Metal Railcar Platform With Fall Protection

OSHA Fall Protection Best Practices for Rolling Stock: Changes Coming Soon

OSHA’s fall protection and prevention requirements for rolling stock have been confusing and consistently unenforced for decades. In an effort to remedy the lack of information available on the subject, OSHA requested input from industry leaders and addressed widespread concerns in a public hearing held in January of 2011. Years later, you might be wondering what changes could be made and when they will take effect. We are too.

If you’re confused by the current fall protection and prevention requirements established and enforced by OSHA for rolling stock, you’re not alone. Identifying your responsibilities for keeping your employees safe and understanding how to interpret the law as it applies to loading operations for rolling stock (including railcars, tank trucks, and intermodals) is complicated. OSHA has yet to release any updates and as far as we know, proposed changes from January 2017 are still under review. We’ll keep you posted as policy changes unfold, but in the meantime, here’s what you need to know about compliance:

The General Duty Clause Section 5(a)(1) of the OSHAct requires you to provide your employees with a workplace free from hazards likely to cause death or physical harm. It is important to note that a 1996 OSHA memorandum from John B. Miles states that, “The current fall protection standard in general industry (Subpart D) does not specifically address fall hazards from the tops of rolling stock. The new proposed fall protection standard, 55 Fed. Reg. 13360, explicitly excludes rolling stock from coverage. The enforcement policy of the Agency, consequently, is that falls from rolling stock also will not be cited under Subpart D.

Additionally, it would not be appropriate to use the personal protection equipment standard, 29 CFR 1910.132(d), to cite exposure to fall hazards from the tops of rolling stock, unless employees are working atop stock that is positioned inside of or contiguous to a building or other structure where the installation of fall protection is feasible. In such cases, fall protection systems often can be and, in fact, are used in many facilities in the industry.”

It’s also wise to use 1926.501(b)(15) as a guideline, which states, “each employee on a walking/working surface 6 feet (1.8m) or more above lower levels shall be protected from falling by a guardrail system, safety net system, or personal fall arrest system.” This was enforced in Sept. 2014 when a Farmers Cooperative employee suffered fatal injuries after a fall sustained while loading a tanker truck. It was determined by OSHA that the business failed to implement basic fall prevention that could have prevented the accident.

SafeRack has a full range of rolling stock fall protection products and experts that can help navigate OSHA requirements and improve worker safety. 

Stay tuned to us here at SafeRack while we anticipate revisions to be released from OSHA soon. You can learn more about safety and compliance by visiting the OSHA website or by calling their toll free hotline at 800-321-OSHA.


By Jeff Girard

Jeff has been with SafeRack since 2014. Jeff has been in the Industrial Loading Rack industry since 2008 and is dedicated to finding solutions for his customers. Jeff and Ron Miller serve as the Gulf Coast Regional Managers for Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Beaumont-Port Arthur TX area.