For the last decade, fall protection has been the most-cited workplace violation by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). With so many violations, it’s not surprising that falls are one of the most common causes of death on work sites, particularly in construction. Each year in May, OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down Week provides an opportunity for employers and crews to launch discussions surrounding fall protection — and how to prevent fall injuries and deaths on the job. Although OSHA calls out the issue in May, with the risks associated with falls in construction — not to mention the cited statistics — at FUSED Industries, we believe fall protection is an important topic year-round.
Why Have a Safety Stand-Down?
Safety stand-downs are paid meetings where crews and management gather to discuss safety issues that directly affect people on the job. On industrial construction sites in particular, these meetings are important for sharing safety rules, updates and best practices directly related to a specific work site. During this year’s National Safety Stand-Down Week, employers are encouraged to address fall risks and fall protection measures to help bring down the annual number of accidents and violations.
FUSED Tip: OSHA has developed training plans and booklets to help guide conversations. You’ll find them at the National Safety Stand-Down Week website. You can also share their video, “5 Ways to Prevent Workplace Falls.”
Fall Protection Danger Zones
The OSHA category “Fall Protection — General Guidelines” consistently ranks No. 1 on the list of most OSHA violations each year. But there are other fall-related violations that landed in the top 10 in 2020. “Scaffolding” and “Ladder” violations reached numbers four and five, respectively, on the list, and it’s easy to see how unsafe scaffolding and ladders can lead to falls on the job. “Fall Protection — Training Requirements” came in at number eight, which illustrates the importance of hosting a National Safety Stand-Down Week to address fall protection and prevention. When employers skip out on fall protection training, it sets a lax safety standard. This can lead to new crew members (or any crew members) to ignore fall protection guidelines and put themselves, and others, at risk.
FUSED Tip: We know sometimes it can seem like a waste of time to talk about fall hazards and safety procedures, but taking extra time for safety training can save lives and prevent injuries. In addition to training, invest in fall protection gear such as harnesses, anchors, lifelines and safety netting systems whenever needed, and make sure everyone on crew knows how to use them.
Make Fall Protection a Priority
Finally, does your work site have a written fall protection plan? These plans don’t have to be complicated, but each site should have a fall protection document signed by the foreman. To get you started, OSHA provides a sample and template you can follow. Each job site has unique fall dangers, so a new plan should be developed and written out before each new job starts. Make sure everyone on crew has reviewed the plan, and everyone should be trained to recognize fall hazards, follow safety procedures and utilize any fall protection equipment before starting work on the site. If crew members find additional hazards while working, they should be added to the plan and shared with the entire crew. Large sites may need to be divided into multiple safety zones, each with its own safety monitor to make sure the fall protection plan is being followed.
FUSED Tip: At minimum, the fall protection plan should include any known fall hazards, special controlled access zones, safety procedures and it should name designated monitors who are responsible for reporting hazards to the site foreman. It should also specify areas where only qualified personnel are allowed, and it should outline enforcements for anyone not following the plan.
With so many industrial construction injuries and deaths caused by falling, preventing falls on the job should be everyone’s top priority. This May, take the time for a safety stand-down with your crew and talk about fall protection. If you’d like more information or resources, or to find out how we support every aspect of the construction process, give us a call. We’re glad to partner with you, and we always put your crew’s safety first.