Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems Final Rule
Frequently Asked Questions
The intent of OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces standard, 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart D & I, is to increase the protection of general industry employees and employers from hazards associated with walking-working surfaces. The rulemaking will significantly reduce the number of worker deaths and injuries that occur each year resulting from workplace slip, trip, and fall hazards. The final rule was published on November 18, 2016, and became effective on January 17, 2017. Some requirements in the final rule have compliance dates after the effective date and will be discussed in further detail below. This final rule and the associated preamble, providing more detailed explanation of the rule, is available on the Federal Register website at 81 FR 82494, Walking-Working Surfaces; Personal Protective Equipment; Final Rule, November 18, 2016.
OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. The Agency’s interpretations explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they do not create additional employer obligations. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by legislative or rulemaking changes to OSHA requirements. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA’s website at http://www.osha.gov.
This webpage provides guidance, in a question and answer format, regarding OSHA’s Final Rule, Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment, 29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart D and I. These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are divided into five sections: general questions, rope descent system (RDS) questions, outdoor advertising questions, residential roof questions, and agricultural operation questions.
The final rule updates and revises the outdated general industry Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems) standards on slip, trip, and fall hazards, which are a leading cause of worker deaths and lost-workday injuries (29 CFR part 1910, subparts D and I). OSHA adopted the existing standards in 1971 and had not updated them since. The final rule also adds new requirements on personal fall protection systems (29 CFR part 1910, subpart I).
OSHA estimates the final rule will prevent 29 worker deaths and 5,842 lost-workday injuries each year. Additionally, because the final rule harmonizes general industry requirements with OSHA's existing construction industry standard and many ANSI standards, the new rule will make compliance obligations clearer and less costly. OSHA estimates the annual monetized benefits of the lives saved and injuries prevented will be $614.5 million (with net benefits of $309.5 million (benefits minus costs)).
The final rule increases worker protection in many ways. The rule:
- Eliminates the hazard of workers climbing extended heights on fixed ladders without fall protection by phasing out the use of qualified climbers in outdoor advertising;
- Phases in a requirement that fixed ladders (over 24 feet) must be equipped with ladder safety or personal fall protection systems to prevent workers from falling or arresting their fall before contact with a lower level;
- Provides performance criteria for personal fall protection equipment in general industry, similar to the criteria used in OSHA's construction industry rules since 1994;
- Requires the use of body harnesses, and prohibits body belts, in personal fall arrest systems to distribute fall arrest forces over a larger area of a worker's body; and
- Requires that workers who use personal fall protection and other covered equipment be trained, and retrained as necessary, in fall and equipment hazards prior to work at elevated heights and use of that equipment, including fall protection systems.
The rule is easier for employers to follow and provides employers with greater flexibility. For example, it:
- Provides compliance flexibility for employers by increasing the fall protection options employers may use;
- Provides greater consistency between OSHA's general industry and construction standards, which makes compliance simpler for employers who perform both general industry and construction activities;
- Incorporates advances in technology, industry best practices, and national consensus standards, which provide employers with effective and cost-efficient measures to protect workers;
- Replaces outdated specification requirements with more flexible performance-based language and criteria, and makes the rule clearer for employers and workers to understand and follow.
The rule 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.
The final rule covers a wide variety of general industry firms including building management services, utilities, warehousing, retail, window cleaning, chimney sweeping, and outdoor advertising.
