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OSHA Focuses on Shipyard Falls

Monday, September 12, 2016

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As the first step in revising safety standards regarding falls in shipyards, federal safety regulators have issued a call for input on the requirements.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a Request for Information (RFI) Thursday (Sept. 8) as it considers whether there is a need to revise and update its criteria under Subpart E of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards in Shipyard Employment.

The standards address falls in shipbuilding, ship repair, shipbreaking and other shipyard-related employment.

cleaning ship before painting
© / tolga bayraktar

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a Request for Information (RFI) as it considers updating its safety standards addressing falls in shipbuilding, ship repair, shipbreaking, and other shipyard-related employment.

OSHA reports that fall hazards are a leading cause of shipyard fatalities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40 percent of all fatal occupational incidents in shipyard employment between 1992 and 2014 were caused by falls to a lower level.

Out of Date, Not Comprehensive

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role within the U.S. Department of Labor is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.

OSHA has not updated the safety standards in 29 CFR Part 1915, Subpart E, Scaffolds, Ladders and Other Working Surfaces, since adopting them in 1971. As a result, current standards do not cover all access/egress hazards and do not address advances in technology such as new scaffold systems.

In the language of the notice, the agency describes three areas that illustrate where the current standards are lacking:

“First, workplace slips, trips and falls, particularly falls to a lower level, continue to be a major cause of worker fatalities and injuries in shipyard employment.

“Second, the standards in subpart E are not comprehensive in their coverage of slip, trip and fall hazards in shipyard employment and are supplemented by applicable general industry standards (29 CFR part 1910, subparts D, E and I) to fill the …

“Third, the standards in subpart E are outdated and do not reflect advances in technology or industry best practices developed since OSHA adopted subpart E.”

Comments from the U.S. Navy and Maritime Advisory Committee for Occupational Safety and Health support these concerns, OSHA says.

painting ship
© / okeyphotos

Current requirements within the Shipyard Employment standard do not cover all access/egress hazards and do not address advances in technology such as new scaffold systems, OSHA says.

Although not revised since their approval in 1971, this is not the first consideration of revision, The Bureau of National Affairs reported. The agency had planned to call for input in September 2015 and then again in March. Prior to that, OSHA reportedly considered revisions in both 1988 and 1994 but did not complete the process.

Information Sharing

Information obtained from the RFI will provide OSHA with insight on current practices used to protect workers from shipyard hazards, and will help the agency determine if revisions or updates to the standards are necessary.

Through the RFI, OSHA is specifically looking for comments, data and information on the:

  • Safe access and egress of vessels, buildings and other structures in shipyard employment (including the use of stairways and ladders);
  • Use of fall and falling object protection; and
  • Erection, use and dismantling of scaffolding systems.

Comments and materials are due by Dec. 7.

Responses may be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at  For details on submissions via mail, facsimile or hand delivery, as well as additional instructions and information, view the Federal Register notice.


Tagged categories: Access; Fall protection; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Ladders; North America; OSHA; Regulations; Scaffolding; Shipyards

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