 2017. Others, such as fall hazard training and certain types of inspections, will have between six months and two years to go into effect. Workplaces will have 20 years to replace cages and wells with personal fall arrest systems or ladder safety improvements on ladders over 24 feet.
Falls from heights are one of the primary causes of workplace injuries and fatalities. If the injury was due to a failure of an employer to maintain proper safety procedures, an injured worker may want to meet with an attorney to see if in lieu of filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits a personal injury lawsuit against the company would be appropriate.