A number of revisions were made to the existing general industry standards. Changes and new requirements include:
- Fall protection flexibility (§1910.28(b)). 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 is more effective in their particular workplace situation. This approach has been successful in the construction industry since 1994. The rule allows employers to use non-conventional fall protection practices in certain situations, such as designated areas on low-slope roofs for work that is temporary and infrequent and fall protection plans on residential roofs when employers can demonstrate guardrail, safety net, or personal fall protection systems are not feasible or create a greater hazard (§1910.28(b)(1) and (b)(13));
- Updated scaffold requirements (§1910.27(a)). The final rule replaces the outdated general industry scaffold standards with the requirement that employers comply with OSHA's construction scaffold standards;
- Phase-in of ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems on fixed ladders (§1910.28(b)(9)). The final rule phases in - over a 20-year period - a requirement to equip fixed ladders (that extend over 24 feet) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems, and prohibits the use of cages and wells as a means of fall protection after the phase-in deadline. There is wide recognition that cages and wells do not prevent workers from falling from fixed ladders or protect them from injury if a fall occurs. The final rule grandfathers in cages and wells on existing ladders, but requires that employers equip new ladders and replacement ladders/ladder sections with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems during the phase-in period;
- Phase-out of the “qualified climber” exception in outdoor advertising (§1910.28(b)(10)). The final rule phases out OSHA's directive allowing qualified climbers in outdoor advertising to climb fixed ladders on billboards without fall protection and phases in the requirement to equip fixed ladders (over 24 feet) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems. Outdoor advertising employers must follow the fall protection phase-in timeline for fixed ladders. However, if ladders do not have any fall protection, outdoor advertising employers have two years to comply with the existing standard (i.e., install a cage or well) or, instead, may install a ladder safety or personal fall arrest system, both of which are less costly than cages or wells;
- Rope descent systems (RDS) and certification of anchorages (§1910.27(b)). The final rule codifies OSHA's memorandum for employers who use RDS to perform elevated work. It prohibits employers from using RDS at heights greater than 300 feet above grade unless they demonstrate it is not feasible or creates a greater hazard to use any other system above that height. In addition, the final rule requires building owners to provide, and employers to obtain, information that permanent anchorages used with RDS have been inspected, tested, certified, and maintained as capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds per employee attached.
- Personal fall protection system performance and use requirements (§1910.140). The final rule, which allows employers to use personal fall protection systems (i.e., personal fall arrest, travel restraint, and positioning systems), adds requirements on the performance, inspection, use, and maintenance of these systems. Like OSHA's construction standards, the final rule prohibits the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system;
- Inspection of walking-working surfaces (§1910.22(d)). The final rule requires that employers inspect walking-working surfaces regularly as needed and correct, repair, or guard against hazardous conditions; and
- Training (§1910.30). The final rule adds requirements that employers ensure workers who use personal fall protection and work in other specified high hazard situations are trained, and retrained as necessary, regarding fall and equipment hazards and fall protection systems. Employers must provide information and training to each worker in a manner the worker understands.
The effective date was January 17, 2017, which was 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. OSHA also provided delayed or phased-in compliance dates for several requirements in the final rule, including:
- Training workers on fall and equipment hazards — May 17, 2017;
- Inspection and certification of permanent building anchorages — November 20, 2017;
- Installation of fall protection (personal fall arrest systems, ladder safety systems, cages, wells) on existing fixed ladders (over 24 feet) that do not have any fall protection — November 19, 2018;
- Installation of ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems on new fixed ladders (over 24 feet) and replacement ladders/ladder sections — November 19, 2018; and
- Installation of ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems on all fixed ladders (over 24 feet) — November 18, 2036.
Yes. States with OSHA-approved State Plans have six months to adopt standards that are at least as effective as Federal OSHA standards. Many State Plans adopt standards identical to OSHA, but some State Plans may have different or more stringent requirements.
What resources are available to help small businesses and other employers comply with the standards?
OSHA recognizes that most employers want to keep their employees safe and protect them from workplace hazards. We therefore provide extensive compliance assistance through our Compliance Assistance Specialists, website, publications, webinars, and training programs, many of which are geared toward small and mid-sized employers.
OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program offers free and confidential occupational safety and health services to small and medium-sized businesses in all states and several territories, with priority given to high-hazard worksites. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs. To locate the OSHA On-Site Consultation Program nearest you, call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/index.html. In FY 2017, the On-Site Consultation Program conducted more than 25,987 free visits to small and medium-sized business worksites, helping to remove more than 2.9 million workers from hazards nationwide.
