OSHA updates decades-old fall protection rule

Dive Brief:

  • The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has released a final rule focused on fall protection that is expected to affect an estimated 112 million workers once it takes effect on Jan. 17, as reported by Bloomberg BNA.
  • The rule updates walking-working surface standards that are 45 years old as well as related personal protective equipment standards. In a broad sense, the rule will require employers to recognize slip, trip and fall hazards and provide protection such as guard rails or harnesses.
  • While the rule is expected to cost employers $305 million annually, it is expected to save $614.5 million annually by reducing medical costs and workplace injuries. OSHA says that the rule could prevent 29 fatality risks and 5,842 injuries that cause employees to miss work for at least one day.

Dive Insight:

Because this rule covers a wide range of employers it is expected to affect the waste industry as well. From collection all the way to disposal, employees at every step of the way are often interacting with potentially hazardous or slippery substances in active settings. Ensuring that they're provided with proper protective equipment and have safe work environments is a challenge that some companies still struggle with.

SWANA CEO David Biderman notes that truck safety may need to become more of a focus in light of this rule. "Importantly, our initial review of the new rule indicates that the existing exemption for rolling stock, including trucks, has not been modified," he wrote in an email to Waste Dive. "However, falls off the truck remain a constant safety concern, and SWANA urges all waste industry employers to review their trucks, equipment, operations, and rules to make sure they are providing adequate fall protection training and personal protective equipment to employees."  

Fall protection and hazard communication were listed at the top of OSHA's preliminary list of the top 10 most commonly cited violations during the past fiscal year. At the time, OSHA's director of enforcement programs said many workplace injuries could be avoided by addressing these recurring issues. Newly increased fines for violations may spur more action by employers that have yet to do so.

For any employers unsure about where to begin, advice is readily available from insurance professionals, trade associations and OSHA itself. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a slight decrease in the industry's rate of nonfatal injuries and illnesses for 2015 though all involved recognize that there is still a lot more room for improvement.

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Filed Under: Regulation
Top image credit: Wikimedia