“Fall Protection – What’s Required Where?” – “Scissor Lifts”

scissor-lifts-and-harnesses-fall-protection-or-no-protection

First, I want to start off with the “scissor lift” dilemma and confusion. If you talk to two different people, you’ll get two differing opinions. Here are my thoughts on this:

I have watched while the battle has raged over whether the use of personal fall arrest harnesses by scissor lift operators is appropriate. The rationale on each side of the issue; pro and con, is intelligent, compelling, and complete with opinions from well informed, knowledgeable people.

The core argument from the pro-harness side stems from the assertion that scissor lift operators are more or less subject to the same falling hazards as anyone else working at height, so why not wear a harness?

On the con-harness side of things, some of the many the arguments follow the logic that if a scissor lift operator who is tethered to the unit goes over the guardrail, the resulting force(s) exerted on the machine when his/her weight jerks to a stop at the end of the lanyard’s travel could be enough to cause the unit to topple, sending it and the operator down. In addition, so I’m told, as the unit plummets down with the operator in tow, the lanyard serves to worsen things by “slingshotting” the operator into the ground and possibly under the machine, resulting in even greater injury than if he/she were able to free fall or jump clear.

If that’s not enough, neither OSHA regulations or ANSI/SIA standards require the use of personal fall protection harnesses for operators of scissor lifts. In fact, in many cases manufacturers do not provide an anchor point to connect the snap hook of a lanyard to and, OSHA prohibits tying off to a guard rail as per 29CFR 1926.502(d)(23)); “Personal fall arrest systems shall not be attached to guardrail systems.”

Some other issues that I have heard from the con side have to do with things like how wearing a harness restricts the movement of the operator or that wearing a harness may actually lull the operator into a false sense of security. I could go on, but I won’t.

I am going to go on record here and state that I believe scissor lift operators should be required to wear a personal fall restraint system (PFRS) consisting of a full body harness and non-shock absorbing lanyard provided there is an approved anchor point to connect it to. (In fact, if you dig into the OSHA regulations, you’ll find that “If the scissor lift manufacturer provides tie off anchor points at the base of the guardrail system, and the manufacturer’s user instructions require them to be used, then you need to be tied off with a PFRS”.)

Allow me approach each point of the “con” argument and, for what it’s worth, chip in my two cents.

First of all, take note of the suggestion for using a fall restraint harness rather than a fall arrest harness. Fall arrest systems are designed to stop a fall in progress while fall restraint systems prevent a fall from occurring… big difference. No fall means no excessive force on the unit, therefore no tip-over. The operator stays on the platform and the lift stays upright. Granted, a fall restraint harness may restrict the operator’s motion depending on the type of anchor point and how much mobility is actually required, but this is a fair trade in exchange for preventing a fall and possible fatality.

As for the “slingshot” effect, well, the laws of physics do not support that theory. A few centuries ago, Galileo discovered something we know today as, the law of falling bodies. Without going into great detail here, it basically states that everything that falls accelerates toward the earth at a rate of 32 feet per second/per second, until reaching peak terminal velocity (top speed), which is about 120 mph. So, if a scissor lift tips over, the operator and the platform are going to travel toward the ground at approximately the same speed; there will be no “slingshot” effect and certainly no need to jump from the platform. In addition, an operator wearing a PFRS will not sustain further injury because of multiple impacts with the ground from bouncing after the initial impact with the ground.

On the topic of jumping clear of the unit, there are serious concerns about the practicality of that notion. Even a conditioned athlete that is prepared and ready for the unit to tip would have difficulty picking the right moment to leap clear. When an aerial lift goes over it typically happens unexpectedly and quickly. The average operator is unlikely to have the physical prowess or presence of mind to do the right thing at the right time and even if he/she did, they would still have the actual fall to the ground with which to contend.

That brings us to OSHA regulations which, after all, are the law and the law says you don’t have to wear a harness to operate a scissor lift. I am going to avoid getting wrapped up in reg’s here the same way I do when I train operators, suffice to say that we are not attempting to determine if we have to wear it, but whether we should. Allow me to share a bit of wisdom that I usually impart to operators when they get a bit carried away with the law, which is; when you operate aerial lift devices, the only law you need to concern yourself with is the law of gravity. Respect for occupational safety and health laws will affect your relationship with OSHA while respect for gravity will affect your relationship with the ground!