Rope Descent Systems
The rule defines RDS as a suspension system that allows a worker to descend in a controlled manner and, as needed, stop at any point during the descent to perform work. An RDS usually consists of a roof anchorage, support rope, descent device, carabiners or shackles, and chair (seatboard). An RDS also is called controlled descent equipment or apparatus, but it does not include industrial rope access systems.
Employers have used RDS for exterior building cleaning, particularly window cleaning; maintenance; and inspection operations.
OSHA first established requirements for the use of RDS in a 1991 Memorandum to Regional Administrators. The final rule incorporates those requirements and requires that employers ensure each RDS:
- Is not used for heights greater than 300 feet, unless the employer demonstrates that it is not feasible or creates a greater hazard to access such heights by any other means (e.g., powered platforms);
- Is used in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, warnings and design limitations or under the direction of a qualified person;
- Is inspected before initial use during a workshift;
- Has proper rigging, including anchorages and tiebacks;
- Has a separate and independent personal fall arrest system;
- Has components that are all capable of sustaining 5,000-pound minimum rated load (except seatboards, which must be able to support 300 pounds);
- Has ropes that are protected to prevent cuts and weakening and exposure to open flames, hot work, corrosive chemicals and destructive conditions;
- Has stabilization when descents are greater than 130 feet; and
- Is not used when hazardous weather conditions are present.
In addition, the final rule requires that employers:
- Obtain written information from building owners assuring that permanent RDS anchorages have been tested, certified and maintained before employers use them (also see enforcement guidance dated November 20, 2017 (https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2017-11-20);
- Ensure each worker who uses an RDS receives training;
- Ensure each worker who uses an RDS secures tools to prevent them from falling on persons below; and
- Provide prompt rescue of each worker in the event of a fall.
Evidence shows that using RDS at heights above 300 feet (greater than 30 stories) can be dangerous, particularly due to the effects of wind on longer ropes. OSHA adopted the 300-foot height limit from the ANSI/IWCA I-14.1 – 2001 national consensus standard on window cleaning. The final rule permits employers to use RDS above 300 feet only in cases where an employer demonstrates it is not feasible or creates a greater hazard to access such heights by any other means (e.g., powered platforms).
Several states limit the use of RDS to certain heights. Like the final rule, Minnesota and Washington limit the use of RDS to 300 feet above grade. California does not allow RDS use above 130 feet and requires installation of powered platforms or swing stage scaffolds on all buildings with a height greater than 130 feet.
New York’s state regulations do not allow the use of RDS. See Question 6 below.
The final rule does not affect California, Minnesota, and Washington regulations restricting the heights at which employers may use RDS because these regulations were issued through OSHA-approved occupational safety and health State Plans that cover both private sector and state and local government employees.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act ("OSH Act") preempts state regulation of occupational safety and health issues for which there is a federal OSHA standard, unless the state's regulations are created under the auspices of an OSHA-approved State Plan. State Plans are required to have standards, and an enforcement program for those standards, that are at least as effective as federal OSHA. The OSH Act allows for State Plans to be more effective than OSHA, and as such, states with OSHA-approved State Plans can adopt standards that provide a greater level of protection to workers covered by the State Plan. Full-coverage State Plans, like CA, MN and WA, can continue to impose equal or lower height restriction for RDS use in both private sector and state and local government workplaces.
New York has an OSHA-approved State Plan that is limited to state and local government workers. OSHA's final rule preempts the New York regulations as it applies to private sector workers, but not as it applies to state and local government workers.
