The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is considering updating its safety standards covering falls in shipbuilding, ship repair, shipbreaking, and other shipyard-related employment and has issued a Request for Information. Comments and materials must be submitted by December 7, 2016.

The standards fall under Subpart E of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards in Shipyard Employment. In its September 8 RFI, OSHA said it is specifically seeking comment and information about 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.

The agency said fall hazards are “a significant cause” of shipyard fatalities and injuries, with falls to a lower level causing 40 percent of all fatal occupational incidents in shipyard employment from 1992 to 2014, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the OSHA Integrated Management Information System, 32 falls resulted in death or hospitalization between 2002 and 2014 in shipbuilding and repair. Of those falls, 24, or 80 percent, resulted in a fatality. OSHA said the falls were from various workplace surfaces, including scaffolds, ladders, stairways, platforms, drydocks, and ship decks. Moreover, nine injuries occurred as a result of falling objects during that same period, of which seven (or 78 percent) resulted in death.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational injury data from 2002 to 2013 revealed an average of 642 slip, trip, and fall injuries involving days away from work occurred annually in shipyard employment. These injuries are the third leading cause, or 22 percent, of all injuries that result in days away from work, OSHA said. Overexertion and contact with equipment are the leading causes.

There are an estimated three to four annual deaths in falls at shipyards.

OSHA is seeking input on proposals to revise portions of 29 CFR 1915 Subparts E, M and N (RIN:1218-AA68). It has not updated these safety standards since adopting them in 1971. It said that current standards do not cover all access/egress hazards and do not address advances in technology such as new scaffold systems.

In April 2014, OSHA issued a directive to employers on how fall protection rules apply in shipyard settings.

In this RFI, OSHA asked shipyard business employers such questions as: What percentage of injuries and fatalities do falls represent? What practices and procedures does your establishment use (or should employers implement) for inspecting fall protection? Who conducts inspections?