Fall is the time of year most people think of changing leaves, football games and kids going back to school. It’s also the time of year OSHA typically releases its list of regulation updates and amendments that affect businesses and industries across the U.S.
Employers seek to provide a safe, injury-free environment for workers. In addition to safety training programs, visual cues and instilling a safety culture in a workplace, it’s important for companies to stay up-to-date on OSHA changes and modifications to safety regulations. While not all the changes will affect all employers and employees (some are very industry-specific), the new regulations are estimated to affect 6.9 million businesses and 112 million employees.
By staying informed and educated about the new regulations, employers have a higher chance of keeping employees safe, as well as avoid potential fines or lawsuits. The best defense is a good offense and learning about safety hazards and addressing them head-on is the best way to keep productivity high. OSHA’s mandates usually stem from good data research and industry demands. While the regulations must be adhered to, remember they can be looked at as a starting place and many businesses go above and beyond the bare minimum safety requirements.
The new OSHA walking-working surface regulations provide more consistency between general industry standards and construction industry standards. Some of the rules that are being amended to more closely follow construction standards include:
- The ability to choose the fall protection systems that work best for your employees.
- The criteria and practice requirements for guardrail systems.
- Requirements for scaffolds.
- Fall protection plans for unprotected sides and edges when performing roof work.
- Requirements for safety net systems.
- Requirements for rope descent systems.
Here’s a closer look at a few of the upcoming changes.
Fall Protection/Walking Working Surfaces
Under a new rule, employers have more flexibility to select fall protection systems. The thought is that this will allow employers to select systems that make the most sense for their employees and the environment they’re working in.
For example, the use of rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a surface level is now permitted. Personal fall arrest systems can no longer include body belts, which basically are waist belts with D-rings or attachment points. In addition, workers must receive training on fall hazards and personal fall protection systems.
OSHA says the updated rule reflects new technologies and advances in fall protection systems and better industry practices. This rule became effective on January 17. Industry experts and OSHA say this rule is estimated to prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 injuries each year. Check out a previous blog post about this regulation here.
Previously, OSHA stated there is no such thing as “safe distance” when it came to working on an unprotected roof edge. However, under the new rule, if the distance is less than 6 feet from the roof edge, conventional fall protection systems are required. This includes guardrail systems, personal fall arrest systems, and safety nets. If the distance is between 6 to 15 feet, you need to have a designated area for temporary work and a warning line placed at 6 feet. For tasks completed at a distance higher than 15 feet, if the work is infrequent and temporary, no additional fall protection is required.
We highly recommend using a visual cue to help employees see the distance of 6 feet and 15 feet while working on rooftops.
Stairway and Ladder Safety
Falls from ladders account for 20 percent of all general industry workplace injuries and fatalities. The rules for ladder safety in the construction industry have been stricter than for general industry in the past – but no longer. The new general industry regulations for guardrails, ladders, and stairways now are aligned with those in the construction industry. Employers must provide guardrails for all work at a height of 42 inches (+/– 3 inches) or higher.
For fixed ladders that are over 24 feet, including structures for outdoor advertising, ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems now are mandatory. The rule will go into effect by November 19, 2018 for new ladders and by 2036 for all ladders. One solution to make sure employees understand and remember this new safety regulation is to adhere an adhesive safety sign in front of affixed ladders or on a printed label to be placed on the ladder. Stop-Painting can help you create a custom visual cue to ensure this new rule is appropriately displayed and explained to employees.
Also if note, employers can no longer use chains to close access openings. Likewise, no alternative options for parapets (a barrier that serves as an extension of the wall of a terrace, walkway, or balcony) are allowed. Regarding stairways: they must have uniform risers and tread depth between railings.
Our least favorite kind of new rule: New paperwork. This year OSHA will be debuting a new rule that puts an emphasis on workplace assessments. Specifically, all employers must conduct fall hazard assessments before workers can perform their jobs. Each piece of equipment must be identified, tested, certified and maintained properly – and it all has to be documented.
The rule was created to add a greater level of protection for employees by making sure walking-working surfaces can support the loads being placed on them. Employers must make sure employees know how to do these assessments and review results.
For rope descent systems that use anchorages, inspection is mandatory. This will help make sure each anchorage attached to a worker is capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds in any direction. This rule will go into effect by November 20, 2017.
All assessments must be documented. This includes the work that was evaluated, the specific date of the assessment and the person who authorized the evaluation.
Training Requirement Updates
All employees who uses personal fall protection systems or performs work with a high-hazard rate for falling must be trained about the dangers of falls and how to properly use fall protection systems. The deadline for implementing this rule was May 17.
Who to do this training? Well, that’s changed too. In the past, employee training always has required guidance from a “qualified individual.” That said, the new rule specifically states what roles a “competent person” must be able to verify in an array of situations, including:
- When the structural integrity of a walking-working surface needs repair or correction work.
- Annual inspections of rope descent systems.
- Inspections of knots in a lanyard or vertical lifelines.
- Anchorage certifications.
In addition, if there are any changes in workplace operations or equipment, or if an employer believes that additional training would be beneficial, employee re-training is essential. You also must ensure the provided training is written in a language and with vocabulary terms your workers will understand.
Visual cues like safety floor markers or signs would be beneficial for increasing employee safety around walking-working surfaces. We encourage a good formula of graphics, as well as words, to effectively communicate visual instructions. By using graphics on signs to communicate, employers ensure that new employees and employees speaking an alternative language can fully comprehend the visual instruction being communicated.
While OSHA requires mandate compliance, the process of keeping your employees safe has a direct effect on a company’s bottom line. Your investment in keeping employees safe has a direct correlation on productivity and efficiency. The safest workplaces offer visual organization, centered around visual cues. Contact us today to help get your workplace safe and productive via visual organization.
Stop-Painting.com is a leading manufacturer of indoor and outdoor marking tapes and signs. Stop-Painting.com helps facility and safety managers create more productive and safer workplaces by communicating with visual devices and visual cues.