The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has outlined relatively new safety regulations for flooring. Although OSHA’s current standard 1910.22 was published in 1971, there is a provision — 1910.22(a)(2) — that requires employers to maintain floors “in a clean and, so far as possible, dry condition.”

In 2010, OSHA proposed a Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems) rule, which has kept the same language. This proposed rule, according to OSHA, was developed to prevent slips, trips, falls and other hazards.

“OSHA proposed the rule (75 FR 28862) in 2010, but no final rule has been published,” says an OSHA spokesperson. “The proposal does not require employers to have a qualified person on hand to regularly inspect floors and implement cleaning/maintenance programs. The proposal requires that ‘where hazardous conditions may affect the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person must perform or supervise the maintenance or repair of that surface.’”

OSHA defines a “qualified person” as “a person who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.”

Although it has yet to go into effect, OSHA notes that the proposed rulemaking suggests that “where hazardous conditions may affect the structural integrity of the walking-working surface, a qualified person must perform or supervise the maintenance or repair of that surface.”

According to a spokesperson, OSHA has not proposed a regulation assigning accountability or liability for qualified persons if and when a slip-and-fall accident occurs in a facility.

In an email to Facility Cleaning Decisions, OSHA would not disclose when the proposed rulemaking would go in effect. But Kendzior, a big proponent of the proposed regulations, says facilities should be prepared to start taking steps toward meeting the regulation. This includes having a “qualified person” trained and overseeing the floor safety program.

“You have to have some training and know what a hazard is,” Kendzior says. “This qualified person has to be trained for the specific task assigned and have the authority to carry out these assigned work responsibilities. So if they find a problem, they can correct it. Today, none of that happens. There is no requirement for any person within the industry to have any training in walkway safety and no requirement for them to do anything as they find hazardous conditions.”

In an effort to change that, NFSI has already begun hosting a series of ANSI-accredited courses to help cleaning industry personnel understand what is forthcoming under the proposed OSHA rules. 

“Our standards are going to be referenced by OSHA and our training classes are going to be front and center on qualifying persons to be in compliance with the new OSHA rules,” says Kendzior.

He adds that custodial managers who have a keen understanding of the proposed rules will avoid costly citations handed out by OSHA once the Walking-Working Surfaces rule is implemented.

“OSHA’s minimum fine across the board is $1,500 per incident, per location,” says Kendzior. “So, if they go through your building and find 10 or 12 locations that are in violation, they’re going to cite you each time for $1,500. So it can get into hundreds of thousands of dollars very quickly. It’s going to be quite a big walk-up call.”

Under the proposed regulations, Kendzior says OSHA is now defining a fall as something that could result in the possibility of a slip and fall.

“Now, why that is important is because they’re not necessarily looking at walking surfaces that have already led to an injury, but those that might lead to an injury,” he says. “That’s going to open enforcement up to be very broad. So an OSHA inspector can go into a food service area and, based on his or her opinion of whether your floor is slippery, you can be cited under this new guideline. That’s going to put a much higher burden on managers to do more to prevent slips and falls.” 

NICK BRAGG is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Causes And Prevention Of Slips And Falls