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OSHA Standards Clarifications

On December 17,2019 OSHA issued corrections to the Walking-Working Surfaces, Personal Protective Equipment, and Special Industries standards. The rulemaking only corrected typographical, formatting, and clerical errors, and provides more information about the requirements of some provisions. The rulemaking did not affect or change any existing rights or obligations therefore OSHA determined public notice and comment were unnecessary.

While these corrections did not affect or change any existing rights or obligations, it is still important to be aware of the changes. Additionally, updating training materials you have might be necessary. Here are summaries and explanations of a few of the corrections.

Ladders (CFR 1910.23)

Current § 1910.23(d)(4) requires employers to ensure that the side rails of through or side-step ladders extend 42 inches above the top of the access level or landing platform served by the ladder. As stated in the preamble to the final rule, the agency intended workers to have sufficient handholds “at least 42 inches” above the highest level on which they will step when reaching the access level (81 FR 82494, 82542). OSHA is correcting this error by revising § 1910.23(d)(4) to state that 42 inches is the minimum—not the exact—measurement for fixed ladder side rail extensions.

Scaffolds and Rope Descent Systems (CFR 1910.27)

In paragraph (b)(1)(i) of § 1910.27, OSHA is correcting a typographical error in the metric parenthetical for 5,000 pounds. The parenthetical currently states the metric equivalent to 5,000 pounds is 268 kg. The correct metric equivalent is 2,268 kg.

Fall Protection Systems and Falling Object Protection—Criteria and Practices (CFR 1910.29)

OSHA is correcting Figure D-11 to include labels identifying the top rail and end post in the top diagram of the figure. The words “top rail” and “end post” were mistakenly omitted when the final rule was published in the Federal Register (81 FR at 82995).

Personal Fall Protection Systems (CFR 1910.140)

Current § 1910.140(c)(8) requires D-rings, snaphooks, and carabiners to be proof tested to a minimum tensile load of 3,600 pounds without cracking, breaking, or incurring permanent deformation. The provision also requires the gate strength of snaphooks and carabiners to be proof tested to 3,600 pounds in all directions. In the November 18, 2016, final rule (81 FR at 82653), OSHA intended to be consistent with the ANSI/ASSE Z359.12-2009 consensus standard, Connecting Start Printed Page 68795Components for Personal Fall Arrest Systems. That consensus standard requires snaphooks, carabiners, and D-rings (and other hardware) to be proof tested to 3,600 pounds (ANSI/ASSE Z359.12-2009, section and requires the gate of snaphooks and carabiners to be capable of withstanding a minimum load of 3,600 pounds without the gate separating from the nose of the snaphook or carabiner body by more than 0.125 inches (ANSI/ASSE Z359.12-2009, section OSHA correctly added the first requirement to the 2016 final rule—namely the requirement that snaphooks, carabiners, and D-rings be proof tested to 3,600 pounds. When it came to the gate strength requirement, OSHA mistakenly added the requirement that the gate strength of snaphooks and carabiners be proof tested to 3,600 pounds in all directions instead of adding the intended requirement that the gate of snaphooks and carabiners be capable of withstanding a minimum load of 3,600 pounds without the gate separating from the nose of the snaphook or carabiner body by more than 0.125 inches. It should also be noted that proof testing of the gates of snaphooks and carabiners could be destructive to the equipment, rendering them unsafe for workers in the field. In this document, OSHA is correcting the gate strength provision to be consistent with the national consensus standard, as originally intended, and as stated in letters of interpretation to the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) (see response to question 5 here:​laws-regs/​standardinterpretations/​2017-08-18) and the International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) (see response to question 1 here:​laws-regs/​standardinterpretations/​2017-08-31).

The complete rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can be found here.  

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Penalty Amounts for OSHA Violations Adjusted for Inflation

On November 2, 2015, Congress enacted the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, to improve the effectiveness of civil monetary penalties and to maintain their deterrent effect. The Inflation Adjustment Act required agencies to: (1) Adjust the level of civil monetary penalties with an initial “catch-up” adjustment through an interim final rule (IFR); and (2) make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation no later than January 15 of each year.

The cost-of-living adjustment multiplier for 2020, based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for the month of October 2019 (not seasonally adjusted), is 1.01764.To compute the 2020 annual adjustment, the Department multiplied the most recent penalty amount for each applicable penalty by the multiplier, 1.01764, and rounded to the nearest dollar. The adjustment factor of 1.01764 will remain consistent across the minimum. The following table summarizes the minimum and maximum penalty amounts that may be assessed after January 15, 2020. States that operate their own Occupational Safety and Health Plans must adopt maximum penalty levels that are at least effective as Federal OSHA.

Type of Violation Penalty Minimum Penalty Maximum
Serious $964 per violation $13,494 per violation
Other-Than-Serious $0 per violation $13,494 per violation
Willful or Repeated $9,639 per violation $134,9378 per violation
Posting Requirements $0 per violation $13,494 per violation
Failure to Abate N/A $13,494 per day unabated beyond the abatement date*

*Generally limited to 30 days maximum.

OSHA offers a variety of options for employers needing compliance assistance. The On-Site Consultation Program provides professional, high-quality, individualized assistance to small businesses at no cost. OSHA also has compliance assistance specialists in most of the 85 Area Offices across the nation who provide robust outreach and education programs for employers and workers. For more information, you can contact the Regional or Area Office nearest you.

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