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OSHA updates slips, trips and falls rule

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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration published its long-awaited slips, trips and falls rule on Thursday.

The final rule updates OSHA’s general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slips, trips and fall hazards and features a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems, the agency said Thursday in a statement. 

OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994, and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry, according to OSHA. Other changes include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level, prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.  

OSHA estimates the final standard, which becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, will prevent 29 fatalities and more than 5,842 injuries annually. The rule will affect about 112 million workers at 7 million worksites, the agency estimates.

“The final rule will increase workplace protection from those hazards, especially fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and injuries,” Assistant Secretary of Labor David Michaels said in the statement. “OSHA believes advances in technology and greater flexibility will reduce worker deaths and injuries from falls.”  

The agency temporarily withdrew the proposed slips, trips and falls rule from the White House review process in December 2015 as agency officials focused on publishing its silica and electronic recordkeeping rules, but Mr. Michaels told Business Insurance in June that completing the slips, trips and falls rule by the end of 2016 was an agency priority.