OSHA’s newest regulations are in full swing — literally

MARCH 27, 2019 2:59 PM

OSHA's walking-working surfaces standard has been revised and published. Whether you call them swing gates, safety gates, ladder-way gates, drop bars or chains, the new OSHA standard is in effect and it's time to address the changes.

When discussing the new ruling, the Federal Register states, “OSHA estimates that final standard rule will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 injuries annually. Fall protection violations, injuries and fatalities continue to consistently be on OSHA’s top 10 list and most recently have claimed the top spot in 2016 and 2017.”

OSHA’s recent update clarifies the previous walking-working surfaces rule by defining the rule’s purpose, as well as exact specifications surrounding the use of safety gates in and around vulnerable openings.

When comparing the revised OSHA standard with the previous, you’ll notice OSHA has added very specific details regarding the use of safety gates. Let’s look at the new safety gate standard, how it affects your business, how to evaluate your current safe access/fall protection configuration and any needed modifications that help ensure you get your team home safe at the end of each day.

The previous OSHA standard states:

  • OSHA 1910.23(a): “Protection for floor openings.” Every ladder-way floor opening or platform shall be guarded by a standard railing with standard toeboard on all exposed sides, except at entrances to openings, with the passage through the railing either provided with a swinging gate or so offset that a person cannot walk directly into the opening.
  • OSHA 1910.23(c): “Protection of open-sided floors, platforms and runways.” Every open-sided floor or platform 4 feet or more above adjacent floors or ground level shall be guarded by a standard railing, or the equivalent as specified in paragraph (e)(3) of this section, on all open sides except where there is entrance to a ramp, stairway or fixed ladder. The railing shall be provided with a toeboard, beneath the open sides.

The newest OSHA revisions include the following criteria for OSHA 1910.29 (b): “Fall protection systems and falling object protection — criteria and practices.” The employer must ensure guardrail systems meet the following requirements:

  • (13)(i) Has a self-closing gate that slides or swings away from the hole, and is equipped with a top rail and mid-rail, or equivalent intermediate member, that meets the requirements in paragraph (b) of this section; or (13)(ii) is offset to prevent an employee from walking or falling into the hole.
  • (2)(i) Mid-rails are installed at a height midway between the top edge of the guardrail system and the walking-working surface.
  • (2)(iv) Other equivalent intermediate members, such as additional mid-rails and architectural panels, are installed so that the openings are not more than 19 inches (48 centimeters) wide.

To provide even more insight, below is a simplified list of some key areas to focus on when evaluating your current conditions. These can be used to help you determine the appropriate course of action in and around any holes, openings or current access points with or without safety gates.

OSHA’s standard requires that a safety gate:

  • Must be self-closing.
  • Must either slide or swing away from the hole.
  • Must be equipped with top rails and mid-rails, or equivalent intermediate members, that meet the requirements in final paragraph (b)(13)(i).
  • Must have a top rail height of 42 inches, plus/minus 3 inches.
  • May not contain an opening greater than 19 inches in the least dimension.
  • Must be able to withstand a 200-pound load (top rail) and 150-pound load (mid-rail). So what exactly do the new revisions mean regarding the use of safety gates? What should you look for when reviewing your current safe access/fall protection configuration?

For example, if you are currently using chains, single-bar or drop-bar style gates in an access point or opening, they are no longer compliant and need to be replaced. Rusted spring-closing or compression gates no longer capable of self-closing will need repair or replacement. Gravity-closing gates can no longer be held open with bungee cords to prevent self-closure.

Start auditing walking-working surface compliance today. It’s cheaper than letting OSHA do it for you.

For more information, visit www.intrepidindustries.com or call Stephen Hailey at (832) 492-4443.

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