By Beeta Lashkari, Mark Ishu, and Kimberly Richardson
On May 1, 2023, OSHA announced the launch of a new National Emphasis Program (“NEP”) focused on preventing fall hazards in general industry and construction, the leading cause of fatal workplace injuries and the violation that the agency cites most frequently in construction industry inspections. The Falls NEP was signed April 24, 2023, and took effect the same day as OSHA’s announcement, on May 1, 2023.
It may have been that the Falls NEP was a long time coming. Per OSHA’s announcement, the NEP is based on historical Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) data and OSHA enforcement history. For example, data from BLS shows that, of the 5,190 fatal workplace injuries in 2021, 680 were associated with falls from elevations, about 13 percent of all deaths. Additionally, data from OSHA’s annual enforcement report indicates that, of 24,333 total inspections in 2021, 7,954 had an emphasis on falls, or about 33% of all inspections.
With regard to the new Falls NEP, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Doug Parker said:
“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…. 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’s goal of significantly reducing or eliminating unprotected worker exposures to fall-related hazards in all industries that can result in serious injuries and deaths will be accomplished by a combination of enforcement (which includes hazard-based inspection targeting and optional locally-generated programmed targeting in construction as outlined in the Falls NEP’s Appendix A), outreach to employers, and compliance assistance.
Who is Covered by the Falls NEP?
The Falls NEP is meant to focus on reducing or eliminating fall-related injuries and fatalities for people working at heights in all industries. Although OSHA anticipates that most inspections under the Falls NEP will occur in construction because the majority of fatal falls to lower levels each year occur on construction worksites, it is important to note that the Falls NEP is not limited to construction.
Indeed, and importantly, the Falls NEP provides that Compliance Safety and Health Officers (“CSHO”) are authorized Continue reading