Even regulations can be outdated and ineffective. Falls are the leading cause of injury and fatalities in the workplace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consensus of Fatal Occupational Injuries. Launching a sweeping overhaul of the walking-working surfaces and PPE standards to prevent injuries from slips, trips, and falls, OSHA acknowledged that most of its existing standards are more than 30 years old and inconsistent with both national consensus standards and more recent OSHA standards addressing fall protection.

Citing the 2009 death of a worker at a chocolate processing plant who fell from an unguarded work platform, OSHA's proposed rulemaking includes significant revisions to the existing general industry scaffold standards to better protect workers from such injuries.

As the rule stands now, for the most part, employers are only required to use guardrail systems. Under the proposed rule, employers would have to install a second layer of safety by also choosing the most effective fall protection option as added protection, ranging from the traditional safety nets to self-retracting lanyards. The proposed rule also would allow OSHA to fine employers who allow workers to climb certain ladders without fall protection.

In proposing the new rule, OSHA administrator David Michaels referred to the 2009 accident by stating, "This is a clear and grave example of the human cost incurred when fall protection safeguards are absent, ignored, or inadequate."

Learn more about this regulation by visiting www.osha.gov.

Feature: Protecting Employees in the Workplace