Slips, trips and falls are among the most common causes of workplace injuries. Knowing the requirements for stairs and ladders, guarding of floor and wall openings and the basics of fall protection is essential for any risk manager. In this session at WCI’s 2019 Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference, Vergie Bain, Compliance Assistance Specialist for the U.S. Department of Labor provided insight about the OSHA standards for this issue.
Slips, trips and falls are serious business. They cause 15% of all accidental deaths and are third only to violence and motor vehicles as a cause of workplace fatalities. OSHA standards for walking and working surfaces apply to all permanent places of employment.
Some of the most important OSHA standards for preventing these injuries are as follows:
- All workers that are exposed to fall hazards should be trained on potential hazards and how to protect themselves.
- Employees who use equipment (ladders, step stools, etc.) should be trained on how to safely use all equipment.
- Employees must be trained in a language and with vocabulary that they understand.
- Floors should be kept clean and dry, when possible.
- Drainage mats should be used when necessary.
- All areas should be kept free of protruding males, splinters, holes or loose boards.
- Aisles should be kept clear with no obstruction.
- Permanent aisles and passageways must be appropriately marked.
- Aisles traveled by vehicles must be sufficiently wide.
Covers and Guardrails
- Open pits, tanks, vats, ditches, etc. should be protected with covers and/or guardrails.
Open-Sided Floors & Platforms
- If over 4 feet in height, must be guarded by a standard railing on open sides.
- You must provide a toeboard whenever there is a falling object hazard.
- Ladders must be maintained in good condition at all times.
- They should be inspected frequently and those with defects should be tagged and removed from service.
- They should always be placed with secure footing and three-point contact.
- Short ladders must not be spliced together.
- Ladders should never be used as scaffolds or work platforms.
- Metal ladders must never be used near electrical equipment.
Scaffolds and Rope Descent Systems (RDS)
- General industry employers using scaffolds must now follow the construction industry standard.
- Employers may use RDS, which consist of a roof anchorage, support rope, descent device, carabiners or shackles, and a chair or seat board.
- Anchorages require certification.
- RDS are required to have a separate fall arrest system.
- There is a 300-foot height limit for the use of RDS.
- Building owners are required to affirm in writing that permanent building anchorages used for RDS have been tested, certified and maintained as capable of supporting 5,000 pounds for each worker attached.
OSHA does not exist to make life harder for business owners and risk managers. The standards they have put into place have saved innumerable lives over the past several decades. Adhering to these standards can reduce the frequency and severity of accidents caused by slips, trips and falls. At the end of the day, we all want to reach our goal of providing a safe work environment for employees.