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OSHA clarifies rule about workplace falls

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations regarding workplace falls are designed to protect Minnesota workers in construction and other industries from on-the-job injuries. However, they are raising some questions with workplace injury watchdogs.

OSHA updated its Industry Walking-Working Services standards on Jan. 17, 2017, to permit "temporary, relatively infrequent" work on low-slope roofs without fall protection systems in place. The standards only apply to work that is being done between 6 and 15 feet from the edge of the roof, but the types of jobs covered have caused some concern among trade associations.

In response, OSHA clarified the standards. Fall protection equipment to prevent workers' injuries is not required for routine maintenance and/or repair activities, such as changing HVAC filters or fixing broken equipment. The tasks must also be of short duration, taking less than 2 hours to complete. OSHA officials estimate that the new rules will prevent 29 deaths per year and thousands of lost workdays due to non-fatal injuries.

Most employers are required to have workers' compensation insurance coverage for the benefit of their employees who are injured on the job or who contract an occupational disease. The benefits that might be available could include the payment or reimbursement of medical expenses as well as in some cases the replacement of a percentage of the wages that were lost while the employee was recovering and unable to return to work. Many employees who find themselves in this type of a situation enlist the services of an attorney who can help to ensure that the claim documentation is complete and filed on a timely basis.

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