Consistently from year to year, fall protection has ranked among OSHA’s Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards. And is it any wonder — unintentional falls kill thousands annually, and account for more than a third of all deaths in the construction industry. The fines for deaths or injuries resulting from falls can stretch into the millions of dollars on an annual basis.
Given the severity of the problem and the publicity that typically accompanies fall-related incidents, you would think awareness of the risks of working at heights would be widespread. Yet, such is not the case. Many don’t realize that a fall from even a few feet can be potentially life threatening. (We lost a family member several years ago to a fall off a ladder less than 10 ft. from the ground.) And numerous employers remain unaware of the specific OSHA requirements for the various types of work involving elevations.
To help raise awareness among employers and workers about the hazards of falls, OSHA announced a National Safety Stand-down from June 2 to 6. The stand-down is part of an ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign, which was started in 2012 and developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and its National Occupational Research Agenda program.
As part of National Safety Stand-down week, OSHA plans to work with employers, workers, industry groups, state OSH plans and other state and local organizations to host safety stand-downs that focus on recognizing hazards and preventing falls. Employers who conduct a stand-down will be able to provide feedback on their experience and download Certificates of Participation from June 2 to July 15.
To conduct a stand-down, construction companies will stop work to provide a focused toolbox talk on a topic such as ladder safety, fall protection equipment or scaffolds safety. The meeting can provide information about hazards, protective methods and the company’s safety policies, goals and expectations. Other ideas can be found in Suggestions to Prepare for a Successful Stand-down at www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/suggestions.html.
To learn how your company can partner with OSHA in the stand-down, visit www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/. The page provides details on how to conduct the meeting, receive the certificate of participation and access free education and training resources, fact sheets and other outreach materials in English and Spanish. You can also learn more about preventing falls by visiting www.osha.gov/stopfalls/.
Whether you decide to participate in the National Safety Stand-down or not, it’s critical to ensure the workers on your jobsites understand the hazards, and to provide them with the necessary tools, procedures and equipment to mitigate those risks. Safety is both a legal and a moral obligation, whether workers are in the air or on the ground. Make sure they have everything they need to return home safely at the end of every work day.