OSHA’s fourth annual National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls in construction is set to take place this year from May 8-12. Since it began in 2014, the campaign has continued to grow each year, with total participation now reaching into the thousands of employers and millions of workers.

LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan

The National Safety Stand-Down encourages employers to pause work and talk to workers about fall hazards, fall prevention and the company’s safety policies, expectations and goals. While any company can participate in the Stand-Down, this voluntary campaign is specifically targeted towards employers in the construction industry. That’s because year after year, falls continue to be the leading cause of fatalities in construction. In 2015, 364 construction workers died from falls – that’s almost 40 percent of all deaths in construction.

“Falls can be deadly at any height, whether they happen from a ladder a few feet off the ground or from a scaffold several stories in the air,” says LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan. “With proper planning, fall protection and training for everyone involved, LIUNA members and signatory contractors can work together to prevent these tragic incidents.”

LIUNA Training and its network of affiliate funds have been providing quality industry safety training for nearly 50 years. Instructors receive training in all areas of safety and pass this knowledge to LIUNA members through OSHA 10 and 30 hour training and as a component of all skills training offered.

For 25 years, LIUNA Training has partnered with OSHA to provide worker safety classes under various OSHA grant programs. LIUNA members are trained using an accredited curriculum that is delivered by professionally certified instructors. The result is a workforce that receives a nationally recognized credential validating their skills.

Because falls on the job result in so many deaths and injuries, fall protection training has long been a focus of the LIUNA Training network. Members learn to inspect and install fall protection systems such as guardrails, floor coverings and safety nets. They learn to recognize when fall protection systems are not sufficient and when the situation requires the use of a personal fall arrest system, often called a body harness.  Training for personal fall arrest systems includes how to inspect all the components of the system to ensure they are in good condition, how to don the system correctly to ensure it functions as intended, how to calculate the distance to the lower deck to ensure the fall arrest system will engage in time and what constitutes an acceptable anchorage point.

Members are also trained to keep their work site clean and in good order, and to immediately report any unsafe situation they observe. Because they are trained to recognize, avoid, report and correct hazardous fall situations, LIUNA members are a strong weapon in the fight to lower the number of injuries and deaths from falls on the job.

OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign page provides more information on the importance of planning ahead, providing the right equipment and training all employees to use that equipment safely. Previous Lifelines articles, including “Protecting Workers During All Aspects of a Fall” and “Everyday Equipment Shouldn’t Be a Killer,” have covered these issues in more detail.

When discussing fall protection on your site, start by reviewing the safety policies and procedures included in the company’s fall prevention program. This program should cover how employees are expected to report fall hazards identified on site and cover required fall prevention practices (such as the use of hand rails as passive protection) and personal protective equipment (such as personal fall arrest systems).

No matter how you choose to participate in this year’s Stand-Down, remember that the goal is to raise awareness and start a conversation about fall protection on your site. For that conversation to be effective, it has to be a two-way street between workers and management. Employers should encourage workers to speak up about fall hazards they see and make it clear that having everyone working safely is the goal, even if it means temporarily stopping work.

Visit OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign page for more resources and training materials you can use to hold a safety stand-down. The LHSFNA’s Fall Protection in Construction Health Alert can also be used to hold a toolbox talk on your site. To order it or other Fund publications, use the online Publications Catalogue or call the Occupational Safety & Health Division at 202-628-5465.

[Nick Fox]