Fall Protection

Safety Net – January 2017

OSHA's New Walking-Working Surfaces Standard


In November 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new set of proposed rules to update its General Industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards. The standards have not been updated since promulgation in 1971. Because of new technological developments and the success of the 1994 Construction standard, OSHA decided to update the General Industry standards using many of the Construction standard’s requirements and methods.

Since there are similarities between the existing Construction standard and the new General Industry standard, many employers who perform both types of work likely already comply with the new requirements. However, the following major changes will affect General Industry work:

  • The original General Industry standard called for the installation of handrails to prevent falls, unless handrail installation was not possible. The new standard does not require handrails as a first step, allowing employers to implement personal fall arrest systems instead.
  • Like the Construction Standard, the new General Industry standard requires a full body harnesses.
  • Fixed ladders greater than 24 feet long, used for accessing outdoor advertising, will now require:
    • The installation of a cage, well, ladder safety, or ladder climbing device within two years of the standard.
    • The installation of a ladder safety or ladder climbing device within 20 years of the standard.
    • All workers must be protected the entire length of the ladder. The preexisting qualified ladder-climber exemption is being phased out.


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