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2023 OSHA National Emphasis Program
The 2023 OSHA National Emphasis Program aims to target high-risk industries and hazards to improve worker safety and health through increased inspections and outreach.
All You Need to Know
As of July 13th, 2023, OSHA has implemented a national emphasis program to further reduce and prevent workplace injuries and fatalities. This thorough and detailed program is geared to reduce the number of issues resulting from the most frequently sited OSHA violations.
After collecting data on workplace injuries and fatalities via the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was clear that further safety measures and protocols were necessary. In this article, we will go over why that is and how business operators and supervisors can implement the new OSHA national emphasis program in their place of work.
Why did OSHA issue the National Emphasis Program?
In recent years, workplace injuries and fatalities have risen at a startling rate. Furthermore, an alarming number of these injuries and fatalities came as a result of high fall-risk scenarios. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 136 workers died and 127,000 were injured as a result of “same level falls.” In the next year, of the 5,190 fatal workplace injuries, 680 were came as a result of fall-risk, accounting for 13% of 2021’s total workplace fatalities.
Work taking place at elevation – even at just one story – has always presented the most amount of risk for employees. The OSHA safety standard listed as “Fall Protection – General Requirements,” has been listed as a leading cause of death in the workplace for 12 consecutive years.
The Fall Protection safety standard accounted for 5,980 cited violations in 2022, nearly double than the next most frequently cited standard. For this reason, among others, OSHA’s new national emphasis program (NEP) was designed to specifically address the high numbers of health and safety issues related to risk of falling.
OSHA first announced the national emphasis program on May 1st, 2023, a day that marks that start of agencies 10th annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. This voluntary event serves as an opportunity for employers to speak directly with their employees about all safety concerns, but especially those related to “fall hazards.”
Which employers, companies, and industries will be subject to NEP?
There is potential for all employers to be subject to OSHA’s national emphasis program. In the new program, the Department of Labor details that compliance officers are authorized to initiate and complete inspections in every industry where work taking place at heights is possible. It should be noted that there is no minimum work elevation listed to require an inspection.
As of July 13th, 2023, all construction inspections for fall hazards will be assessed according to NEP guidelines. While all construction employers can be subject to the NEP, the program does have a set of industry sectors in mind:
- Roof top mechanical work and maintenance
- Utility work and maintenance (electrical, cable, etc.)
- Arborists and tree trimming
- Light installation (e.g., Christmas lights)
- Road maintenance (billboards, overpasses, etc.)
- Gutter, window, and chimney cleaning
- Communication towers
A recent OSHA instruction guide for the NEP details how warehouse and distribution centers, such as postal processing facilities and high injury rate retail locations, can expect to comply. From the date of July 13th, employers will have 60 days to either submit proof of NEP adoption or of an alternative plan that is at least as effective at preventing fatalities and injuries. Employers in industries that have similar exposure to said fall hazards should expect a similar set of compliance requirements.
It should also be noted that since the year 2017, the largest number of inspections, citations, and penalties related to fall protection took place in residential construction.
OSHA National Emphasis Program Inspections
When will NEP inspections take place? As of this summer, inspection officers are authorized to perform inspections under the new program any time they observe someone working at elevations. Employers in high fall-risk industries should expect an increased number of inspections throughout 2023.
Considering that fall hazards already account for a large percentage of injuries and fatalities, the newly placed emphasis on the NEP should come as no surprise. Between 2014 and 2021, over 30% (77,782) of total inspections (241,798) were related to falls.
As it is the case with any OSHA inspections, national emphasis program inspections should be expected at any time. Typically, OSHA offices will apply a random number generator to a given industry in order to generate their own inspection list for the year.
OSHA encourages employers to act quickly in implementing the proper training and safety precautions within their company. To ensure full-compliance, many operators in high fall-risk industries are choosing to work with regulatory compliance experts like Riskill. There is no better way to protect your business and employees from risk to injury or fatality than working with a qualified expert.