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Published: May, 2012; Vol 8, Num 12

 

National Campaign Kicks Off

Stop Construction Falls

"It's not surprising,"says LIUNA General President Terry O'Sullivan, "that, every year, falls are the number one hazard in construction, resulting in the most deaths and causing thousands of worker injuries."

Alternate description

LIUNA General President Terry O'Sullivan

Additional evidence is provided by OSHA's annual list of the most common violations found during inspections. Annually, the most citations -- eight of the top ten -  are related to fall safety. Thousands of worksites are found to have fall hazards, 10,000 workers are injured -- many permanently disabled -- in falls from heights and over 200 are killed, just about one every work day.

"A fall can devastate one's career, often with a tragic impact on the family as well,"says O'Sullivan. "Yet, every one of these injuries and fatalities is preventable. This year, the LHSFNA and a broad array of industry forces aim to find solution.

On April 26th, at a construction site event in Los Angeles commemorating Workers' Memorial Day, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced the launch of the national Stop Construction Falls campaign.

Most falls involve roofs, scaffolds or ladders. The campaign aims to draw attention to these hazards and mount pressure on contractors throughout the industry to plan for fall safety while providing the right equipment and necessary training. A particular focus will be on small, residential construction contractors who often do their work in a matter of days and then move on, long before an OSHA inspector might make the rounds. The campaign's outreach will target this market, taking a helpful, proactive stance in calling attention to fall dangers and providing support for contractors who embrace the message. The campaign materials -- in  in English as well as Spanish -- inculde a poster showing a worker who had a fall that "shattered his body and livelihood." It urges contractors and workers to:

  • Plan ahead to get the job done safely.
  • Provide the right equipment.
  • Train everyone to use the equipment safely.

This poster is among the materials of the Stop Construction Falls Campaign.

Also included is a four-page fact sheet with safety tips for ladder, scaffold and roof safety. The materials can be downloaded from OSHA's new Stop Falls website. Many other useful materials are available at the OSHA site including fact sheets on fall prevention for residential contractors and short videos on fall prevention.

NIOSH also has a new website related to the campaign. The NIOSH site includes links to its fatal fall investigations (Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Reports) in which each fatality is described and NIOSH's prevention recommendations are listed.

With OSHA and NIOSH accepting leadership roles, a broad array of partners have coalesced in support of the campaign. The main campaign website (www.stopconstructionfalls.com) is maintained by CPWR - the Center for Construction Research and Training, an arm of the building and construction trades unions. This site contains additional materials useful in fall prevention.

The campaign was started by the NORA Construction Sector Council, an industry-labor-government group organized by NIOSH to identify the best research opportunities for improving construction safety and health. With falls a top priority, the Sector Council asked how it could have the biggest impact. Preventing falls is pretty straight forward, but getting employers to provide fall protection, particularly in small residential settings, is a problem. Data show that in such situations, fall prevention measures were rarely used. This led the Sector Council to conclude that a national campaign to raise awareness was the best next step.

To plan the campaign, the Sector Council created a work group co-chaired by the LHSFNA's Occupational Safety and Health Division Director Scott Schneider. The group asked OSHA to take a lead role in the effort, much as it did in 2011 in its heat stress campaign. Using CPWR and NIOSH grant funds, the Council hired a social marketing firm which reviewed similar campaigns and held 15 focus groups with small contractors and workers (both English- and Spanish-speaking) in four cities in three states. The results guided the creation of campaign materials and themes. The campaign now aims to raise awareness throughout the industry and change the expectation of workers and contractors. The LHSFNA also has fall hazard materials, including its No Excuses poster and the Fall Protection in Construction and Falls from Heights health alerts. These can be ordered through the online catalogue.

"Just as seatbelts have become second nature to drivers and passengers,"says O'Sullivan, "the hope is that fall prevention will soon become the norm for everyone in construction. Fall protection should be second nature for any construction laborer who works at heights."

Anyone interested in helping with the campaign or hosting a campaign event should contact falls@cpwr.com.

[Steve Clark]