Final Rule for Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protection SystemsBy: Jon A. Arreguin
Will you be prepared to comply with the final rule that pertains to Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protection Systems? The final rule becomes effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. However, OSHA provides phased-in compliance dates for several requirements within the final rule. For example: Scaffolds and Rope Descent Systems 1910.27(b)(1)(iii) states "The requirements in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section must be implemented no later than November 20, 2017".
Before one prepares to comply with specific federal regulations within the final rule, make sure there are no current state regulations that supersede those federal OSHA regulations. There are 26 states plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands that have OSHA-approved State Plans. If you conduct your operations in any state that has a State Plan, obtain a copy and review your State Plans safety and health standards and regulations. State Plans in California, Minnesota and Washington, cover both the private sector and state and local government employees and have specific regulations for building maintenance at heights. The New York State Plan only covers state and local government employees. The OSH Act allows for State Plans to be more effective than federal OSHA. However, federal OSHA preempts State Plans when there are no specific regulations created that are as effective as federal OSHA regulations.
Let's dive into 1910 Subpart D - Walking-Working Surfaces and review 1910.21(b) Definitions. Under the definition of Qualified it states "Qualified describes a person who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project". The title "Qualified Person" is referenced throughout Subpart D and Subpart I, specifically 1910.27 Scaffolds and Rope Descent Systems. Both the Building Owners/Operating Agents and the Employers must be cautious when allowing their designated Qualified Person to perform the duties required within the OSHA regulations.
If someone knocks at your door and says "Hello, I'm a Qualified Person", they just might be someone looking for a quick buck by double talking their way into your company. It's up to you as the Building Owner/Operating Agent and the Employer to decide if they are Qualified. Start your interview process on each potential candidate with questions such as "do you have in your possession a recognized degree, do you have in your possession a certificate" and continue throughout the OSHA definition of Qualified. Verify all references that are provided and ask for samples of all documents and literature that they use to prepare their certification records. If, as an Employer, you decide to designate someone within the company as your Qualified Person, make sure they receive proper education and training that is industry specific.
Let's break down the most controversial OSHA regulation in the window cleaning industry, the 300' limit. 1910.27(b)(2)(i) states "No rope descent system is used for heights greater than 300 feet (91 m) above grade unless the employer demonstrates that it is not feasible to access such heights by any other means or that those means pose a greater hazard than using a rope descent system". Another words, you can indeed perform window cleaning tasks greater than 300 feet using a rope descent system as long as you do your homework and comply.
If a high-rise tower should happen to be 600 feet tall and have a permanent installation system on their rooftop, you're not going to convince any OSHA inspector that using a rope descent system will be safer. However, if there happens to be a high-rise tower that does not have a permanent installation system and is greater than 300 feet, you certainly can use regulations within 1910.66 to demonstrate that a greater hazard exists. Here are those regulations word for word as written:
• 1910.66(f)(3)(ii)(A) Transportable outriggers may be used as a method for ground rigged working platforms where the point of suspension does not exceed 300 feet (91.5 m) above a safe surface. Tie-in guide system(s) shall be provided which meet the requirements of paragraph (e)(2) of this section.
• 1910.66(f)(3)(iii)(C) The following requirements apply to ground rigged davit systems:
• 1910.66(f)(3)(iii)(C)(1) The point of suspension shall not exceed 300 feet (91.5 m) above a safe surface. Guide system(s) shall be provided which meet the requirements of paragraph (e)(2) of this section.
These specific regulations cannot be more clearly defined when setting limitations for ground rigged working platforms to 300 feet or less. Even if there is a building that is less than 300 feet, has a davit system installed on the rooftop and a working platform needs to be transported and rigged at that building, there are many more components, e.g., stirrups, bolts, shackles, electrical cords, that can be deemed more hazardous when compared to rigging with the components needed for a rope descent system.
Every building is designed differently so always perform a thorough walk-through when surveying the worksite for existing and potential hazards and always choose the best support, suspended and safety systems that will help complete the task at hand in the most safest and efficient manner possible.