On May 1, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced its second National Emphasis Program (“NEP”) in three months, this time addressing the leading cause of fatal workplace injuries and the most frequently cited health and safety standard during construction industry inspections: falls.
According to a statement released by Assistant Secretary for OSHA, Doug Parker, the release of the NEP intentionally coincided with last week’s 10th annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction week. In the same statement, Assistant Secretary Parker cited to Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA data documenting 5,190 fatal workplace injuries in the year 2021, 680 of which were associated with falls from elevations that represent 13% of all deaths.
While it is anticipated that most inspections will occur in the construction industry (all of which will be conducted under the NEP), the NEP applies to all industries and identifies the following non-construction activities being targeted:
- Roof top mechanical work/maintenance (e.g., HVAC)
- 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
Significantly, the NEP will focus on reducing fall-related injuries and fatalities for people working at all heights, including those less than four feet (the height threshold referenced in several OSHA general industry standards). The NEP also permits compliance officers to initiate inspections “whenever they observe someone working at heights,” as well as in response to reportable incidents, referrals and complaints. The NEP takes immediate effect and contains no date of expiration. As such, employers in construction and non-construction industries should expect and prepare for an increase in on-site inspections relating to fall hazards in 2023 and beyond.