The final rule phases in a requirement to equip fixed ladders (over 24 feet) on billboards with fall protection, and to ensure outdoor advertising workers use the fall protection while climbing fixed ladders. The final rule establishes the following timeline for installing fall protection on billboard fixed ladders:
- Outdoor advertising employers have two years to install a cage, well, ladder safety system, or personal fall arrest system on billboard fixed ladders that are not equipped with any fall protection (§1910.28(b)(10)(ii));
- Outdoor advertising employers have 20 years to install a ladder safety or personal fall arrest system on billboard fixed ladders that have a cage or well (§1910.28(b)(9)(i)(D));
- Outdoor advertising employers must equip new billboard ladders with a ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system (§1910.28(b)(9)(i)(B)); and
- Outdoor advertising employers must equip billboard ladder and section replacements with a ladder safety system or personal fall arrest system (§1910.28(b)(9)(i)(C)).
Before the deadlines, outdoor advertising employers are only required to install fall protection (i.e., ladder safety systems) where the length of a climb exceeds 50 feet or the height of the ladder extends more than 65 feet above grade.
How long can "qualified climbers" climb fixed ladders in outdoor advertising without using fall protection?
Qualified climbers may continue to climb billboard fixed ladders (over 24 feet) without fall protection during the two-year phase-in period for installing some type of fall protection (i.e., cage, well, ladder safety system, personal fall arrest system) on those ladders. During this period, outdoor advertising employers also must ensure that each qualified climber:
- Receives training and demonstrates the physical capability to perform climbs;
- Wears a body harness equipped with an 18-inch rest lanyard;
- Keeps both hands free of objects when climbing the fixed ladder; and
- Uses fall protection after reaching the work position (§1910.28(b)(10)(ii)(A) – (D)).
Once billboard ladders are equipped with some type of fall protection, outdoor advertising employers must ensure workers use those systems while climbing.
What effect will the new fall protection requirements for fixed ladders in the outdoor advertising industry have on the "qualified climber" exception?
The final rule phases out OSHA’s 1993 policy that allows "qualified climbers" to climb billboard fixed ladders without any fall protection. Once phase-in deadlines arrive, outdoor advertising employers must ensure that all billboard fixed ladders (over 24 feet) are equipped with fall protection and all workers use those systems during the entire length of the climb.
OSHA is phasing out the qualified climber exception and requiring that fixed ladders in outdoor advertising be equipped with fall protection for several reasons:
- Workers are at risk of death and injury whenever they climb elevated heights on fixed ladders without fall protection. The final rule's fall protection requirements will eliminate or reduce falls from fixed ladders in this industry.
- Requiring workers to use fall protection while they are climbing will help to ensure that they remain tied off when they reach the work platform and begin work.
- The fall hazards on fixed ladders in outdoor advertising are not unique to that industry and therefore OSHA believes it is reasonable and appropriate that those ladders meet the same requirements as all other fixed ladders;
- Advances in technology since OSHA issued its 1993 policy have made ladder safety and personal fall arrest systems on fixed ladders feasible, effective and affordable for the outdoor advertising industry; and
- The final rule eliminates the exception that allows workers to climb extended heights on fixed ladders without fall protection. OSHA recently eliminated a similar exception that allowed workers to climb electric utility poles without fall protection.
Providing additional compliance time to equip billboard fixed ladders (over 24 feet) with fall protection ensures the final rule is economically feasible and cost effective for the outdoor advertising industry:
- Where billboard fixed ladders already have some type of fall protection, the final rule gives outdoor advertising employers up to 20 years to install ladder safety systems or personal fall arrest systems. OSHA estimates that the useful life of outdoor advertising fixed ladders is approximately 20 years. Therefore, in the overwhelming majority of cases outdoor advertising employers will be able to comply with the final rule during normal equipment replacement cycles;
- Where billboard fixed ladders do not have fall protection, the final rule gives outdoor advertising employers two years to come into compliance with the existing standard, which eases the economic impacts of the rule and gives employers time to negotiate with manufacturers/vendors for the most cost-effective system. In addition, although the existing standard requires that fixed ladders (over 20 feet) be equipped with cages or wells, the rule allows outdoor advertising employers to equip billboard fixed ladders with ladder safety or personal fall arrest systems, which cost less than cages and wells.
