OSHA Announces Fall Protection NEPMay 11, 2023
The recent announcement by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) about the launch of a National Emphasis Program (NEP) targeting fall hazards is not a big surprise. Fall Protection – General Requirements (1926.501) has been OSHA’s most frequently cited standard for over a decade. In FY 2022, the agency issued 5260 violations, more than double the next most frequently cited standard, hazard communication. Falls also account for 13 percent of the 40,531 workplace deaths since 2014.
According to the May 1, 2023 press release, the NEP “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 height.” This NEP addressing fall hazards will take priority over any regional or local emphasis programs that are “substantially similar” and any “other elements” of regional and local programs can remain in effect. State plans must notify OSHA if they will be adopting the federal NEP or if the state plan has an “effective” emphasis program already in place. If state plans adopt the NEP, they must do so within six months.
All industries covered
While the enforcement initiative is part of the agency’s current focus on the construction industry, and OSHA anticipates that most of the inspections will occur in construction, the NEP clearly indicates its non-construction targets that they feel had previously fallen through the cracks. These targets include rooftop mechanical work/maintenance, utility line work/maintenance, arborist/tree trimming, holiday light installation, road sign maintenance/billboards, power washing buildings, gutter cleaning, chimney cleaning, window cleaning, and communication towers. For any work activities “where a worker is observed working at height, an inspection may be initiated upon approval by area office management.”
The NEP is unique in that it expands when OSHA can initiate an inspection. Before now, OSHA couldn’t typically initiate a fall protection inspection “unless there is imminent danger.” Now an inspection can be initiated whenever a compliance officer observes a worker “at height.” CSHOs have been given the green light to unilaterally initiate inspections — especially at construction sites — pretty much anytime.
Get ready for a visit
Construction employers, as well as general industry employers, should be prepared for an inspection in the months ahead. Reviewing the federally required fall protection regulations is a good place to start this preparation. If you have any questions about your fall protection program — or have received a citation for any reason — don’t hesitate to contact Orr & Reno for assistance.
About the Author: James Laboe