As far as harnesses giving operators a false sense of security, it shouldn’t. It should give them a real sense of security. It is a simple fact that an operator wearing a PFRS is less likely to be killed by falling from the platform, which in itself is reassuring. It is also a fact that more scissor lift operators are killed by falling from the platform than by tipping the unit over and besides, if the unit goes over for any reason, the effect on the operator will be ugly with or without a PFRS.

The bottom line here is that every situation, or in this case, each use of the scissor lift has to be looked at from a different approach, so good judgment and the use of best practices are imperative.

9-23-2016 – Here is a link to a Scissor Lift Manufacturers letter, requiring the use of Fall Protection while using their product. https://goo.gl/hi2mvw

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“Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety”

OSHAupdate

Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the 2016 fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this 2016 list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously.

We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial trucksafety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.

Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.

Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.

Thomas Galassi is the director of enforcement programs for OSHA.

“Top 10 OSHA Citations of 2016: A Starting Point for Workplace Safety”

OSHAupdate

Every October, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration releases a preliminary list of the 10 most frequently cited safety and health violations for the 2016 fiscal year, compiled from nearly 32,000 inspections of workplaces by federal OSHA staff.

One remarkable thing about the list is that it rarely changes. Year after year, our inspectors see thousands of the same on-the-job hazards, any one of which could result in a fatality or severe injury.

More than 4,500 workers are killed on the job every year, and approximately 3 million are injured, despite the fact that by law, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their workers. If all employers simply corrected the top 10 hazards, we are confident the number of deaths, amputations and hospitalizations would drastically decline.

Consider this 2016 list a starting point for workplace safety:

  1. Fall protection
  2. Hazard communication
  3. Scaffolds
  4. Respiratory protection
  5. Lockout/tagout
  6. Powered industrial trucks
  7. Ladders
  8. Machine guarding
  9. Electrical wiring
  10. Electrical, general requirements

It’s no coincidence that falls are among the leading causes of worker deaths, particularly in construction, and our top 10 list features lack of fall protection as well as ladder and scaffold safety issues. We know how to protect workers from falls, and have an ongoing campaign to inform employers and workers about these measures. Employers must take these issues seriously.

We also see far too many workers killed or gruesomely injured when machinery starts up suddenly while being repaired, or hands and fingers are exposed to moving parts. Lockout/tagout and machine guarding violations are often the culprit here. Proper lockout/tagout procedures ensure that machines are powered off and can’t be turned on while someone is working on them. And installing guards to keep hands, feet and other appendages away from moving machinery prevents amputations and worse.

Respiratory protection is essential for preventing long term and sometimes fatal health problems associated with breathing in asbestos, silica or a host of other toxic substances. But we can see from our list of violations that not nearly enough employers are providing this needed protection and training.

The high number of fatalities associated with forklifts, and high number of violations for powered industrial trucksafety, tell us that many workers are not being properly trained to safely drive these kinds of potentially hazardous equipment.

Rounding out the top 10 list are violations related to electrical safety, an area where the dangers are well-known.

Our list of top violations is far from comprehensive. OSHA regulations cover a wide range of hazards, all of which imperil worker health and safety. And we urge employers to go beyond the minimal requirements to create a culture of safety at work, which has been shown to reduce costs, raise productivity and improve morale. To help them, we have released new recommendations for creating a safety and health program at their workplaces.

We have many additional resources, including a wealth of information on our website and our free and confidential On-site Consultation Program. But tackling the most common hazards is a good place to start saving workers’ lives and limbs.

Thomas Galassi is the director of enforcement programs for OSHA.

3M “DB​I-SALA® Lad-Saf™ (Tower Ladder Safety) Sleeve – Stop Use and Voluntary Recall / Replacement”

DBI SALA® Lad Saf™ Sleeve – Stop Use and Voluntary Recall   Replacement

After more than 30 years of use in the fall protection industry, the original Lad-Saf™ sleeve has been replaced by a completely redesigned next generation Lad-Saf sleeve. Capital Safety/3M recently reviewed the performance of the original Lad-Saf sleeve in the field, including a limited number of incidents involving a serious injury or death in the United States while using the sleeve.

