OSHA Focuses on Fall Prevention
The United States Department of Labor recently announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has started a National Emphasis Program (NEP) to prevent falls in the workplace. The emphasis focuses on reducing fall-related injuries and fatalities for people working at heights in all industries.
What does OSHA’s fall NEP establish?
The emphasis 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 heights.
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.
What industries will compliance officers focus on?
Compliance officers will focus on the construction industry and the following:
- Roof top mechanical work and maintenance
- Utility line work and maintenance
- Arborist/tree trimming
- Holiday light installation
- Road sign maintenance/billboards
- Power washing buildings (not connected to painting)
- Gutter cleaning
- Chimney cleaning
- Window Cleaning; and
- Communication Towers
What will OSHA officials look for?
An OSHA employee will be assigned to travel throughout a selected geographic area. All ongoing construction projects observed will be listed, including active and inactive projects, regardless of observed hazards.
Cues for ongoing projects include actual construction work, scaffolding, sidewalk sheds, construction barricades and fencing, posted building permits, demolition dumpsters, and the presence of cranes and heavy equipment. If possible, the entire selected geographic area will be surveyed on the same business day.
The area’s OSHA office will compile the list of each ongoing project to include the following minimum information: street address, type of construction activity, and other site observations. If possible, the identity of the employer will also be listed. Any hazards observed, including hazards related to employees working at heights, shall be noted as well.
If hazards are observed by the OSHA employee, they shall be reported to the area office. If imminent danger conditions are observed, an inspection shall be initiated following appropriate protocols as described in OSHA’s Field Operations Manual and applicable National Emphasis Programs.
Why is OSHA implementing this program?
According to OSHA, fatalities caused by falls continue to be a leading cause of death for all workers. Work related fatalities due to falls, slips, and trips increased 5.6 percent in 2021, from 805 fatalities in 2020 to 850 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Falls, slips, and trips in construction and extraction occupations accounted for 370 of these fatalities in 2021, and an increase of 7.2 percent from 2020 when there were 345 fatalities.
Help is available