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OSHA Begins National Emphasis Program Addressing Falls

OSHA Begins National Emphasis Program Addressing Falls


Effective May 1, 2023, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) began a new National Emphasis Program (“NEP”) to prevent falls. In recognizing that the leading cause of fatal workplace injuries involves falls, OSHA’s new NEP will focus on reducing fall-related injuries and fatalities for people working at heights in all industries. The issuance of the new NEP coincides with OSHA’s 10th Annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction event. The Stand-Down event, which took place May 1-5, 2023, is a voluntary event for employers to talk directly to their employees about safety and to reinforce the importance of fall prevention.

The NEP itself establishes guidance for locating and inspecting fall hazards and allows OSHA compliance officers to open inspections whenever they observe someone working at heights. The program will also include an outreach component which aims to educate employers about effective ways to keep their workers safe as well as compliance assistance.


The NEP will apply to all industries and will authorize compliance officers to initiate an inspection anytime they observe someone “working at heights.” This will apply whether or not the employer is in compliance with fall protection requirements. The NEP does not specify at what height a worker must be working in order to initiate an inspection. However, while the NEP does not define the height requirements, remember that the general construction standard for fall protection is 6 feet (10 feet when standing on scaffolding).

Compliance officers, under the NEP, are authorized to initiate these inspections either during the compliance officer’s normal work-day travel or while enroute to, from or during other inspections. Fall inspections will also continue to be initiated as the result of incidents, referrals and complaints. If an inspection is not warranted after entering the worksite and observing work activities, the compliance officer is instructed to conduct an outreach activity on fall protection and exit the site. Outreach activities can include: giving the employer the website address for OSHA’s fall prevention standards or providing related outreach materials or copies of OSHA publications.

The scope of an inspection under the NEP will normally be limited to evaluating worker exposure to hazards associated with falls; however, the compliance officer may expand the scope of the inspection if there is evidence from injury and illness records, plain view hazards or employee interviews of other potential safety and health hazards or violations in or around the worksite.

 Finally, according to the NEP, both the National Office and each Area Office and Regional Office must develop and implement a comprehensive fall prevention awareness outreach program for ninety (90) days prior to initiating any inspection.

In summary, employers should be aware that the new NEP allows compliance officers to initiate an inspection after the mere sight of someone working “at height”. The NEP does not require an employer to be out of compliance with fall protection standards. Moreover, the NEP allows a compliance officer to expand the scope of the inspection while on site.

This bulletin was prepared by Lindsey Deck. Lindsey is an associate at Auman, Mahan and Furry. She concentrates her law practice in representing employers in defending them in Workers' Compensation claims and OSHA matters.


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