By: Thaddeus J. Schurter, Drewry Simmons Vornehm, LLP
As the busy summer construction season approaches, so, too, does the Annual National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. Originally conceived as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) Fall Prevention Campaign, this voluntary event has reached millions of construction industry participants across all 50 states, with the goal of preventing falls and fall-related injuries and deaths in construction.
What Is It?
The Stand-Down, a weeklong event scheduled for May 8-12, 2017, encourages construction employers at every level to stop work to discuss fall prevention topics, including job specific fall hazards, roof safety, scaffold safety, and ladder safety with field employees. Participants can provide hands-on training, demonstrations, equipment inspections and audits, Toolbox Talks, presentations and drills to increase awareness of the risks posed by working at heights, and to educate workers on how best to eliminate those risks.
Why Does It Matter?
Despite advances in safety equipment, training, and awareness, construction remains one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, several construction occupations recorded their highest fatality total in years in calendar year 2015, including construction laborers (highest since 2008); carpenters (2009); electricians (2009); and plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters (2003). Deaths from the construction industry’s Fatal Four also increased, with falls continuing as the leading cause of private sector construction deaths (excluding highway collisions), followed by struck-by-objects, electrocution and caught-between-objects.
The Stand-Down’s emphasis on fall hazards and fall protection reflects the significant risks posed by working at heights. Each year in the United States, more than 200 construction workers are killed and over 10,000 more are seriously injured by falls. In 2016, OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard was the single most cited OSHA violation for the sixth straight year. Similarly, the Scaffolding and Ladder Standards were the third and seventh most cited violations. Fatal injuries caused by falls have been the leading cause of construction fatalities since 1992. Working at heights is dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be. Providing training and education regarding fall hazards and fall protection is critical to reducing these numbers, particularly for younger workers, and/or new employees who are at a higher risk of work-related injuries because they lack the knowledge and awareness of their more seasoned colleagues.
The 2017 Stand-Down reflects a growing partnership of public agencies and private groups including The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Safety Council, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), the National Construction Safety Executives (NCSE) and the U.S. Air Force. Past participants have included commercial construction companies of all sizes, residential contractors, specialty contractors, highway construction companies, industrial employers, trade associations and the U.S. Military.
How You Can Get Involved.
OSHA’s Fall Protection Standard, the National Safety Stand-Down and Fall Prevention Campaign play an integral role in increasing awareness of fall hazards in the work place. OSHA’s efforts are improving working conditions and saving lives. Worker deaths in America are down, on average, from 38 per day in 1970 to 13 a day in 2015. Nearly 6.5 million people work at approximately 252,000 construction sites across the United States on any given day. Taking time to inform, educate and train those workers to safely navigate fall hazards will help ensure that each of them returns home to their spouse, children and loved ones at the end of each day.
For training, information, and resources about how your company can get involved in this year’s Stand-Down, visit https://www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/resources.html .