Although our review did not reveal product hazard or risk scenarios that would arise in the ordinary and proper use of the product, it did reveal potential misuse scenarios that could result in serious injury or death.

The potential misuse scenarios include interference with the braking mechanism (such as entanglement with cords, lanyards, clothing or other materials, or grasping the sleeve prior to or during a fall), or result from the user attaching the sleeve upside down (user inversion). No safety regulator has made a finding that the design of the original Lad-Saf sleeve is defective. At 3M, customer safety and confidence are high priorities. In light of the reported incidents and potential misuse scenarios, we have discontinued sale of the original Lad-Saf sleeve, and are voluntarily initiating a full recall of all original Lad-Saf sleeves.

At 3M, customer safety and confidence are high priorities. In light of reported incidents and potential misuse scenarios involving the original Lad-Saf sleeve, 3M has discontinued sale of the original sleeve, and is voluntarily recalling all original Lad-Saf sleeves.

Please click on the link to take you to the Stop Use and Recall/Replacement Notice (English) (Spanish).

 

 

“OSHA Announces Top 10 Violations For Fiscal Year 2014”

OSHA Top 10 Cited in 2014

Speaking at the 2014 National Safety Council Congress and Expo, Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs, shared preliminary numbers for the top 10 most frequently cited OSHA standards in fiscal year (FY) 2014. Keep reading to find out what made the cut this year and how you can avoid these common hazards in your facility.

While some items on the list shifted position within the top ten, all of the standards on this year’s list made an appearance last year. Notably, the top four violations—fall protection in construction, hazard communication, scaffolding in construction, and respiratory protection—appeared in exactly the same order in FY 2013 and FY 2012.

While the ranking of the top ten violations remains relatively static compared to previous years, the total number of violations cited is somewhat lower than the FY 2013 figure. This is partially due to the 3-week government shutdown in October 2013, during which OSHA lost the opportunity to conduct between 1,400 and 1,500 inspections. However, Kapust emphasized that OSHA is working to make up for the lost time, and the numbers are preliminary.

The top 10 most frequently cited standards for FY 2014 are as follows:

  1. Fall protection in construction (29 CFR 1926.501): 6,143 violations. Lack of fall protection has been a leading offender for several years. Common mistakes under this standard include failing to provide fall protection to employees working at heights, unprotected sides and edges, failing to use fall protection equipment correctly, and failing to provide protection from falling objects. In many cases, a fall protection program is completely nonexistent. Roofing and framing contractors, as well as single-family residential construction employers, are frequent violators of the fall protection standard.
  2. Hazard communication (29 CFR 1910.1200): 5,161 violations. Common hazard communication mistakes include failing to have a written program, failing to have safety data sheets (SDSs) for each chemical in the workplace, labeling mistakes, lack of employee training, and failing to provide employees with information on the hazards of the chemicals in the workplace. Significantly, Kapust commented that the 2012 changes to the hazard communication standard did not correspond to a significant number of violations; rather, most HazCom violations deal with much more basic mistakes that would also have been violations under the previous version of the standard.
  3. Scaffolding in construction (29 CFR 1926.451: 4,029 violations. Citations under the construction industry scaffolding standard often stem from scaffolds that are not fully planked, a lack of portable or hook ladders to access scaffold platforms, loading scaffolds in excess of their capacity, and failing to protect employees from fall hazards on scaffolds.
  4. Respiratory protection (29 CFR 1910.134): 3,223 violations. Lack of a written program is the most commonly cited part of the respiratory protection standard. Other common mistakes include not performing a medical evaluation on employees who must wear respirators, failing to select and provide a respirator appropriate for the activity, failing to conduct fit testing, and failing to train employees.
  5. Lockout/tagout (29 CFR 1910.147): 2,704 violations. Many citations are issues under the lockout/tagout standard for the complete lack of a hazardous energy control program. Other common mistakes include failing to apply locks and tags as necessary and failing to remove unauthorized employees from the area during equipment service and maintenance. Notably, Kapust mentioned that lack of training was not one of the most frequently cited parts of the standard, which he attributed to the fact that employers who fail to provide training often lack a lockout/tagout program altogether and thus would be cited for that instead.
  6. Powered industrial trucks (29 CFR 1910.178): 2,662 violations. Lack of operator training is the most common pitfall under this standard. Other common mistakes include forklifts that are not in safe operating condition and modifications and additions that are not approved by the forklift manufacturer. Industries that frequently violate this standard include warehousing and storage and machine shops.
  7. Electrical, wiring methods (29 CFR 1910.305): 2,490 violations. Citations under this standard often occur when flexible cords are used in place of fixed wiring, conductors enter boxes unprotected, employees are exposed to live contacts, and circuit boxes are not designed to prevent moisture from entering.
  8. Ladders in construction (29 CFR 1926.1053): 2,448 violations. Common ladder hazards include using a ladder not designed for the load it is carrying, using extension ladders that do not provide enough overhang at the top to ensure stability, and using an inappropriate type of ladder for the job.
  9. Machine guarding (29 CFR 1910.212): 2,200 violations. To prevent machine guarding violations, employers should make sure to guard point of operation hazards, ingoing nip points, blades, rotating parts, and any other part of the machinery that may pose a hazard. Make sure that guards remain in place and are not removed by employees.
  10. Electrical, general requirements (29 CFR 1910.303): 2,056 violations. To prevent these citations, employers should ensure that qualified and unqualified workers are appropriately trained for their job tasks to avoid electric shock and electrocution.

