For our general industry employers, you have new fall protection standards. As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses the term, “general industry” means all employers not in construction, agriculture, or maritime industries.
The new rule goes into effect soon – on January 17, 2017 – and employers were given only 60 days of notice to come into compliance. Since the new rule is over 500 pages long, you might want to start reading it now. The full text of the new rule can be found on the Federal Register website.
The new rule has been in the making for a long time. The proposed rule goes back to 2010. The intent of the new rule is to update and modernize fall protection and working surfaces standards for general industry employers and to provide options that are more in line with standards in the construction industry.
So what does the new rule require? Here are some of the highlights:
- Employers are allowed to select the fall protection system that works for them (beyond the traditional railing systems). This will allow general industry employers to consider systems similar to those used in the construction industry.
- The options for fall protection include traditional guardrail systems, safety nets, ladder safety systems, positioning systems, travel restraint systems, and personal fall arrest systems.
- New ladder safety requirements also are included. Many of these involve load requirements and inspection requirements.
- Requirements for actual safety harnesses to be worn by employees are included. So-called “body belts” are not allowed.
- Walking-working surfaces must be regularly inspected.
- Training in fall protection must be provided, especially to employees in high hazard situations.
- Certain historical exceptions for employees in “climbing” occupations have been replaced with ladder requirements.
- And, if you have high-altitude window washers, those employees must use descent systems limited to 300 feet.
Again, most of these requirements come into effect on January 17, 2017 (absent some immediate action by our newly elected government leaders). Some of the training deadlines have been delayed until May 17, 2017, and some of the ladder, fall protection system, and tie-off anchorage requirements do not come into effect until 2018. Bottom line though, for non-construction employers, the new rule should be considered now, and plans for compliance should begin right away.