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.

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Photo of Tressi L. Cordaro Tressi L. Cordaro

Tressi L. Cordaro is a Principal in the Washington, D.C. Region office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She is co-leader of the firm’s Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group. She advises and represents employers on occupational safety and health matters before federal and state…

Tressi L. Cordaro is a Principal in the Washington, D.C. Region office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She is co-leader of the firm’s Workplace Safety and Health Practice Group. She advises and represents employers on occupational safety and health matters before federal and state OSHA enforcement agencies.

Ms. Cordaro has advised employers faced with willful and serious citations as the result of catastrophic events and fatalities, including citations involving multi-million dollar penalties. Ms. Cordaro’s approach to representing an employer cited by OSHA is to seek an efficient resolution of contested citations, reserving litigation as the option if the client’s business objectives cannot otherwise be achieved. As a result, she has secured OSHA withdrawals of citations without the need for litigation.

Ms. Cordaro’s unique experience with government agencies involved in OSHA enforcement enables her to provide employers with especially insightful guidance as to how regulators view OSHA compliance obligations, and evaluate contested cases.

Ms. Cordaro served as the Presidentially-appointed Legal Counsel and Special Advisor to the past Chairman and Commissioner Horace A. Thompson, III at the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission (OSHRC) in Washington, DC, the agency that adjudicates contested federal OSHA citations. As the Commissioner’s chief counsel, Ms. Cordaro analyzed all cases presented to the OSHRC and advocated the Commissioner’s position during decisional meetings.

In addition, Ms. Cordaro worked at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration developing OSHA standards, regulations and enforcement and compliance policies, with emphasis on the construction industry. She has in-depth experience on technical issues including, in particular, issues related to cranes and derricks in construction.