Source: BLR® See original post here:

http://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-news/safety-administration/OSHA-and-state-safety-compliance-enforcement/OSHA-announces-top-10-violations-for-FY-2014/

OSHA Training – An Introduction To Fall Protection

Fall Protection Guidelines

guardrail_systems
A synopsis of OSHA’s Fall Protection Standards (OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.501 through 503).

Fall protection is generally thought of as:

  1. Guardrail systems
  2. Safety net systems
  3. Personal fall arrest systems
  4. Positioning device systems, and/or
  5. Warning line systems

The standard:

  • Covers most construction workers except persons inspecting, assessing, or investigating the workplace conditions prior to the start of work or after the completion of work.
  • Identifies areas or activities where fall protection is needed.
  • Sets a uniform threshold height of six (6) feet
  • Allows employers to select fall protection measures that are best suited for the work being performed.

Guardrail requirements:

  • Top edge height of top rails must be 42 inches (+/- 3 inches) above working/walking level & support 200 lb. force (use at least 2″x4″ lumber for wood top rails).
  • Mid rails, screens, mesh, intermediate vertical members, or equivalent emmbers shall be installed mid-way between the top rail and working/walking level & support 150 lb. force (use at least 1″x6″ lumber for wood mid rails).
  • Toe boards shall be 3.5 inches high & support 50 lb. force.
  • Posts shall be no more than 8 feet apart (use 2″x4″ lumber for wood posts).

gaurdrail_requirements
Fall Arrest Systems: Harness, Lanyard, Connectors & Anchors

  • Shall be inspected prior to each use.
  • Attachment point to body shall be in the center of the wearer’s back.
  • Limit fall to six (6) feet and prevent contact with lower levels.
  • Limit maximum deceleration distance to 3.5 feet.
  • D-rings & snaphooks must have minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds.
  • Lanyards & lifelines must have minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.
  • Self retracting lifelines & lanyards that limit fall distance to 2 feet or less must have minimum tensile strength of 3,000 pounds applied to the device with lifeline fully extended. Greater than 2 feet the minimum tensile strength must be 5,000 pounds.
  • Anchorages must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds.
  • Body belts & other positioning device systems are not a part of the personal fall arrest system.

Positioning Device Systems

  • Should limit falls to no more than 2 feet.
  • Secured to an anchor capable of supporting a potential impact of 2x the impact load of the employees fall or 3,000 pounds (whichever is less).
  • Requirements for d-rings, snaphooks & other connectors must meet those of  personal fall arrest systems.

Covers

  • On roadways, capable of support 2x the maximum axle load of the largest vehicle expected to impact the cover.
  • Capable of supporting 2x the weight of employees and equipment.
  • Must be secured when installed.
  • Color coded and marked “HOLE” or “COVER”.

