Tag: workplace safety

OSHA’s Walking-Working Surfaces Standard and Fall Prevention

At the end of May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed updates to its stair rail system requirements related to walking-working surfaces and protective equipment.

As is often the case with new safety standards, many employers have asked for clarification. At Cornerstone Insurance Group, we want you to have peace of mind about your risk management strategies. Here is what you need to know about the latest in walking-working surfaces and general fall prevention standards.

What is New in the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard?

The biggest change in the Walking-Working Surfaces requirements is related to new handrails and stair rail systems with a width of less than 44 inches (found in Table D of this standard). The previous stair rail provision was unclear, stating:

“One stair rail system each open side”

But OSHA intended it to say:

“One stair rail system with handrail on each open side”

They hope that the new language clarifies any confusion in this particular safety standard. In addition, OSHA has eased restrictions on previously installed stair rail systems by allowing the top rail of those systems to act as a handrail if it’s as low as 30 inches.

What Do I Do if I’ve Abided by the Old Wording?

OSHA does recognize that many employers may have implemented stair rail safety standards that follow the previous language (i.e. stair width that’s less than 44 inches and open on both sides). 

However, there’s no need to worry. You do not have to modify your stair rail system if it was installed before the effective date of the new final rule as long as it was in compliance with OSHA standards at the time of installation.

OSHA now has two separate provisions for stairs with two open sides and a width of less than 44 inches. Flights of stairs that have two open sides, are less than 44 inches and installed before the effective date of a final rule would be required to have a stair rail system on each open side but do not need to have a handrail. 

Are There Other Revised Standards I Should Know About?

OSHA is also proposing provisions to Section 1910.29 called “Fall Protection Systems and Falling Object Protection-Criteria and Practices.” Many have expressed confusion over whether or not the top rail of a stair rail system can also serve as a handrail. 

The new proposed standard states that the top rail of stair rail systems installed prior to January 17, 2017 (the date of the final rule) can serve as a handrail if the top rail is 30 to 38 inches tall and meets OSHA’s other handrail requirements. Employers are not required to modify their stair rail systems if they complied with the previous ruling.

Cornerstone’s Risk Management team wants to ensure your workplace is as protected as possible from falls and other injuries. If you’re looking for a specialist to walk you through OSHA’s standards or want to create a risk management plan that works for you, contact Cornerstone today.

What We Can Learn From the 10 Most Cited OSHA Standards for 2020

Workplace safety will always be a trending and important topic, but many companies fall short of achieving a hazard-free workplace. Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) releases its 10 most frequently cited standards from the year before. 

At Cornerstone Insurance Group, our loss control team wants to keep clients informed on how to maintain the safest and most efficient workplace possible. 

Take a look at what your company can learn from these common OSHA citations.

1. Fall Protection – General Requirements

Falls are the most common causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. In 2020, there were 5,424 violations in this category. It’s imperative that your workplace is set up to prevent employees from falling off of overhead platforms, elevated workstations or into holes in the floor and walls. 

Make sure you review OSHA’s guidelines on fall protection to know the specific requirements your company must follow.  

2. Hazard Communication

With 3,199 violations, hazard communication — which looks at chemical safety — is an often-cited category for OSHA. The Hazard Communication Standard outlines how businesses must disseminate chemical safety-related information to its employees.

Read OSHA’s hazard communication standard to make sure your workplace is compliant.

3. Respiratory Protection

There are millions of workers in the U.S. who are required to wear respirators at work to protect themselves from harmful dust, smoke, vapors and other respiratory hazards. However, when employers fail to provide their employees with sufficient respirator equipment, they’ll receive a citation. This category increased in ranking from 5 to 3 from 2019 to 2020, with 2,649 violations last year.

Take a look at OSHA’s respiratory protection page for resources such as standards and training videos.

4. Scaffolding

With an estimated 65 percent of construction workers utilizing scaffolding, it’s vital that companies protect their employees from injuries and deaths. There were 2,538 scaffolding violations in 2020. Injuries often occur when the structure’s support gives way or an employee loses their footing. The most common causes of accidents involving scaffolds involve the planking or support giving way, or the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object

Consult with OSHA’s scaffolding standards to check that your worksites meet these requirements. 

5. Ladders

Working on or around ladders presents many potential hazards for employees. While in the top 10 in 2019, this citation climbed to the top 5 last year. There were 2,129 violations in this category. 

If your workplace requires the use of ladders, it’s vital that they are properly inspected, set up and used as intended. You can find guidelines under OSHA’s ladder safety requirements.

6. Lockout/Tagout

Lockout/tagout is commonly known as the control of hazardous energy. Energy sources may include electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, chemical and even gravity. While servicing and maintaining machines and equipment, the unexpected startup of stored energy can be dangerous to workers. There were 2,065 total violations in 2020.

Review OSHA’s guidance on proper lockout/tagout practices.

7. Powered Industrial Trucks

Commonly called forklifts or lift trucks, powered industrial trucks are used in many industries to move, raise and lower materials. There are many hazards associated with these trucks, and in 2020 there were 1,932 total violations related to their operation.

Take a look at what your workplace needs to do to adhere to OSHA’s powered industrial trucks standards.

8. Fall Protection – Training Requirements

In addition to the general requirements for fall protection in the workplace, OSHA also sets guidelines for employers to provide a training program for employees who are at risk. In 2020, there were 1,621 total violations of this safety category.

Get familiar with OSHA’s fall protection training program standards if it’s relevant to your business.

9. Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment – Eye and Face Protection

Last year, there were 1,369 violations that could have been prevented with proper eye and face protective equipment. Workplaces that are frequently exposed to chemical, environmental, mechanical or radiological hazards should offer employees the right eye and face equipment.

Take a look at OSHA’s eye and face protection standards for resources to stay compliant.

10. Machine Guarding

Does your workplace rely on machinery to get tasks done? If so, your employees are at a higher risk of workplace injuries related to the point-of-operation and moving machine parts. There were 1,313 total violations of this safety standard in 2020. 

Learn how to control and minimize hazards with OSHA’s machine guarding resources.


Are you unsure if your workplace’s safety practices are meeting OSHA’s standards? Cornerstone’s loss control services offer expertise related to:

  • Safety program GAP analysis and benchmarking
  • Safety training for employees and leadership
  • OSHA compliance assistance
  • Workplace safety audits
  • … and more.

Let our specialists help your company provide a safe and effective work environment for your employees. Contact Cornerstone today.