Last week, OSHA’s proposed rule for Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems) in General Industry (Subpart D and Subpart I) cleared the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), signaling the forthcoming final publication by OSHA.

This rule has been in the making since 1990 when OSHA originally issued the proposed rule and then updated that proposal in 2010. The rule has two parts – Subpart D, Walking-Working Surfaces and Subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment for Fall Protection. Subpart D sets forth requirements for general industry walking-working surfaces, including when the use of fall protection systems will be required. Subpart I delineates the performance criteria for personal fall protection systems.

OSHA’s objective in issuing the proposed rule in 2010 was to update the standards to reflect current industry practices and national consensus standards and align the standards, to the extent possible, with other OSHA standards in the construction and shipyard industries.

According to the proposed rule, “ The existing OSHA general industry standards recognize the use of guardrails and physical barriers as the primary methods for employee protection against falls. However, those standards do not directly recognize that personal fall protection systems can also provide effective means for employee protection. OSHA believes that the proposed rules will give employers the necessary flexibility to decide which fall protection method or system works best for the work operation being performed, while ensuring employees receive a level of protection that is effective and necessary. OSHA believes many of these slips, trips, and falls can be prevented and has devoted many years to assembling and analyzing information aimed at the elimination and prevention of hazards that cause these incidents.”

OSHA believes that the final rule will prevent 20 fatalities and over 3,000 injuries annually.