OSHA Proposed Changes to the Walking-working Surfaces Standard

OSHA Proposed Changes to the Walking-working Surfaces Standard

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Legal Update Header On May 20, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) proposed changes to its walking-working surfaces standard to clarify which handrails and stair rail system requirements apply to new stair rail systems.

OSHA is proposing these changes to respond to numerous requests for interpretation for the updates adopted by the 2016 walking-working surfaces final rule.

Proposed Changes

OSHA is proposing changes to the following two sections of the walking-working surfaces standard.

  • Protections from fall hazards: This change would amend section 1910.28(b) to clarify that a stair rail system with a handrail is required on the open side of certain stairways.
  • Handrails and stair rail systems: This amendment to section 1910.29(f) would ease a restriction on previously installed stair rail systems by allowing the top rail of those systems to serve as a handrail when it is as low as 30 inches.


OSHA is limiting changes to the two sections mentioned above. At this time, the agency is not reopening discussion for any other regulatory decisions made with the 2016 final rule.

Next Steps

Employers and other parties affected by these proposals can submit comments, hearing requests or other information by July 19, 2021. Because this is a proposed rule, this OSHA publication does not require employers to change any workplace safety practices. Instead, employers should continue to monitor OSHA communications for updates to this and other workplace safety standards.

Sectioned Information

May 20, 2021

OSHA released notice of proposed changes to the walking-working standard

July 19, 2021

Final date for submitting comments, hearing requests and other requests related to this proposal

This Legal Update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. © 2021 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.


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