Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association


New OSHA fall protection rule gives employers more flexibility

Jan 13, 2017

To align fall protection requirements in general industry workplaces with construction sites, OSHA has issued a new standard for “Walking and Working Surfaces in General Industry.”

Per OSHA, “The final rule will increase consistency and make compliance easier between the general industry and construction standards.”

This new rule affects SMACNA members working in general industry (non-construction) workplaces such as fabrication shops, client facilities, rooftops, commercial and residential service, and other related activities.

Employers can choose fall protection systems

The final rule allows employers to protect workers from falls by choosing from a range of accepted fall protection systems including personal fall protection systems.

It eliminates the existing mandate to use guardrails as the primary fall protection method and gives employers the flexibility to determine what method they believe will work best in their specific workplace situation.

Compliance date is Jan. 17

The initial compliance date for worker training and inspection of walking and working surfaces including fall protection systems is Jan. 17, 2017. However, many of the provisions are already in place, since the rule addresses engineered building design and performance such as fixed ladders, exit ways, and stairs.

An OSHA Fact Sheet summarizes the requirements, including the need to train workers exposed to fall hazards in general industry settings.

A qualified individual must train these workers to correctly:

  • Identify and minimize fall hazards;
  • Use proper personal fall protection systems and rope descent systems; and
  • Maintain, inspect, and store equipment or systems used for fall protection.

The final rule requires that employers inspect walking-working surfaces such as floors, stairs, roofs, ramps, and pathways regularly; and correct, repair, or guard against hazardous conditions as needed.

For more information contact Mike McCullion, director of market sectors and safety ( / (703) 995-4027).