Alternative Measures to Personal Fall Protection

Three alternatives include warning line systems, controlled access zones, and safety monitoring systems.  The employer must prove conventional fall protection is not feasible or would cause a greater hazard & develop a written fall protection program.  Does not include roofing, overhand bricklaying or residential construction practices.

Warning line systems

  • Only allowed on low-sloped roofs (less than or equal to 4×12 pitch).
  • Must be erected around all sides and not less than six (6) feet from the roof edge.
  • Flagged at least every 6 feet with high visibility material.
  • Rigged and supported so the line is between 34 inches and 39 inches.
  • Stanchions must be able to support a 16 pound horizontal force.
  • Warning line must be able to support a 500 pound minimum tensile strength.
  • Must be used in conjunction with another fall protection system.

Controlled access zones

  • Erected between 6 -25 feet from the unprotected/leading edge.
  • Control lines must consist of ropes, wires, tapes, or equivalent.
  • Flagged at least every 6 feet with high visibility material.
  • Rigged and supported so the line is between 39 inches and 45 inches.
  • Capable of support a minimum 200 lb. stress.
  • Extend along the entire length of the unprotected or leading edge and connected to each side of the guardrail system or wall.

Safety Monitoring Systems

  • Competent person is responsible for recognizing and warning employees of fall hazards.
  • Competent person must be on same working level.
  • Competent person must be able to communicate orally with workers.
  • Competent person must not have any other duties which distract from the monitoring duties.

 

OSHA Residential Construction Safety Video: OSHA Fall Protection Standard

 

 
Regulation

Directive

Presentations

Compliance Aids

Fall Protection in Residential Construction

Fall Protection in Residential Construction. OSHA Fact Sheet. [PDF – 259 KB]

Fall Protection in Residential Construction [Spanish]. OSHA Guidance Document. [PDF – 1 MB]

Other Resources

OSHA Training – Introduction To Fall Protection

Fall Protection Guidelines

guardrail_systems
A synopsis of OSHA’s Fall Protection Standards (OSHA standard 29 CFR 1926.501 through 503).

Fall protection is generally thought of as:

  1. Guardrail systems
  2. Safety net systems
  3. Personal fall arrest systems
  4. Positioning device systems, and/or
  5. Warning line systems

The standard:

  • Covers most construction workers except persons inspecting, assessing, or investigating the workplace conditions prior to the start of work or after the completion of work.
  • Identifies areas or activities where fall protection is needed.
  • Sets a uniform threshold height of six (6) feet
  • Allows employers to select fall protection measures that are best suited for the work being performed.

Guardrail requirements:

  • Top edge height of top rails must be 42 inches (+/- 3 inches) above working/walking level & support 200 lb. force (use at least 2″x4″ lumber for wood top rails).
  • Mid rails, screens, mesh, intermediate vertical members, or equivalent emmbers shall be installed mid-way between the top rail and working/walking level & support 150 lb. force (use at least 1″x6″ lumber for wood mid rails).
  • Toe boards shall be 3.5 inches high & support 50 lb. force.
  • Posts shall be no more than 8 feet apart (use 2″x4″ lumber for wood posts).

gaurdrail_requirements
Fall Arrest Systems: Harness, Lanyard, Connectors & Anchors

  • Shall be inspected prior to each use.
  • Attachment point to body shall be in the center of the wearer’s back.
  • Limit fall to six (6) feet and prevent contact with lower levels.
  • Limit maximum deceleration distance to 3.5 feet.
  • D-rings & snaphooks must have minimum tensile strength of 5,000 pounds.
  • Lanyards & lifelines must have minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds.
  • Self retracting lifelines & lanyards that limit fall distance to 2 feet or less must have minimum tensile strength of 3,000 pounds applied to the device with lifeline fully extended. Greater than 2 feet the minimum tensile strength must be 5,000 pounds.
  • Anchorages must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds.
  • Body belts & other positioning device systems are not a part of the personal fall arrest system.

Positioning Device Systems

  • Should limit falls to no more than 2 feet.
  • Secured to an anchor capable of supporting a potential impact of 2x the impact load of the employees fall or 3,000 pounds (whichever is less).
  • Requirements for d-rings, snaphooks & other connectors must meet those of  personal fall arrest systems.

