OSHA Launches Nationwide Program to Tackle Workplace Falls and Save Lives

June 8, 2023

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced the launch of a National Emphasis Program aimed at combating “one of the most preventable and significant causes of workplace fatalities”: falls by employees working at heights in construction and other industries.  

Falls from elevation are responsible for 680 out of 5,190 fatal workplace accidents in 2021 across all industries – the highest rate of any cause. OSHA also reports that falls are the most common workplace violation reported.  

The new National Emphasis Program aims to increase enforcement and outreach activities to address these fatalities and serious injuries. OSHA is developing a comprehensive fall protection awareness outreach program before initiating inspections for potential violations. Once the program is established, OSHA will focus inspections mainly on construction sites – where most fatal falls occur – but its efforts will extend to all industries. 

A critical aspect of the program is that compliance and safety officers are now allowed to initiate inspections when they observe workers working at heights, even without an imminent danger present. If an inspection is deemed unnecessary, officers will instead provide educational materials or other outreach activities. These materials provide guidance for identifying and inspecting potential hazards that may lead to falls, such as faulty safety equipment and unclear pathways. 

OSHA requirements state that employers must set up fall protection for employees working as little as four feet above the ground, as well as those working over machinery at any height. This includes protecting floor holes that an employee may accidentally walk into, providing guide rails and toe boards around elevated platforms, and providing additional protection like safety nets and harnesses. 

While implementing physical safety measures is critical, the program will focus heavily on educating employers and workers on regulations and best practices to prevent falls. 

The announcement of the new program coincided with the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction and Safety Week (May 1-5), which emphasizes the importance of fall protection and safety on construction sites. 

Industry stakeholders, such as the North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), generally support the program. It is being viewed as a positive step toward protecting workers and preventing fatalities. The program's national scope is expected to address areas that were previously overlooked, providing employers with a unified expectation regarding compliance and inspections. 

OSHA's launch of a nationwide program to address workplace falls marks a significant step forward in ensuring the safety and well-being of workers across industries. The program's emphasis on prevention, enforcement, and outreach activities is a critical response to a preventable and significant cause of injuries and deaths. By increasing awareness, enhancing inspections, and promoting comprehensive fall protection measures, OSHA aims to create a unified expectation for employers and empower compliance officers to take proactive measures in preventing falls. 

Capitol Technology University’s programs in Occupational Health and Safety can prepare you to address workplace safety and protect against workplace falls and other accidents. For more information, visit the Capitol website or contact our Admissions team at admissions@captechu.edu.