As the construction industry continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it also continues to focus on worker safety. Consistent with this focus, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has scheduled the eighth annual “National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction” event for May 3-7, 2021. OSHA is encouraging construction employers and other stakeholders to join the event to promote awareness and training on how to better control fall-related hazards. It makes sense to consider a few things that might just make you want to participate.
Participation Isn’t Hard
Initially, it will not take much effort for you to participate in the event. Other than the time it takes to get the word out to worksites and to pull information about your fall prevention program together, there is little preparation necessary. You already have what you need most: your fall prevention program. Helpfully, OSHA has also provided suggestions and additional resources on its website that you can use to prepare for a successful event. OSHA even provides links to resources, posters, handouts, and other potentially useful material.
During the National Stand-Down, you can focus your communication on any of the many types of falls that can happen. These can include falls:
- From ladders
- From a roof
- From a scaffold
- Down a set of stairs
- From structural steel
- Through a floor or roof opening
- Through a fragile roof surface
Of course, the talk should include more than discussion of the risks associated with these types of falls. It should also include discussion on how these falls can be prevented, i.e., your fall protection program, and any improvements to the program that might be considered.
You can promote the National Stand-Down with as much or as little fanfare as you wish. You can formally participate in the event by signing up on the OSHA website, or you can choose to simply have an independent event for the same “fall prevention” purpose. As long as you are using the time to promote awareness of the risks associated with a fall and training employees on fall prevention, your event is “on the mark.” In fact, something as basic as a short, focused “Toolbox Talk” at each worksite should suffice. One note of potential importance: You should remember that requiring employees to participate in the National Stand-Down (which you should do) likely makes the time compensable, i.e., an employee likely must be paid for the time.
There’s an Upside to Participating
Finally, although there is little, if any, downside to participating in the National Stand-Down or in an employer holding an independent event, you should recognize that there is a potentially huge upside: The additional education/training may help improve the safety of employees on your worksite. Remember, as far as the “hurt factor” goes, the potential risk of injury associated with a fall from a height is very high. When an employee is injured from a fall, the injury can be catastrophic. Tragically, almost 40% of annual recorded construction fatalities happen as the result of a fall. If the National Stand-Down event prevents even one such incident, that would be a great return on a small investment.