Fall incidents continue to afflict industries across the nation each and every year, with workers in outdoor construction particularly at risk. Coming in the first full week of June 2nd – 6th, OSHA is organizing a nation wide Safety Stand-Down aimed at educating workers on fall risks and increasing the industry understanding of preventative measures. OSHA has repeatedly iterated that the hundreds of construction work deaths each year – the most of any single risk category – are entirely preventable. Worker deaths place undue emotional and monetary burden on the deceased’s family, friends, co-workers, and often employers. In this blog post, we’re going to go through some more of the reasoning behind safety stand-downs, and talk about how you can participate in the upcoming June event in the most effective manner possible.
Fall Incidents and Prevention Stand-Down
What Is A Safety Stand-Down?
This “stand-down” is the name bestowed upon the face-to-face employer and employee meeting OSHA is encouraging in their upcoming event. The stand-down involves workers literally stepping away from their posts to attend employer-created seminars, training sessions, and meetings on fall prevention. The ultimate goal of such an event is to reduce the incidence rate of the hazard of focus (in this case falling from heights). Employers are encouraged to use OSHA’s own tips page and to get creative in their ideas for this week. While this kind of session could be carried out by an employer any time they like, the point of the designated week is to give groups and employers a specific timeframe for conducting important training, rather than putting it off.
During the event week, participating businesses will be able to go online to OSHA’s fall prevention web page and fill out forms based upon the sessions they conducted. After, the business or organization will receive a certification of participation, which can be displayed amongst other safety accolades as a badge representing an employer’s commitment to the well-being of their employees.
It’s not only businesses that can participate, however, OSHA notes. Anyone from trade groups, to governmental bodies, to contractors, and more can get in on the stand-down week. Ultimately, the main focus of the week is the construction industry, OSHA has set a goal of having 25,000+ employers and, by extension, over half a million workers participate in the safety stand-down.
Download OSHA’s Stand-Down to Fall Incidents Poster
You’ve got less than a month now to prepare for the stand-down, and while 3-4 weeks may seem like a long time, preparing, printing off, and organizing materials can be hard to get done all at the last minute. If you can’t dedicate time yourself to the event, put a safety manager at each of your branches or job sites on it; inform them of what the stand-down is and the goals or outcomes you have for it. These are not OSHA’s number goals, but specifics for your company. If you’ve had problems with falls, injuries, close calls, or even fatalities in recent years, these could present a great opportunity for you to work toward a tangible goal. You may want to focus your session on a certain falling risk or set of risks that are most relevant to your own job types.
The safety stand-down is meant to help with the issues most important to your business, loosely under the umbrella of falling hazards. This may mean purely informational sessions or it may mean planning for some hands-on, interaction-based training activities. This is especially useful when you may have noticed safety techniques or steps that you’ve previously taught not being actively applied in day-to-day work. Alternatively, you might have recently thought of some completely new safety measure that could help stem some problems you’re having.
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OSHA’s guidelines seem to hint at a short stand-down period, during lunch or a break, for example. While this might be enough to serve as a refresher, don’t be afraid to take a half-day or day off for your workers if you think you really need to dig deeper into some of the topics you want to cover. In addition to the topics you yourself deem important, feedback from employees both during and after the stand-down will likely be valuable to you. Remember, you have a whole week (and really longer than that), so if a topic you hadn’t planned on covering is brought up constantly you can always set aside some time another day to address it. You may also take the stand-down time as a great time to introduce brand new safety measures that have become industry standard or that out perform old equipment (fall prevention systems, etc.), which you may have put off until this point for fear of interrupting work flow. This may be a good time even show a fall prevention and protection training dvd (similar to this one),
You can find various resources to help you plan your safety stand-down on OSHA’s page for the event located HERE.
Why the Fall Incidents Stand-Down is Important
“Keith Bramblett, 29, died Wednesday from injuries he received after falling forty feet while trying to install an electronic billboard near State Road 408. Bramblett’s uncle, Frank Harrington, was also at the scene of the incident Thursday.” – By Michelle Meredith – WESH
This is the introduction to a very recent, very real, and very tragic article about an incident out of Orlando, Florida. A work was in an elevated basket on an assisting crane as he guided a large billboard pole into place. The pole, attached to his basket, began to fall. In the ensuing commotion, the basket lurched and Bramblett fell out; he plummeted to his death. This incident, now being investigated by OSHA, is under a week old, and demonstrates how preventable falling deaths, unfortunately, do still occur regularly. These events also illustrate the need for things like the upcoming stand-down week, which bring national industry attention to an issue that can seem to miss the mark for many until it affects a workforce and/or employer personally.
If you were a company, which often dealt with billboard and other crane installation projects, how might you shape your stand-down event around this particular incident? Let’s take a look:
One of the first problems in this article, which will likely be brought up by OSHA in its investigation, is that a secondary fall arrest system could have saved the worker’s life when the basket tipped. Furthermore, the basket was attached to the pole being moved, which is the reason it was jerked around when the pole started to tip and fall over. Witnesses said that the worker was able to cut the strap connecting the two, but not in time. An easier release system, in which the two bodies could have been separated quicker might have also helped to keep the basket from rocking such an extent that the worker fell.
If you find yourself attaching materials to elevated platforms in this way, or not using secondary fall arrest systems while workers are on such platforms, you might talk about how you’re going to start altering your practices to keep your workers safe, using this example as a catalyst.
In Your Own Way
No matter what you decide to put in your safety stand-down exactly, at the very least you’ll be refreshing worker awareness of a danger that claims far too many lives in their industry each and every year. If nothing else, a worker about to attempt a risky maneuver in the future might think back to an example or lesson you gave during the event, and opt for the safer route – which just might save his or her life.