By Janet Lubman Rathner
No one can argue that watching a construction worker installing bridge decking 75 feet in the air, slip through an opening and not fall to her death because of her full-body harness is far more powerful than reading the safety regulation that requires protective gear to be worn.
OSHA has taken th3 message that “seeing is believing” to heart, releasing 12 educational videos about common hazards in the construction industry. The videos, of which all but one are animated, are easy to understand and brief, running on average between two and four minutes. Using real-life incidents as the basis, they address falls, struck-bys, sprain and strain injuries, trenching and excavation hazards and carbon monoxide poisoning. These include a worker framing a wall near an open stairwell and falling to his death, a worker struck and killed by a wheel tractor scraper that was not equipped with a back-up alarm and workers dying in a trench collapse. Employers and workers alike can watch these tragedies unfold and, then, watch a replay with the safety measures in place – guardrails, alarms, spotters and trench fortifications like sloping, benching and shoring – that would have prevented them.
The videos, or OSHA v-Tools, are an acknowledgement that it takes more than surprise inspections and fines to enforce safety standards that make construction work less hazardous. Every year, about 800 construction workers die on the job, and nearly 137,000 are seriously injured. The hope is that by seeing safe work practices in action, employers and workers will follow them, and these numbers will be reduced.
By investing in visual representations of how standards improve safety, OSHA transforms what are dry technical rules into dynamic dramas that will move workers and employers to constructive action for safety, not merely for regulatory compliance. And by posting them on YouTube and promoting them through Facebook and other social media, the agency exponentially expands their impact.