The final rule requires that employers must provide guardrail, safety net, or personal fall protection systems to protect workers from falling off unprotected sides/edges of residential roofs that are four feet or more above a lower level. (Fall protection is not required when inspecting, investigating, or assessing workplace conditions or work prior to the start of work or after all work is completed (§1910.28(a)(2)(ii).)
When the employer can demonstrate that it is not feasible or creates a greater hazard to use guardrail, safety net, or personal fall protection systems on a residential roof, the employer must develop and implement:
- a fall protection plan; and
The employer's fall protection plan and training must meet the requirements of the construction fall protection standard (29 CFR 1926.502(k) and 1926.503(a) and (c)).
OSHA believes that limiting the use of fall protection plans to those situations in which guardrail, safety net, or personal fall protection systems cannot be used ensures that employers use alternative, less-protective control measures only as a last resort.
Who must show that using fall protection systems on a residential roof is not feasible or creates a greater hazard?
The agency's position is that in virtually all work operations on residential roofs, employers can protect workers from falling by providing guardrail, safety net, or personal fall protection systems. The employer has the burden to establish that it is not feasible, or will create a greater hazard, to provide any fall protection in the particular residential roof operation, and that it is permitted to implement a fall protection plan pursuant to §1910.28(b)(1)(ii).
The employer must develop and implement a fall protection plan that contains all of the following requirements. The plan must:
- Be prepared by a "qualified" person;
- Be developed for the particular site where the work will be performed;
- Be maintained up-to-date and at the job site;
- Be implemented under the supervision of a "competent person;"
- Identify each location or situations where fall protection systems cannot be used;
- Document the reasons why fall protection systems are infeasible or would create a greater hazard;
- Discuss alternative measures the employer will take to eliminate or reduce the fall hazard for workers;
- Provide for implementation of control measures to reduce or eliminate hazards or implement a safety monitoring system that complies with the construction standard (29 CFR 1926.502(h));
- Identify each worker who works in a location where a fall protection plan is implemented; and
- Provide for the investigation of the circumstances of any fall or other serious incident that occurs to determine whether the employer needs to revise the fall protection plan and implement those changes.
OSHA included this provision in the final rule to increase consistency between its general industry and construction standards, and make compliance more uniform for general industry employers who perform both types of activities on residential roofs. Also, requiring employers to develop and implement a fall protection plan ensures that employers take additional action to reduce fall hazards when guardrail, safety net, and personal fall protection systems cannot be used. Many stakeholders urged OSHA to add this provision to the rule.
Although OSHA believes that walking-working surfaces hazards, particularly fall hazards, are present in agricultural operations, it did not propose to cover agricultural operations, nor gather and analyze the type of information necessary to support its inclusion in the rule. In addition, because the proposed rule did not cover agricultural operations, the public, and in particular agricultural stakeholders, did not have an opportunity to comment on any protective measures OSHA might require.
Although the final rule does not define agricultural operations, in the past OSHA has said they include:
- Activities involved in growing and harvesting (including field sorting) of crops, plants, vines, fruit and nut trees, ornamental plants, egg production, and raising livestock, poultry, fish and livestock products (e.g., feed for livestock on the farm); and
- Preparation of the ground, sowing, watering and feeding of plants, weeding, spraying, harvesting, raising livestock, and all activity necessary for these activities.
In addition, activities integrally related to these core agricultural activities (e.g., delivery of feed to chickens) also are considered agricultural operations. Determining whether an activity is a core agricultural operation is made on a case-by-case basis based on the nature and character of the specific activity.
What activities are not core agricultural operations and, therefore, not excluded from the final rule?
Post-harvesting activities are not integrally related to core agricultural operations and therefore are considered to be general industry activities covered by the rule. These general industry post-harvesting activities include:
- Post-harvesting activities not on a farm, such as receiving, sorting, cleaning, sorting, sizing, weighing, inspecting, stacking, packaging and shipping; and
- Processing of agricultural products that change the character of the product (e.g., canning, making sauces) or involve a higher degree of packaging in a shed or other location (instead of field sorting).
