Fall Safety Protection Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction
EH&S News / NES Safety Topic – April 28, 2017
Written by: Joe Mangiardi, NES, Inc.
Take a break to discuss fall safety with all personnel: employers, employees, contractors, architects, engineers, owners, etc.
Fall Safety Protection and the Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down
Fall safety protection is a major key to saving lives and preventing injuries in the construction industry and beyond. This May 8th – 12th is the official week of the 2017 National Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down, the annual OSHA-guided campaign aimed at preventing falls in the construction industry. Falls are the leading cause of construction worker deaths: according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 937 recorded construction fatalities in 2015, 350 of which were the result of falls from elevation. It is the contention of OSHA, and many other associations and individuals, that such deaths can be prevented with the proper awareness and implemented countermeasures. Even when not necessarily leading to injuries and deaths, a lack fall safety protection measures can be a significant monetary and operational concern for businesses: in 2016 Fall Protection (1926.501) ranked as the most cited OSHA violation for the sixth straight year.
A voluntary event, the National Fall Prevention Stand-Down encourages employers and employees to take a break from normal operations to openly clarify, emphasize, or otherwise discuss fall hazards and the protective methods and safety policies needed to ensure everyone stays safe on the job. Being optional, the amount of time taken in this endeavor is completely up to the employer; the goal is simply to do what it takes for all personnel to achieve the relevant fall safety protection awareness and procedural understanding. Upon completion of the Stand-Down, participants may visit the OSHA Stand-Down website to download a certificate of participation and provide feedback (certificates will be available from May 1st to June 30th so that employers may have ample time to participate). No registration is required. The website also provides numerous resources in the way of Fall Prevention Stand-Down topics and generally related information.
OSHA Partners with Various Organizations for the Stand-Down
OSHA partners in the National Fall Prevention Safety Stand-Down with an array of organizations committed to advancing greater occupational safety and health awareness. These agencies include: the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the National Safety Council, the National Construction Safety Executives (NCSE), the U.S. Air Force, and the OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers.
Participate in the fall safety stand-down to learn how to prevent falls like these!
Though aimed primarily at commercial construction companies, contractors, and highway construction companies, participation in the Stand-Down is not reserved solely for construction industry employees. Anyone interested in fall safety awareness is encouraged to join in the effort. In fact, the largest single entity to take part over the past two years has been the United States Air Force, with over a million military and civilian participants. Other non-construction industry participants have come from general industry, government agencies, unions, employer’s trade associations, employee interest organizations, and safety equipment manufacturing companies.
To learn more about recent OSHA developments concerning fall safety, check out this NES article: OSHA Final Rule: Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems.
You can partner with OSHA, too! OSHA invites everyone to help raise awareness by posting the ready-made OSHA Fall Safety Stand-Down infographics on their personal or business social media outlets along with #standdown4safety. These infographics are made to be shared and can be found here.
Safety Stand-Downs: You Get What You Give!
The more effort you put into any Safety Stand-Down, the more you will get out of it. In addition to being topically focused on workplace safety, OSHA suggests that a Stand-Down also be conducted in a safe, repercussion-free environment, one which encourages honest, open dialog among employers, employees, contractors, sub-contractors, architects, engineers, owners, etc. Sometimes falls can occur in less than intuitive ways, so explore all the dangers that can be presented on the job. You and your organization may have considered fall safety protection with regard to potential falls from roofs, scaffolds, and ladders, but does awareness extend to hazardous situations related to falls down stairs, through an elevated opening, or through fragile roof surfaces? Discuss what policies are in place, what could be improved, what equipment employees have or require, your organization’s history of injuries/fatalities, and what training programs should be continued or adopted to achieve the safest results. Consult the OSHA publication “Suggestions to Prepare for a Successful Safety Stand-Down” for more ideas.
OSHA also has put together some short videos portraying various hazardous workplace scenarios. Three of the construction fall-related videos are included in this article (below); view the rest here. Remember: fall safety protection saves lives!
Feel free to contact NES if you have questions about fall safety training or if you need any other information about our Environmental Health & Safety training and consulting capabilities: 1.800.NES.ADVISE (1.800.637.2384) / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Falls in Construction – OSHA Safety Videos
This OSHA video addresses falls in construction caused by a lack of safeguards in floor openings. As can be seen in the video, unguarded stairwells can be fatal. This type of hazard can be neutralized by way of guardrails or floor opening covers.
Unguarded skylights are the construction industry fall hazard depicted in this OSHA video. Even though the roofers in this video were protected by a guardrail, they did not have any personal fall safety protection, and the skylight in the center of the roof was not covered. One of the workers fell through the skylight, was badly injured, and died two days later. What can be learned from this example is that taking only some, but not all, necessary safety measures is insufficient—and can have dire consequences.
In this OSHA video, construction workers were installing deck pans on a bridge. The workers were not wearing any fall safety protection and there was no safety net installed below the work area. One worker slipped, in doing so pushed one of the deck pans aside, and fell through the opening to her death. This tragedy could have been avoided by having an appropriate safety net in place or by equipping those workers with harnesses attached to a horizontal life line system.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Safety Stand-Down Article: Construction Safety and Health
OSHA Publication: Suggestions to Prepare for a Successful Stand-Down