OSHA Withdraws Long-Planned Rule To Reduce Slips, Trips And Falls

By Eric J. Conn and Kathryn M. McMahon

In what can only be viewed as another example of OSHA’s inability to effectively advance its rulemaking agenda, OSHA recently withdrew from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review of its quarter-century-in-the-making draft Final Rule to update existing regulations aimed at preventing slips, trips and falls in the workplace. OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the White House WWS Rule Withdrawalgatekeeper for rules with significant economic impact, reported in late December that OSHA withdrew the rule from OIRA pending further consideration by the Agency. Unless a swift turnabout occurs and the rule is resubmitted to OIRA in the very near term, the rule will not be promulgated before the end of the Obama Administration.

The Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems rule proposal, colloquially referred to as the “slips, trips and falls rule” proposal, was first issued in 1990. That is not a typo. The proposal has languished at OSHA for more than twenty-five years. Eventually, based at least in part on public comments submitted in response to the 1990 proposal, OSHA published a notice to reopen the rulemaking for a second round of public comment in May 2003. However, because advancements in fall protection technology had far outpaced OSHA’s rulemaking process, the Agency concluded that:

“the existing proposal was out of date and did not reflect current industry practice or technology.”

So more delays.

In May of 2010, OSHA issued a reiteration of the proposal, which, according to Agency officials, “reflected current information and increased consistency” with other OSHA standards. OSHA held administrative hearings in January of 2011 on the revised proposal, and this time, seemed as if it was actually making headway and would get the rule across the finish line. Continue reading