The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and construction industry and union groups are teaming up to raise awareness about jobsite protection against falls from height, the leading cause of construction fatalities.
OSHA has launched a program of “Safety Stand-Downs,” to take place during the week of June 2-6, in which companies halt work on projects around the U.S., to get briefings and reminders about proper equipment and jobsite steps recommended to avoid or reduce fall injuries.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said OSHA expects about 1 million workers to take part in the stand-downs.
OSHA’s chief, Assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels, noted that in 2012, falls from heights caused 279 construction worker deaths and more than 8,800 serious injuries. He also said that a lack of fall protection is the most prevalent OSHA violation. Michaels said in a statement, “These falls cause enormous pain and suffering—and we must do everything we can to prevent them.”
He also said OSHA was teaming with a long list of construction organizations, including the Associated General Contractors of America, Associated Builders and Contractors and National Home Builders Association.
Among other partners are labor unions, including the carpenters, laborers, electrical workers, and ironworkers. Also taking part are the union-affiliated CPWR-The Center for Construction Research and Training, as well as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, state OSHAs and others.
Stephen Sandherr, AGC of America CEO, speaking on June 2 at a stand-down at a Balfour Beatty Construction project in Washington, D.C., said, “This is a week when firms bring construction activity to a standstill so they can focus exclusively on making sure their workers have the latest information and tools to ensure their safety.”
The stand-down included a hands-on demonstration by George Stallings, a partner with safety-equipment company Sales Solutions Inc., of fall-protection equipment. It focused on what Stallings called the “ABCs”—anchoring devices, body wear and connectors.
Sandherr said AGC will be analyzing each of the 806 U.S. construction fatalities in 2012—the most recent year’s data available—to identify “common threads” in those incidents, including those that result from falls. It will share the data with OSHA and any other interested parties.
”Our goal,” he said, “is zero fatalities and zero injuries.”
AGC also released state-by-state lists showing fatality and injury rates for 2012 and earlier years.
Dean McKenzie, deputy director of OSHA’s construction directorate, told the several dozen workers “I’ve been one of you guys,” noting that he had worked in construction for 35 years before joining OSHA.