The Occupational Safety and Health Administration establishes rules, regulations, and standards that employers must comply with to maintain a safe working environment for employees. In addition to protecting employee safety, OSHA regulations actually help employers in many cases. For example, if an employee is injured but an OSHA investigation reveals that the employer followed all established rules and regulations, these findings will help the employer avoid liability. In a recent and surprising move, OSHA has withdrawn its ‘slips, trips, and falls rule’ from the White House review process in order to review the rule’s benefits and costs. In doing so, OSHA has created a possible dilemma for employers, many of whom are now unsure of how to proceed. Contact a Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.
How Does Withdrawing This Rule Hurt Employers?
For starters, the rule helped create a safety-net for employers to adhere to. However, the rule also provided some ‘grey areas’ which also served to protect employers. The portion of the slips, trips, and falls rule that pertained to guardrail standards was one such grey area.The standard height of guardrails is set at 42 inches, however, a height of 36 or 37 inches was considered a de minimis violation, which requires no penalty. With the removal of the slips, trips, and falls rule that included this ‘exception’ to the 42-inch rule, employers are now unclear if they have to retrofit all guardrails to the standard height.
The removal of this rule is significant – slips, trips, and falls account for billions of dollars in workers’ comp payments every year. According to Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety’s 2016 Workplace Safety Index, employers spent $15.6 billion on injuries from same level falls and falls to a lower level in 2013, and $2.4 billion on slips, trips, and falls in the same year.
Slips, Trips, and Falls Account for 3,500 Serious Injuries Every Year
The slips, trips, and falls rule, which was originally published in 1990, established requirements for personal fall protection systems, among other things. It has since been rewritten twice to adapt to technological advances. The withdrawal of this rule on December 21 may only be a temporary move. OSHA has stated that it will finalize the rule during the current term and re-publish the rule once this has been accomplished. OSHA referred to other rules which have been temporarily withdrawn, updated, and re-published as well. According to the director of consulting services for the National Safety Council in Itasca, Illinois, W.E. Scott, the rule is beneficial in that it incorporates new technologies to protect workers and may reduce the slips, trips, and falls injuries in the council’s 2015 Injury Facts report. The report revealed 3,500 serious injuries and 20 fatalities due to slips, trips, and falls in 2015. Continue reading