May 4, 2023

OSHA Announces National Emphasis Program on Fall Prevention

OSHA has launched a national emphasis program (NEP) intended to prevent falls across all industries, the agency announced in a May 1 press release. Falls from heights are the leading cause of fatal workplace injuries, OSHA states: 680 of 5,190 fatal workplace injuries recorded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2021 were associated with falls, which equates to about 13 percent of all deaths related to work injuries. The NEP provides OSHA compliance officers with procedures for locating and inspecting fall hazards and authorizes them to open inspections whenever they observe someone working at heights, including during inspections for other hazards and even during the officers’ normal workday travel. The program also includes an outreach component to educate employers on keeping their workers safe from falls.

Falling from heights is a particularly common hazard in the construction industry. The NEP document (PDF) states that about 65 percent of OSHA inspections in the construction industry between 2014 and 2021 emphasized fall hazards. Falls to lower levels accounted for 32 percent of fatalities in the construction industry for the same period. Although less common, falls remain a hazard in non-construction industries. The NEP will also target occupations that engage in work or maintenance on rooftops or utility lines, tree trimming, holiday light installation, road sign or billboard maintenance, and power washing, as well as those who clean gutters, chimneys, or windows or climb communication towers.

The NEP requires state OSHA plans to have fall protection policies and procedures in place that are identical to or at least as effective as those outlined in the federal program. State plans have up to 60 days from the date of the NEP’s announcement to notify OSHA of whether they plan to adopt such policies or already have them in place.

More information, including a link to the NEP, may be found in OSHA’s press release. OSHA also provides fall protection resources on its website.