What OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Rules Really Mean for Employers

on March 5, 2019

It’s going on two years since the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its final rule on walking-working surfaces and fall protection standards, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less confusing!

Not to worry. We’re here to break it down for you.

5 Things You Need to Know to Follow Walking-Working Surfaces Rules

1. Walking-Working Surfaces are Horizontal AND Vertical.

Think of a walking-working surface as whatever is underneath your employees’ feet. It could be the floor and it could be the rungs of a ladder.

With a broadened view of how you think about these surfaces, you can inspect them for defects and remedy them.

Best practices: Check worksite surfaces once a quarter or hire a reputable consultant to do so. Document your location, who did the evaluation, and when it was done.

2. Generally, If Employees Work 4 Feet or Higher Off the Ground, Use a Fall Protection System.

People are afraid of heights for a reason. Workers have died from falls of less than 6 feet; head injuries are common. As such, employers are required to set up the workplace to prevent employees from falling off overhead platforms and work surfaces, into holes, onto equipment, etc.

3. Choose the Right Fall Protection and Personal Protective Equipment for the Job.

There are 5 primary systems that employers use to reduce employees’ risk of falling. The trick is choosing the right one.

SystemSuited For
GuardrailsUnprotected or exposed sides. Best for stairways, raised platforms.
Safety NetsBreaking a fall.
Personal Fall ArrestHands free work situations. Best for ladders extending 24+ feet, catching a slip from a perch.
Positioning SystemsSupporting an employee working on an elevated surface. Leaving both hands free. Best for working on walls.
Travel RestraintTethering employees; prevents them from reaching the fall hazard. Best for elevated work stations.

4. Train & Retrain Employees.

Every year, retrain employees on slips, trips, and fall prevention and how to correctly use personal protective equipment, including fall protection systems. Ensure new hires also go through an orientation process to cover these topics.

Best practices: Have accredited professionals deliver this training. Consider using a reputable outside firm for online and on-site training with automated testing and tracking protocols.

5. Fix Issues. Now.

The longer you wait to deal with hazards, the greater your risk for injuries, fines, and lawsuits. Don’t be that company in the headlines receiving endless negative press. Make quality repairs as soon as possible. In the meantime, set up guards to help employees proceed with caution.

Jill Schaefer

Jill Schaefer

Jill is the Content and Community Manager here at KPA. She breaks down complex regulations into why they matter and what they mean for clients. In short, she tries to make compliance easier and help employers do the right things.

In her spare time, she is equal parts crazy cat lady, triathlete, and pizza connoisseur.

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Jill SchaeferWhat OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Rules Really Mean for Employers

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