OSHA Launches New Program to Prevent Falls at Work

Falls are a leading cause of workplace fatalities and serious injuries across industries in the US. In 2021, 850 workers died from accidents involving slips, trips, and falls, with 680 dying specifically from falls to lower elevations. In addition to being one of the most significant causes of workplace deaths, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), falls are also one of the most preventable.

As a result, OSHA recently announced a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) to reduce or eliminate injuries and fatalities associated with falls. NEPs are special temporary programs that target particular hazards or hazardous industries. To accomplish its fall prevention goals, OSHA will use a combination of enforcement, employer outreach, and compliance assistance.

Which Industries Will OSHA Target?

The new NEP addresses safety for employees working at heights in all industries. However, because most fatal falls occur at construction worksites, the majority of OSHA inspections will likely focus on the construction industry.

While falls to lower levels accounted for 13% of total worker fatalities between 2014 and 2021, they made up 32% of construction fatalities during the same period. In fact, around 300-400 construction workers die in fall accidents each year. In addition, fall protection is the most frequently cited OSHA violation in construction inspections.

Besides the construction industry, the NEP will also target other high-hazard activities such as roofing, utility line work, tree trimming, road sign maintenance, and building cleaning (windows, gutters, chimneys, etc.). In short, employers with worksites that frequently expose workers to fall dangers may see an increase in inspections under the new NEP.

When Do Falls Happen at Work?

Although falls can occur at any time in any industry, some circumstances are more likely than others to be associated with fall incidents on the job. Fall injuries often involve the following:

  • Slippery, cluttered, or unstable walking surfaces or work areas
  • Unprotected edges on elevated workspaces
  • Unguarded floor holes and wall openings
  • Overloaded or unsafely positioned ladders
  • Misused fall protection systems or equipment
  • Improper fall protection training

When it comes to working at heights, OSHA has specific fall protection requirements that vary by industry. The agency requires that fall protection be provided at the following elevations:

  • General industry: 4 feet
  • Shipyards: 5 feet
  • Construction: 6 feet
  • Longshoring operations: 8 feet

In addition, employers must provide fall protection when employees are working over dangerous equipment or machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

Can I Receive Compensation for a Workplace Injury?

In most cases, job-related injuries are handled through workers’ compensation insurance. In Massachusetts, workers’ comp may help cover your medical bills and a percentage of your income when you cannot work. Sometimes, however, your employer or their insurance company may deny that your injury happened on the job, provide fewer benefits than the law requires, or pressure you to return to work too soon.

In these cases, a work injury lawyer can help protect your rights. Your attorney can also evaluate whether you qualify to seek additional compensation from a third party. If you’ve been injured on the job, contact Altman & Altman LLP for a free consultation with an experienced Boston work injury lawyer.




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