As fall protection consultants, we have worked hard to understand the often complicated OSHA fall protection regulations. In particular, the documents related to fall protection for moving stock, such as rail cars or hopper trucks, can be very confusing to understand and apply. We want to make sure you don’t get penalized for misinterpretation. For one company, this was a $70,000 mistake.
In a document published in October 1996, OSHA clarified the requirement for fall protection on moving stock. You can read an excerpt that says, “…falls from rolling stock will not be cited under Subpart D.”
But, you can’t stop reading there—this is not a categorical exclusion. The clarification from OSHA goes on to say that exposure can be cited if employees are working on top of stock that is positioned inside of or adjacent to a building or other structure. The document later says that if there are feasible means to eliminate or reduce the hazard, a citation can be issued.
About a year ago, one agricultural company in Nebraska found this out the hard way. The company was given a willful violation—with a $70,000 price tag—for not addressing hazards associated with fall protection on rolling stock.
OSHA has made it clear through the General Duty Clause that when fall hazards are present, and there is a feasible way to abate them, employers must provide means for safe work. And, the ANSI standards—considered the best practices in the industry—have always included moving stock as hazards that need to be addressed.
As with any hazard, we recommend that employers do everything possible to reduce their safety and financial risk related to falls from moving stock.