The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and companion federal agencies have designated May 2-6 as the third annual National Safety Stand-Down, reminding or educating construction employers and workers of the serious dangers of falls—the leading cause of fatalities stemming from construction site accidents.
|OSHA sets fall-prevention campaign’s National Safety Stand-Down schedule|
OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and Center for Construction Research and Training are leading the effort to encourage employers to pause during their workday for topic discussions, demonstrations, and training on how to recognize hazards and prevent falls. “Falls still kill far too many construction workers,” says Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “While we regularly work with employers, industry groups and organizations on preventing falls and saving lives, the National Safety Stand-Down encourages all employers—from small businesses to large companies operating at many job sites—to be part of our effort to ensure every worker makes it to the end of their shift safely.”
“In many workplaces, falls are a real and persistent hazard. Given the nature of the work, the construction industry sees the highest frequency of fall-related deaths and serious, sometimes debilitating injuries,” adds NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard. “The National Safety Stand-Down serves as an important opportunity for both employers and workers to stop and take time in the workday to identify existing fall hazards, and then offer demonstrations and training to emphasize how to stay safe on the job.”
More than four million workers participated in the National Safety Stand-Downs in 2014 and 2015, and OSHA expects thousands of employers across the nation to join this year’s event. To guide their efforts, it has developed the official National Safety Stand-Down website, www.osha.gov/stopfalls, with information on conducting a successful demonstration. After their events, employers are encouraged to provide feedback and will receive a personalized certificate of participation.
This year’s Stand-Down is part of OSHA’s ongoing Fall Prevention Campaign, instituted in 2012 and developed in partnership with the NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda program. It provides employers with lifesaving information and educational materials on how to take steps to prevent falls, provide the right equipment for their workers, and train all employees in the proper use of that equipment. OSHA has also produced a brief video with more information about the 2016 Stand-Down in English and Spanish.
To raise awareness among workers and employers about common fall hazards, OSHA, NIOSH and National Occupational Research Agenda–Construction Sector underscore three actions:
- PLAN ahead to get the job done safely. When working from heights, such as ladders, scaffolds and roofs, employers must plan projects to ensure that the job is done safely. Begin by deciding how the job will be done, what tasks will be involved, and what safety equipment may be needed to complete each task. When estimating the cost of a job, employers should include safety equipment, and plan to have all the necessary equipment and tools available.
- PROVIDE the right equipment. Workers who are six feet or more above lower levels are at risk for serious injury or death if they should fall. To protect them, employers must provide fall protection and the right kinds of ladders, scaffolds and safety gear. Different ladders and scaffolds are appropriate for different jobs. If workers use personal fall arrest systems, a harness should be provided for each one who needs to tie off to the anchor. Employers should regularly inspect all fall protection equipment to ensure it is in good condition and safe to use.
- TRAIN everyone to use the equipment safely. Falls can be prevented when workers understand proper set-up and safe use of equipment, so they need training on the specific equipment they will use to complete the job. Employers must train workers in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use of ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems and other equipment they are using on the job.
SHORING, CHANGE ORDER KEY TO FATAL FORMWORK ACCIDENT
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed nearly $80,000 in fines for Great Southern Building Systems, LLC, Pearl River, La., tied to safety violations behind a concrete formwork collapse during reconstruction of a Kiln, Miss., restaurant. Great Southern served as a subcontractor to Berthelot Design Systems, whose principal and sole employee, Gary Berthelot, was trapped and killed by falling concrete and debris while placing supports as slab pouring commenced above him.
OSHA investigators found that Berthelot did not obtain revised engineering plans with supports for a concrete slab versus a wood floor as detailed in the original design. Waiving citations and penalties for Berthelot Design Systems, the agency issued Great Southern a) one willful citation for exposing workers to being struck-by material, as the slab formwork was not built to handle the load on it; and, b) two serious citations for not installing formwork to support the concrete floor as it was poured and not having engineering plans.
“Great Southern Building Systems failed in its responsibility to protect its employees, despite being warned that the floor was unstable,” says OSHA Jackson (Miss.) Area Office Director Eugene Stewart. “This tragedy could have been prevented had the employer obtained new engineering plans and followed the requirements.”