GENERAL INDUSTRY WALKING-WORKING SURFACES AND FALL PROTECTION STANDARDS FINAL RULE (OSHA 3903)

Falls from heights and on the same level are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA's long-established regulations for fall protection in the construction industry (1926 Subpart M) were applied to the general industry in 2016 in an expansion of the existing walking-working surface standard.

  • Applies to all general industry workplaces and covers all walking-working surfaces, which include horizontal and vertical surfaces such as floors, stairs, roofs, ladders, ramps, scaffolds, elevated walkways, and use of fall protection systems.
  • Requires employers to identify fall hazards in their workplace and establish plans and procedures for the elimination of or protection from them.
  • If fall protection or prevention is necessary, all components must be adequately rated, regularly inspected, and employees must be properly trained on their use.

Choice of Fall Protection

The final rule gives employers more choices in the type of providing fall protection equipment they are required to provide, allowing them to choose from:

  • guardrail systems
  • safety net systems
  • personal fall arrest systems
  • positioning systems
  • travel restrain systems
  • ladder safety systems
  • rope descent systems. 

Ladder Safety

A new rule regarding ladder safety requirements was established to protect workers from falling off of fixed and portable ladders as well as mobile ladder stands and platforms. 

Fixed ladders:

  • Employers must provide a ladder safety or personal fall arrest system for fixed ladders extending more than 24 feet.
  • Cages or wells must be phased out as fall protection equipment.

Portable ladders:

  • Rungs and steps must be slip-resistant
  • Ladders used on slippery surfaces must be secured and stabilized
  • Ladders must not be moved, shifted, or extended while a worker is on them
  • Top steps and caps must not be used as steps
  • Ladders must not be fastened together to provide added length unless designed for such use.
  • Ladders must not be placed on boxes, barrels, or other unstable bases to obtain added height. 

Training Requirements

The rule adds a requirement that employers ensure workers who use personal fall protection and work in other specified high hazard situations are trained by a qualified person and in a language that workers understand. Additionally, retraining must be provided when there is a change in workplace operations or equipment or if employer believes that a worker needs additional training based on lack of knowledge or demonstrated skill.

A qualified person must train these workers to correctly:

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