After 26 years, OSHA final rule nearing publication

Pennsylvania employees in a variety of occupations may soon find themselves better protected in the workplace following action taken by the White House Office of Management and Budget officials in early October 2016. According to a report published on Oct. 11, the OMB has now cleared the way for final publication of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s proposed rule for “Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems) in General Industry”.

Initially proposed in 1990, the rule has been a long time in the making. The proposal was reconfigured in 2010 with the objective of updating and aligning standards in the general industry to reflect current practices and consensus with OSHA standards in the shipyard and construction industries to the highest extent possible. Once final, the new rule could potentially prevent more than 3,000 injuries and 20 deaths each year, according to OSHA projections.

The rule is designed to improve existing general industry standards that already recognize use of physical barriers and guardrails in the workplace as viable means for protecting employees against trips, slips and falls. OSHA now recognizes that personal fall protection systems can also provide protection for employees against such workplace accidents, so upon final publication of the new rule, employers will be able to decide which system is most optimal in view of the particular work operation in progress.

Although the rule is designed to ensure that employees receive a necessary and effective level of protection, in actuality, this may not always be the case. Employees in Pennsylvania who are injured on the job may find it beneficial to consult a workers’compensation attorney concerning their rights under the law as well as the procedure for seeking benefits.