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OSHA's new rules for working and walking surfaces

Employees in Oklahoma and across the United States who face hazards due to walking and working surfaces can expect to see safety improvements in the workplace by 2017, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency announced in November that it will publish its updated final rule on general industry safety standards for walking and working surfaces

The safety rules will affect a wide variety of employees, from chimney sweepers to window washers, and anywhere employees can be hurt from falling, slipping or tripping hazards. The regulations will not alter agricultural or construction standards.

Basically, the new working and walking surfaces rule will increase the standards that exist between general industry and construction, give more flexibility in the selection of appropriate fall protection systems and update personal fall protection systems and standards within the general industry to meet technology advancements and best practices. Under the new rules, employers will be required to protect their employees who work along unprotected edges or sides that are at 4 feet or more above a lower level. Employers will also be required to ensure their personal fall protection systems are performing correctly via routine inspections and maintenance.

According to an OSHA representative, fall hazards in the workplace are the top cause of employee fatalities and injuries. Keeping the workplace up-to-date with the latest technological advancements and allowing more flexibility in regards to fall protection systems can reduce the number of workplace injuries and fatalities from falls. OSHA has also estimated that the new regulations will prevent 5,842 injuries that resulted in missed days and 29 work-related deaths. The majority of the rule's provisions will take effect Jan. 17, 2017.

Workers' compensation benefits are in place for employees who suffer workplace injuries. Similar to an insurance policy, workers comp provides indemnity for lost wages and medical expenses until the employee is able to return to work.

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