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OSHA emphasis program targets fall hazards


Photo: arcady_31/iStockphoto

Washington — OSHA has launched a National Emphasis Program aimed at reducing and preventing falls in all industries.

“The program establishes guidance for locating and inspecting fall hazards and allows OSHA compliance safety and health officers to open inspections whenever they observe someone working at height,” OSHA says in a May 1 press release. “An outreach component of the program will focus on educating employers about effective ways to keep their workers safe.

“If a compliance officer determines an inspection is not necessary after entering a worksite and observing work activities, they will provide outreach on fall protection and leave the site.”

Falls to a lower level have accounted for 13% of the 40,531 workplace deaths since 2014, OSHA says, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They also made up 13% of the 5,190 fatalities in 2021 (the most recent year for which data is available).

In construction, falls to a lower level have accounted for about 32% of the 7,861 fatalities in the industry since 2014.

In addition, Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) was OSHA’s most frequently cited standard for the 12th consecutive fiscal year in FY 2022, with 5,260 violations. That’s more than double the amount of the next most commonly cited standard, Hazard Communication (1910.1200), which totaled 2,424.

“Considering that falls remain the leading cause of fatalities and serious injuries in all industries, the agency has determined that an increase in enforcement and outreach activities is warranted,” the NEP states.

Within 60 days, State Plans must let OSHA know if they’ll adopt the NEP or if they already have “policies and procedures that are identical to or at least as effective as the federal program.” If State Plans adopt the NEP, they must do so within six months.

The NEP supersedes any regional or local emphasis programs that “are substantially similar,” but those with “other elements” can remain in effect. The phasing out of similar REPs or LEPs will take place during the 90-day outreach period.

OSHA’s announcement coincided with the start of the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, which runs through May 5. 

“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,” OSHA administrator Doug Parker said in the release. “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.” 

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