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Understanding OSHA's Recent Effort to Curb Workplace Fatalities

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently unveiled a groundbreaking National Emphasis Program. This initiative is designed to combat fall-related accidents, a leading cause of fatal workplace injuries across all industries, with fall protection systems. In this post, we will delve into the intricacies of this program, presenting an insightful Q&A that sheds light on its objectives, strategies, and potential impact on workplace safety.

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What is the National Emphasis Program on Fall Protection?

The National Emphasis Program on Fall Protection is a targeted enforcement program by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to reduce fall-related injuries and fatalities in all industries. The NEP is based on historical Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data and OSHA enforcement history, which shows that falls from elevations are a leading cause of workplace fatalities.

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What are the goals of this Fall Protection National Emphasis Program?

The goals of this National Emphasis Program are to:

  • Reduce the number of fall-related injuries and fatalities in all industries.
  • Increase awareness of fall hazards and effective fall protection measures among employers and workers.
  • Improve compliance with OSHA's fall protection standards.
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What Role Will OSHA Compliance Safety And Health Officers Play In This Initiative?

In this National Emphasis Program (NEP) initiative, OSHA compliance safety and health officers are given the authority to commence inspections whenever they notice individuals working at heights. This proactive strategy enables immediate intervention to prevent potential fall-related accidents.

The NEP covers all construction inspections related to falls, as well as non-construction inspections targeting specific activities where falls are most common. For other non-construction work activities where a worker is observed working at height, an inspection may be initiated upon approval by area office management. If an inspection is not warranted after entering the site and observing work activities, the Compliance Safety and Health Officer (CSHO) will conduct an outreach activity on fall protection and exit the site. This outreach is designed to raise awareness about the risks of falls and provide information on how to prevent them. It includes training programs for workers and employers, as well as the development of best practices and guidelines for fall prevention.

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Taking Action for Workplace Safety

This OSHA Fall Protection National Emphasis Program is a significant step towards ensuring workplace safety. Employers whose work includes worker exposure to fall hazards should expect a possible increase in inspections under this NEP. As always, the best defense is a good offense: employers should proactively review their fall protection programs and ensure that they are in compliance with OSHA standards.

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OSHA's New Initiative to Prevent Workplace Falls: A Q&A Guide

On May 1, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new initiative by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to help prevent workplace falls. This initiative, known as a National Emphasis Program (NEP), is a significant step towards ensuring worker safety. This guide will delve into the details of this program through a series of questions and answers.

What is a National Emphasis Program (NEP)?
An NEP is a temporary program that focuses OSHA's resources on particular hazards and/or high-hazard industries. The Fall NEP, launched on May 1, 2023, aims to prevent or reduce workplace falls, which are the leading cause of fatal workplace injuries and the most frequently cited violation in construction industry inspections.

When will the Fall NEP Inspections Begin?
While the Fall NEP took effect on May 1, 2023, there is a 90-day outreach period. This means that programmed inspections will first begin on or around July 30, 2023. The Fall NEP has no expiration date, but it will be reviewed within six months of issuance to determine its effectiveness and whether it will be continued.

What Industries Does The Fall NEP Cover?
The Fall NEP does not focus on any single industry. Instead, it aims to prevent/reduce fall-related injuries and fatalities for employees working "at heights." However, OSHA anticipates that most of the inspections will occur in construction because the majority of the fatal falls each year occur on construction worksites.

How Will Osha Implement The Fall NEP?
OSHA will utilize a combination of enforcement, outreach, and compliance assistance to reduce fall injuries/fatalities. The Fall NEP allows OSHA compliance officers to open inspections whenever they observe someone working at heights. In addition, the Fall NEP has an outreach component that will focus on educating employers about effective ways to keep their workers safe.

What Are The Outreach Efforts Under The Fall NEP?
Each area and regional office must develop and implement a comprehensive fall prevention awareness outreach program 90 days prior to initiating inspections. Area offices and regions must then continue with at least quarterly outreach efforts.

What Are The Inspection Guidelines Under The Fall NEP?
The Fall NEP does not limit a compliance officer’s authority by specifying at what height someone must be working in order to initiate an inspection. Compliance officers can begin an investigation at any time, regardless of whether the compliance officer is at work or traveling to work at the time of the observed hazard.


About the Author

Dan Huntington

Daniel Huntington is an experienced sales and technical product trainer with a demonstrated history of working in the Fall Protection Industry. As a Fall Protection Industry Expert, he is formally trained in OSHA fall protection standards and risk assessment. He is a respected compliance educator and trainer in rooftop safety, presenting at the 2019 ASSP Expo for the International Society of Fall Protection (ISFP) where he facilitated a course on improving safety for people working at height.

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