On May 1, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) introduced a National Emphasis Program (NEP) focused on fall prevention. This program aims to “significantly reduce or eliminate unprotected worker exposures to fall-related hazards in all industries that can result in serious injuries and deaths.”¹
Expanding the Focus Beyond Construction
Unlike previous initiatives that primarily targeted the construction industry, the new NEP applies to all industries, recognizing that falls can occur in a variety of work settings. This expansion acknowledges that fall hazards are present in multiple industries and emphasizes the broader relevance of safety measures when working at heights.
The NEP targets the following non-construction activities:
- Roof top mechanical work/maintenance
- Utility line work/maintenance (electrical, cable)
- Arborist/tree trimming
- Holiday light installation
- Road sign maintenance/billboards
- Power washing buildings (not connected to painting)
- Gutter cleaning
- Chimney cleaning
- Window cleaning
- Communication Towers
The NEP also allows for inspections in other non-construction work activities where a worker is observed working at height.
Under the NEP, OSHA inspectors are authorized to initiate inspections based solely on the observation of someone working at heights, without the need for additional probable cause or a potential violation. This grants inspectors significant power and allows them to proactively identify and address fall hazards.
It is important to note that the NEP specifically states that “observations may occur during the CSHO’s normal work-day travel or while en route to, from, or during, other OSHA inspections. If a potential imminent danger condition exists, an inspection shall be initiated in accordance with the Field Operations Manual (FOM) Chapter 11 and document in the case file diary.”¹ The NEP indicates that “The CSHOs shall contact the Area Office to obtain supervisory authorization to begin an immediate inspection.”¹ In the event that the CSHO cannot reach the Area Office, he/she “shall initiate an immediate inspection provided the activity will not interfere with any higher priority inspections or assignments. In these cases, the CSHO will give highest priority to preventing further employee exposures where fall hazards were observed.”¹
OSHA Effort to Enhance Workplace Safety
In 2022, for the 12th year in a row, Fall Protection topped the list of OSHA’s most-frequently cited standards. And Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data shows that approximately 13% of all fatal workplace injuries were associated with falls.² According to Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Doug Parker, “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.”³
Promoting Compliance and Preventive Measures
The NEP states that it aims to promote compliance and encourage the implementation of proactive measures. For example, it says that OSHA inspectors will provide guidance and resources during inspections, offering employers the opportunity to improve their fall protection protocols and help ensure compliance with safety regulations.
Additionally, the NEP states that “Each Area Office and Regional Office must develop and implement a comprehensive fall prevention awareness outreach program for 90 days prior to initiating inspections under this NEP. Area Offices and Regions must continue at least quarterly outreach efforts after the initial 90-day outreach period has concluded.”¹
What You Can Do To Prepare
OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on falls signifies a significant shift in OSHA’s approach to workplace safety. To help make sure you are compliant with OSHA regulations and that your team is prepared with the proper understanding of PPE and industry requirements for working at height, MSA offers in-person and virtual fall protection training courses of various levels. Learn more about available training courses here.