Also, activities performed on a farm that "are not related to farming operations and are not necessary to gain economic value from products produced on the farm" are general industry activities the final rule covers. These activities include:
- Grain handling operations that store and sell grain grown on other farms;
- Grain milling facilities and the use of milled flour to make baked goods; and
- Food processing facilities and manufacturing operations, such as making cider from apples grown on the farm and processing large carrots into "baby carrots."
Would climbing a fixed ladder in a full body harness and using double lanyards to tie off and maintain 100% connection to the fixed ladder be in compliance with the fall protection requirements in §1910.28(b)(9) if the ladder meets the standard’s requirements for anchorages?
A double lanyard system that consists of a body harness, lanyards and an anchorage meets the definition of personal fall arrest system in the final rule, provided those components meet all of the applicable requirements in §1910.140(c) and (d). For example, the lanyards must have a minimum breaking strength of 5,000 pounds and anchorages (the fixed ladder in this instance) used to attach to the personal fall arrest systems must be capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds for each employee attached.
To determine whether a fixed ladder extends more than 24 feet above a lower level, is the measurement done from the ground level/lower level to the fixed ladder or from where the ladder starts to the top of it?
For purposes of §1910.28(b)(9), the employer must measure the distance from the ground/lower level to the top of the fixed ladder. If that distance exceeds 24 feet, regardless of the length of the ladder, the employer must equip the fixed ladder with fall protection.
Are grab bars required on step-through ladders? Would side rail extensions required in §1910.23(d)(5) serve to meet the requirement for grab bars?
The final rule does not require that employers equip step-through fixed ladders with grab bars. However, §1910.23(d)(4) requires that side rails on step-through fixed ladders extend 42 inches above the top of the access level or landing platform served by the ladder. Workers must have sufficient handholds at least 42 inches above the highest level on which they will step when reaching the access level regardless of the location of the access level (i.e., roof or top of parapet). (82 FR 82542)
If a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system is required on one section of a fixed ladder, are all sections required to have a personal fall arrest system or ladder safety system even if those other sections are less than 24 ft. in length?
Whether an employer must equip a fixed ladder or ladder sections with fall protection depends on the height the ladder extends above a lower level, and thus the distance a worker on the ladder could fall, not the length of the particular ladder section. Section 1910.28(b)(9)(i) requires that employers equip fixed ladders with personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems if the ladder extends more than 24 feet above a lower level. For example, if a multiple section or side-step ladder extends more than 24 feet above the ground, the employer must equip the entire ladder with personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems. Although the length of each section of the ladder may be less than 24 feet, a worker on that ladder could fall more than 24 feet. OSHA also notes that §1910.28(b)(9)(ii)(A) requires that employers must ensure that a fixed ladder equipped with a personal fall arrest or ladder safety system on more than one section provides protection for the entire vertical distance of the ladder, including all ladder sections.
Does the exception to the 9.5-inch riser height and 9.5-inch tread depth requirements for stairs installed before January 17, 2017 (§1910.25(c)(5)), also apply to stairs designed and fabricated, but not yet installed, by that date?
Stairs with design drawings issued for construction or that were in fabrication before January 17, 2017, but not installed, will be in compliance if they met the previous requirements for standard stairs.
Under the previous standard, stairs with a handrail that doubles as a stair rail could have a rail height of 30 to 34 inches. If an employer’s stairs were installed prior to January 17, 2017, must the rails have a minimum height of 36 inches if the stair rail doubles as a handrail?
The final rule does not affect stair rail systems and handrails installed before January 17, 2017 that were in compliance with the requirements in the old standard.
Does the requirement that standard stairs have a slope between 30 to 50 degrees apply to stairs installed after January 17, 2017?
