OSHA has published a proposed rule that would revise requirements governing the prevention of slips, trips, and falls in general industry workplaces.  OSHA’s "Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems)" proposed rule impacts virtually every general industry workplace in the country.  Slips, trips, and falls are one of the leading causes of OSHA recordable injuries and OSHA estimates that its proposed rule will prevent 20 fatalities and 3,500 serious injuries every year.

The proposed rule revises OSHA’s Subparts D and I of the general industry standards related to ladders, scaffolds, and fall protection, among other things.  The rules also include the general requirement that employers keep places of employment, passageways, storerooms and service rooms clean and in a sanitary condition, a requirement that has been widely applied by OSHA to a number of workplace hazards, including combustible dust.

Some of the key aspects of the proposal are:

  • OSHA reiterates the application of the general housekeeping requirement to combustible dust and seeks comment on whether this should be explicitly included in the final rule;
  • OSHA proposes several requirements for rope descent systems, commonly used in window cleaning operations;
  • OSHA reiterates the fundamental duty to provide fall protection in general industry when employees could fall a distance of 4-feet or greater; and
  • OSHA proposes to eliminate the use of body belts as part of personal fall arrest systems in general industry operations.

Given the breadth of this proposed rule, all general industry employers are encouraged to review it and comment on it.  Written comments, along with requests for a hearing, are due to the Agency by August 23, 2010.