Covers

  • On roadways, capable of support 2x the maximum axle load of the largest vehicle expected to impact the cover.
  • Capable of supporting 2x the weight of employees and equipment.
  • Must be secured when installed.
  • Color coded and marked “HOLE” or “COVER”.

Alternative Measures to Personal Fall Protection

Three alternatives include warning line systems, controlled access zones, and safety monitoring systems.  The employer must prove conventional fall protection is not feasible or would cause a greater hazard & develop a written fall protection program.  Does not include roofing, overhand bricklaying or residential construction practices.

Warning line systems

  • Only allowed on low-sloped roofs (less than or equal to 4×12 pitch).
  • Must be erected around all sides and not less than six (6) feet from the roof edge.
  • Flagged at least every 6 feet with high visibility material.
  • Rigged and supported so the line is between 34 inches and 39 inches.
  • Stanchions must be able to support a 16 pound horizontal force.
  • Warning line must be able to support a 500 pound minimum tensile strength.
  • Must be used in conjunction with another fall protection system.

Controlled access zones

  • Erected between 6 -25 feet from the unprotected/leading edge.
  • Control lines must consist of ropes, wires, tapes, or equivalent.
  • Flagged at least every 6 feet with high visibility material.
  • Rigged and supported so the line is between 39 inches and 45 inches.
  • Capable of support a minimum 200 lb. stress.
  • Extend along the entire length of the unprotected or leading edge and connected to each side of the guardrail system or wall.

Safety Monitoring Systems

  • Competent person is responsible for recognizing and warning employees of fall hazards.
  • Competent person must be on same working level.
  • Competent person must be able to communicate orally with workers.
  • Competent person must not have any other duties which distract from the monitoring duties.

OSHA Proposes Sweeping Fall Protection/PPE Rule Revisions

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced in a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the May 24 Federal Register its plans to require improved worker protection from tripping, slipping, and falling hazards on walking and working surfaces.

“This proposal addresses workplace hazards that are a leading cause of work related injuries and deaths,” said OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels.

The NPRM describes revisions to the Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment standards to help prevent an estimated annual 20 workplace fatalities and more than 3,500 injuries serious enough to cause people to miss work. For example, in July 2009, a worker at a chocolate processing plant was killed after falling from an unguarded work platform.

“This is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored, or inadequate,” said Michaels. “The loss of a worker’s life might have been prevented if the protective measures in these revised standards had been in place and in use.”

The current walking-working surfaces regulations allow employers to provide outdated and dangerous fall protection equipment such as lanyards and body belts that can result in workers suffering greater injury from falls. Construction and maritime workers already receive safer, more effective fall protection devices such as self-retracting lanyards and ladder safety and rope descent systems, which these proposed revisions would also require for general industry workers.

Current standards also do not allow OSHA to fine employers who let workers climb certain ladders without fall protection. Under the revised standards, this restriction would be lifted in virtually all industries, allowing OSHA inspectors to fine employers who jeopardize their workers’ safety and lives by climbing these ladders without proper fall protection.

OSHA notes that most of its existing standards for walking-working surfaces are more than 30 years old and inconsistent with both national consensus standards and more-recently promulgated OSHA standards addressing fall protection.

Among the areas covered in the sweeping proposal are significant revisions to the existing general industry scaffold standards; requirements for guardrail, safety net, and personal fall protection systems (including fall arrest, and positioning, and travel restraint systems); key-term definition amendments; rules for load limits; requirements for portable and fixed ladders; rules for ladders in elevator shafts; requirements for building anchorages and tie-offs; rules for the design, capacity, and use of step bolts and manhole steps; stairway design and installation criteria; requirements for riser heights and stairway landing platform widths; specific rules to limit the use of spiral stairs, ship stairs, or alternating tread-type stairs to “special limited usage” and “secondary access” situations when the employer demonstrates that it is not practical to provide a standard stairway; requirements for dockboards (bridge plates); rules to prohibit the use of rope-descent systems at heights greater than 300 feet; the establishment of 11 requirements employers must meet when rope-descent systems are used; requirements for employees in hoist areas of walking-working surfaces that are 4 feet or more above lower levels; specific requirements for the outdoor advertising and window cleaning industries; criteria that employees must meet to be considered qualified climbers; criteria for grab handle use; requirements for employee training and retraining; and more.

