Apparently OSHA has withdrawn its draft Final Rule on walking and working surfaces and personal fall protection systems. The agency has been in the process of revising the rule for 25 years, if nothing else, just to keep it current with industry practice. The Final Rule changes were at the White House in the last step of review before release, but they were withdrawn suddenly and without explanation on December 23.
It is extremely unusual for an agency to get this far down the road with a new rule and then drop it. Sometimes it happens if the review finds flaws in the proposal or in the economic impact analysis. There have been occasions when new industry practices or standards supersede the proposal, but in this case there is another theory that may explain it. The Administration is pushing hard for new silica standards. Congress had blocked the White House from finalizing the new rule on silica, but that roadblock went away when opponents of the rule failed to work the provision into the budget bill that passed right before Christmas. It appears that the White House may have pulled the slips, trips and falls final rule so that it could focus on the new silica rule. That is a bit of a shame, since fall protection, scaffolding and ladder violations make up three of the top 10 violations every year. OSHA’s leaders swear they intend to publish a final rule on slips, trips and falls in 2016, but that will be tough the further we get into an election year. There is a good article that gives more explanation here.