The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has issued new fall protection rules, which better align L&I’s rules with federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and unify fall protection rules across all industries. Currently, Washington doesn’t have specific guidelines for the use of fall protection for general industry (which would typically apply to manufacturing employers), while industry-specific fall protection rules exist for several other industries. The purpose of the new rules is to consolidate the rules currently in place for various industries, implement clear standards for general industry, promote consistency across industries, and eliminate redundancy. The new rules take effect on October 1, 2020.
For employers who must comply with general industry standards, you should review the new rules to understand what’s required. Since these fall protection guidelines weren’t previously included in L&I’s regulations, the unified rule is technically a new standard. Here’s a brief summary of what’s covered:
The fall protection requirement for general industry is triggered at 0 feet if the employee is working above or adjacent to dangerous equipment, could fall/step/trip into holes, or could fall into impalement hazards. The trigger is 4 feet for platforms, walking/working surfaces, ramps, runways, etc. Other standards are listed for specific industries or equipment, which override the general industry standards if applicable. A “Quick Reference Guide” appears at the very beginning of the rules to help you determine which height standard applies for a particular working surface.
The definition of walking/working surfaces has been modified and the dimensional aspect of the surface has been removed.
A written fall protection work plan is required when working at heights of 10 feet or more (regardless of industry). The plan must identify potential fall hazards and the preventive measures implemented to protect employees when working from elevated work surfaces.
Employers must provide fall protection training to all employees working near a fall hazard. The rules specify what must be included in the training and require the employee to demonstrate an understanding and ability to use fall protection personal protective equipment (PPE) and other fall protection systems or equipment properly.
Tips: For questions about how these new rules apply to your facility, contact your Vigilant safety professional. We can help you determine what adjustments need to be made to ensure you’re in compliance with the new rules before they take effect in October.