OSHA National Emphasis Program on Falls

Jan 03, 2024

Fall-related fatalities and their severe consequences in the workplace are preventable. Yet, falls still take the lives of hundreds and injure thousands of workers each year. Tackling this issue requires a greater emphasis on education, awareness, and fall protection regulations.

For these reasons, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented the National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Falls earlier this year to reduce severe injuries and fatalities resulting from falls at heights in various workplaces. This article will provide an overview of the NEP on Falls, initiatives, and the importance of compliance for building owners and property managers.

Focus on Falls – The OSHA National Emphasis Program

OSHA implements temporary NEPs to focus resources on specific hazards and high-hazard industries, using data and inspection findings for evaluation. The NEP on Falls took effect on May 1, 2023, with compliance officers authorized to initiate inspections on July 30, 2023, upon observing workers at heights without prior appointment.

Eric Harbin, Administrator for OSHA, states, “Although most of the regions had their own different approach to addressing falls in the workplace, this kind of nationalized it and put a unified approach on how we target fall exposures in the industry.” This program marks the 10th anniversary of OSHA’s Fall Protection Stand-Down campaign.

The NEP targets general industry and construction to locate and inspect fall hazards in the workplace.

  1. Targeted Inspections: OSHA officers are now authorized to conduct inspections specifically focused on fall hazard activities in several areas, including rooftop mechanical work/maintenance, window and gutter cleaning, and power washing buildings. When OSHA observes potential risks, it can take immediate action without requiring prior incidents or complaints to trigger an inspection.
  2. Educational Outreach: A vital component of the NEP is educating employers and workers about effective fall protection methods. The program aims to increase awareness and understanding of fall hazards and the best mitigation practices.
  3. Emphasis on Compliance and Prevention: The program stresses the importance of adhering to OSHA’s fall protection standards. It includes reviewing and ensuring that all required safety measures, such as guardrails, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems, and training, are in place and effective.

The OSHA NEP on Falls signals an increase in enforcement to prevent fatal and non-fatal falls. Employers, building owners, and property managers must take necessary precautions to minimize fall risks in the workplace and promote worker safety. The NEP’s focus on outreach and compliance assistance also provides a valuable opportunity for employers and industry associations to work with OSHA to reduce fall hazards and improve safety in the workplace.

Why Did OSHA Implement an NEP for Fall Protection?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, fall inspections decreased. However, with the workplace returning to a new normal, there is a renewed focus on fall protection. Here are some compelling statistics and insights supporting a greater emphasis on fall protection:

As inspections began nationally on July 30, 2023, OSHA compliance officers can now open inspections whenever they observe work at heights.

Building Owner Responsibilities Under OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Falls

The OSHA National Emphasis Program (NEP) on Falls places critical responsibilities on building owners to ensure the safety of workers at heights. This emphasis on fall protection underscores the role of building owners in preventing accidents and maintaining compliance with OSHA standards.

By adhering to these responsibilities, building owners contribute significantly to the safety and well-being of workers operating at heights.

Preparing for OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Falls

Building owners must proactively ensure their buildings have the necessary fall protection systems, comply with OSHA regulations, provide necessary documentation and training, and understand the legal and financial consequences of non-compliance.

Preparing for OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on Falls is critical for building owners and property managers. To ensure compliance, key steps include:

  1. Safe Roof Access: Ensuring safe and secure access to the roof, including proper pathways and entry points that comply with OSHA’s safety standards.
  2. Safe Roof Walking Surfaces: Regularly inspect and maintain roof walking surfaces to prevent slip and fall accidents.
  3. Edge Protection: Guarding edges and areas over the edge with appropriate fall protection systems such as guardrails or safety nets is mandatory.
  4. Employee Training: Providing comprehensive fall protection training to all building employees working at heights is vital to compliance.
  5. Adequate Fall Protection Equipment/Systems: Maintain adequate fall protection equipment, including guardrails for skylights and roof hatches, and have a qualified person (Professional Engineer) conduct regular inspections and certification of anchors.

 

Valcourt Building Services offers expert solutions and assistance to help you prepare for OSHA’s NEP on Falls. Contact Valcourt today to ensure your building meets OSHA’s rigorous safety standards and protect your workers from fall hazards.

Plus, watch our 30-minute on-demand webinar Discover What OSHA’s NEP Means for You for in-depth insights and guidance on fall protection compliance.

 

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