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May 05, 2023
OSHA launches emphasis program for falls

On May 1, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) launched a National Emphasis Program (NEP) of outreach and enforcement for falls from height across all industries.

OSHA’s construction industry fall protection standard (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) §1926.501) remains the agency’s most frequently cited standard, cited 5,260 times in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Falls from height also are one of the construction industry’s “Fatal Four” safety hazards—the leading causes of death for construction workers—along with caught-in or -between, electrocution, and struck-by hazards.

“This national emphasis program aligns all of OSHA's fall protection resources to combat one of the most preventable and significant causes of workplace fatalities,” Doug Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said in an agency statement. “We're launching this program in concert with the 10th annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction and the industry's Safety Week. Working together, OSHA and employers in all industries can make lasting changes to improve worker safety and save lives.”

The NEP is based on historical data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and OSHA enforcement. BLS data shows that of the 5,190 fatal workplace injuries in 2021, 680 were associated with falls from elevations—about 13 percent of all deaths.

Programmed inspections will begin following a 90-day outreach period. The outreach component of the program will focus on educating employers about effective ways to keep their workers safe.

The program establishes guidelines for locating and inspecting fall hazards. The NEP procedures allow OSHA compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) to open inspections whenever they observe someone working at heights­ during a CSHO’s normal workday travel or during other OSHA inspections.

OSHA area office directors will need to generate programmed inspection lists targeting local construction worksites. OSHA employees must travel throughout a selected geographic area, compiling a list of all ongoing active and inactive construction projects . The employees should report any observed hazards to the area office, and if imminent danger conditions are observed, an inspection should be initiated.

Each area office will develop an inspection master list generated following the agency’s list-generation and randomization policies.

Nonconstruction work activities targeted by the NEP include the following:

  • Arborist/tree trimming,
  • Chimney cleaning,
  • Communication towers,
  • Gutter cleaning,
  • Holiday light installation,
  • Power washing buildings,
  • Road sign and billboard maintenance,
  • Rooftop mechanical work or maintenance,
  • Utility line work or maintenance (electrical, cable), and
  • Window cleaning.

OSHA hopes to significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to fall-related hazards in all industries through the combination of compliance assistance, employer outreach, and enforcement.

OSHA sponsors the May 1–5 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction through a partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), OSHA-approved state plans, state consultation programs, the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), National Construction Safety Executives (NCSE), the National Safety Council (NSC), the U.S. Air Force, and OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers.

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