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Washington L&I moving to revise fall protection rules to align with OSHA

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Tumwater, WA — Responding to concerns that some of its fall protection rules aren’t “at least as effective” as federal OSHA’s general industry and construction standards, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has initiated rulemaking to revise certain provisions of its Unified Safety Standards for Fall Protection.

In August, OSHA notified Washington L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which operates under the federal agency’s State Plan program, about its concerns. OSHA requires State Plan standards to be at least as effective as federal standards. That led to two virtual stakeholder meetings in March to discuss potential changes.

Washington L&I on May 17 filed an official notification, known as CR-101, to initiate the process.

According to a Washington L&I discussion draft, two proposed changes for construction work are lowering the threshold height for required fall protection in cases of “roofing work on a low-pitch roof” and “constructing a leading edge” to 6 feet from 10 feet.

For workers at ski area facilities and operations, Washington L&I currently requires fall protection when “working at unprotected elevated locations” at more than 10 feet. The proposed change would lower that threshold to 4 feet or more.

 

For work on low-pitched roofs, the agency is proposing to update its definition of a safety watch system. This includes removing construction activities from the definition and adding that a safety watch system is permitted – and fall protection isn’t required – only when work is performed 15 feet or more from a roof edge, provided the work is both infrequent and temporary.

In this case, employers would have to implement and enforce a work rule that prohibits workers from going within 15 feet of a roof edge without fall protection. According to Washington L&I, this added exemption is in accordance with OSHA’s 1910.28(b)(13) standard.

Washington L&I has set a tentative summer date to file a proposed rule and open a public comment period. A tentative rule adoption date is slated for sometime this fall, with the revised rule going into effect 31 days after filing an adoption form.

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