The wide-ranging proposal addresses not only falls and other hazards associated with walking-working surfaces but also hazards leading to combustible dust explosions and other accidents. Part of OSHA’s current rules require that all places of employment, passageways, storerooms, and service rooms be kept clean and orderly, and in a sanitary condition. A paragraph in the new proposal requires that floors of workrooms be maintained in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition. It also requires that, where wet processes are used, drainage be maintained, and false floors, platforms, mats, or other dry-standing places be provided when practicable. The agency said it does not expect all surfaces to be maintained in a pristine manner; however, surfaces must be maintained in a condition that will prevent slips, trips, falls, and other hazards.

Historically, OSHA interpreted these provisions as applying to combustible-dust accumulations associated with fire and explosion hazards. Regarding this interpretation, one court stated that “the housekeeping standard is not limited to tripping and falling hazards, but may be applied to [a] significant accumulation of combustible dust” [Con Agra Inc. v. Occupational Safety and Health Review Com’n, 672 F.2d 699, 702 (8th Cir. 1982), citing Bunge Corp. v. Secretary of Labor, 638 F.2d 831, 834 (5th Cir. 1981), which reached the same conclusion]. OSHA says the cases show that Sec. 1910.22(a) serves as one of the agency’s most important enforcement tools for preventing combustible-dust accumulations and it continues to be an important element of OSHA’s enforcement strategy for this hazard. Therefore, the agency seeks comment on whether it should include an explicit reference to combustible dust or other hazardous material in the regulatory language of the final rule. The agency says the language would merely clarify OSHA’s long-held interpretation that Sec. 1910.22(a) is not limited to the hazards of slips, trips, and falls, but also addresses any hazard that can be created when floors and work areas are not maintained in an orderly, clean, dry, and sanitary condition.

OSHA also is seeking comment on whether specific regulations are needed to cover falls from rolling stock and commercial motor vehicles. Existing subpart D does not specifically address or exclude fall protection on rolling stock or motor vehicles from coverage. For the purposes of this issue, the term “rolling stock” means any locomotive, railcar, or vehicle operated exclusively on a rail or rails, or a trolley bus operated by electric power supplied from an overhead wire.

In addition, the agency is seeking input on whether there is a need to promulgate a specific requirement in subpart D to address situations where an employer can demonstrate that it is infeasible or creates a greater hazard to use conventional fall protection to protect employees exposed to falling 4 feet or more from stacked materials. Some commenters have recommended that OSHA allow the use of safe work practices by trained employees in lieu of conventional fall protection for certain activities. OSHA seeks comment on the current fall protection measures that are in use, and the degree to which conventional fall protection is infeasible or creates a greater hazard.

Furthermore, the agency is soliciting comments, as well as costs/benefits analyses, on whether the rulemaking should include language mandating that employers provide appropriate waterproof footgear, such as rubber overboots, in situations where wet processes are used.

Presently, the agency’s standards for fall protection on walking-working surfaces in general industry differ from the comparable standards for construction work. In most instances, employees use similar work practices to perform similar tasks, irrespective of whether they are technically doing construction or general industry work. Whether OSHA’s construction or general industry standards apply to a particular job depends upon whether the employer is altering the system (construction work) or maintaining the system (general industry work). For example, replacing an elevated ventilation system at an industrial site would be construction work if it involves upgrading the system, but general industry work if it involves replacing the system with the same model.

Since the work practices used by the employees would most likely be identical in both situations, it is desirable for OSHA’s general industry and construction standards to be as consistent as possible. Under OSHA’s existing requirements, however, different requirements might apply to similar work practices, e.g., an employer overhauling two or more ventilation systems may have to comply with two different sets of OSHA requirements if one project is considered construction and another general industry. The existing inconsistencies between the construction and general industry standards create difficulties for employers attempting to develop appropriate work practices for their employees. For this reason, employers and employees have told OSHA that they would like the two standards to match more closely. This proposal attempts to achieve that result.

Comments on the proposed rulemaking will be accepted until Aug. 23. A public hearing on the revised changes will be held after the public comment period. To read the proposed rulemaking notice and get instructions for submitting comments, go to http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/2010-10418.htm.

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