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Occupational Health and Safety Announcements

Walking-Working Surfaces and Fall Protection

OSHA issues final rule updating walking-working surfaces standards and establishing personal fall protection systems requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final rule on November 18, 2016 updating its general industry Walking-Working Surfaces standards specific to slip, trip, and fall hazards. The rule also includes a new section under the general industry Personal Protective Equipment standards that establishes employer requirements for using personal fall protection systems. The rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017, but some provisions have delayed effective dates.

The final rule's most significant update is allowing employers to select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. OSHA has permitted the use of personal fall protection systems in construction since 1994 and the final rule adopts similar requirements for general industry. The final rule increases consistency between general and construction industries, which will help employers and workers that work in both industries.

Other changes include allowing employers to use rope descent systems up to 300 feet above a lower level; prohibiting the use of body belts as part of a personal fall arrest system; and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment.


OSHA Silica Final Rule

OSHA announces final rule to improve U.S. workers' protection from the dangers of respirable silica dust

OSHA today announced a final rule to improve protections for workers exposed to respirable silica dust. The rule will curb lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease in America's workers by limiting their exposure to respirable crystalline silica

Americans across the country can breathe easier knowing their family members will be better protected from this deadly dust.

"The previous exposure limits were outdated and did not adequately protect workers," said OSHA Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels. "Limiting exposure to silica dust is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe. Today, we are taking action to bring worker protections into the 21st century in ways that are feasible and economical for employers to implement."

About 2.3 million men and women face exposure to respirable crystalline silica in their workplaces, including two million construction workers who drill and cut materials such as concrete and stone, and 300,000 workers in operations such as brick manufacturing, foundries and hydraulic fracturing. OSHA estimates that when the final rule becomes fully effective, it will save more than 600 lives annually and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – each year. The agency also estimates the final rule will provide net benefits of about $7.7 billion per year

A worker cutting granite using a saw that applies water to the blade. The water reduces the amount of silica-containing dust that gets into the air.

A worker cutting granite using a saw that applies water to the blade. The water reduces the amount of silica-containing dust that gets into the air.

Most employers can limit harmful dust exposure by using equipment that is widely available – generally using water to keep dust from getting into the air or a ventilation system to remove it from the air. The rule provides greater compliance assistance to construction employers – many of which run small businesses – by including a table of specified controls they can follow to be in compliance. The rule also staggers compliance dates to ensure employers have sufficient time to meet its requirements.

The final rule is written as two standards, one for construction and one for general industry and maritime. In addition to reducing the the permissible exposure limit for crystalline silica, the rule includes employer requirements such as limiting worker exposure through work practices and engineering controls (such as water or ventilation); providing respiratory protection when controls are insufficient; training workers; limiting their access to high exposure areas and providing medical exams to highly exposed workers.

For more information, see the news release—available in English and Spanish—and a blog post by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, which includes a video featuring one worker's personal experience with silicosis. Visit OSHA's silica rule webpage for factsheets, answers to frequently asked questions, and to sign up for email updates on compliance dates and resources.



On September 18, 2014, federal OSHA published a final rule for 29 CFR 1904.39 (see Federal Register Notice below) which expanded the list of severe work-related injuries that all covered employers must report to OSHA. The revised rule retained the requirement to report all work-related fatalities within 8 hours and added the requirement to report all work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and loss of an eye within 24 hours to OSHA. Establishments located in states under Federal OSHA jurisdiction were required to comply with the new requirements on January 1, 2015.

New Mexico OSHA determined it would seek amendment of the incorporating state rule ( NMAC) prior to adopting the federal rule change to eliminate potential confusion regarding the exception language in Subsection B of the state rule. The Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) heard the requested rule change on May 15, 2015 and approved the change with a publication in the New Mexico Register on June 16, 2015 (see link below) and an effective date of July 16, 2015.

Federal Register Notice for Regulatory Change (20140918)

29 CFR 1904.39

New Mexico Register Notice

NM OSHA will delay full enforcement of the additional requirements of 29 CFR 1904.39 until January 1, 2016, as outlined in the temporary enforcement directive below.

NM OSHA Temporary Enforcement Directive




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