Yes. The final rule limits the maximum rise height and minimum tread depth to 9.5 inches for standard stairs installed after January 17, 2017. Therefore, the maximum angle for standard stairs is 45 degrees.
Are stairs installed after January 17, 2017, that have an angle of 50 degrees considered to be ships stairs?
The final rule defines ship stairs as “a stairway that is equipped with treads, stair rails, and open risers, and has a slope of 50 to 70 degrees.” Ship stairs must also comply with §1910.25(b) and (e), such as a minimum tread depth of 4 inches, a minimum tread width of 18 inches, and a vertical clearance above any stair tread to any overhead obstruction of at least 6 feet 8 inches.
What if the doorway described in §1910.25(b)(5)(ii) and shown in figure D-7 is perpendicular to the direction of travel and opens onto the landing? Does the same dimension apply to this condition?
Yes. As figure D-7 illustrates, Section 1910.25(b)(5) requires that a platform be provided when a door or a gate opens directly onto a stairway. For platforms installed after January 17, 2017, the final rule also requires that employers ensure the swing of the door or gate does not reduce the "effective usable depth" of the platform to less than 22 inches (§1910.25(b)(5)(ii)). The preamble to the final rule describes “effective usable depth” as the portion of the platform beyond the swing of the door where a worker can stand when opening the door (82 FR 82557). The provision applies equally to stairway doors that are perpendicular to the direction of travel.
Are fixed stairs attached to the exterior of tanks required to comply with the requirements of §1910.25(b) or would those stairs fall under the exemptions in §1910.25(a)?
The exception from the stair requirements in §1910.25(a) only applies to stairs serving floating roof tanks, stairs on scaffolds, stairs on self-propelled motorized equipment, or stairs designed into machines or equipment. For stairs on the exterior of other tanks, employers would have to ensure they comply with the requirements in §1910.25(b) and (c).
Would winding stairs attached to tanks be required to meet the requirements in §1910.25(d) for spiral stairs?
No. Section 1910.21(b) defines spiral stairs as a "series of treads attached to a vertical pole in a winding fashion, usually within a cylindrical space" (emphasis added). Winding stairs attached to tanks do not have vertical poles; therefore, they are not spiral stairs and must meet the requirements of §1910.25(b) and (c).
Mobile Ladder Stands
The final rule at §1910.23(b)(11) requires that workers face the ladder when climbing up or down. Since the definition of ladder includes mobile ladder stands, does the final rule prohibit workers from climbing down a mobile ladder stand while facing away from it if the ladder stand has a slope of 50 degrees or less?
OSHA will not consider it a violation of the standard if employees face away while descending mobile ladder stands and mobile ladder stand platforms if the slope of the steps is 50 degrees or less and the units comply with other requirements in 29 CFR 1910.23(b) and (e).
Exception for Inspections and Assessments
Section 1910.28(a)(2)(ii) exempts employers inspecting, investigating, or assessing workplace conditions or work to be performed prior to the start of work or after all work has been completed from the requirement to provide fall protection. Do company security personnel who routinely and frequently access low-slope roofs to perform security inspections fall under the exception?
The exception in §1910.28(a)(2)(ii) is limited to inspections and assessments of workplace conditions prior to the start of work or after all work has been completed. Section 1910.28(a)(2)(ii) does not apply to workers conducting routine and frequent security inspections on low-slope roofs.
Load Capacity of Working Surfaces
No. The final rule replaced the existing specification requirement - that employers post approved load ratings in buildings - with a performance-based provision. The new provision requires that employers ensure walking-working surfaces can support the "maximum intended load" for that surface. The final rule defines the maximum intended load as the total load (weight and force) of all employees, equipment, vehicles, tools, materials and other loads the employer reasonably anticipates will be applied to a walking-working surface at any one time. The posting requirement was deemed unnecessary because load information is available in building plans, and engineers take maximum loads into consideration when designing industrial surfaces (81 FR 82526).