OSHA’s annual Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction will kick off on May 2. The yearly event held each Spring is intended to prevent fall-related deaths and injuries by raising awareness of jobsite hazards. It runs through May 6. Whether you’ve conducted 10 Stand-Downs or are trying to plan your first, here’s all the information needed to create a successful safety event.
What is a Safety Stand-Down?
A Safety Stand-Down is a voluntary event for employers to talk directly to employees about safety. Any workplace can hold a stand-down by taking a break to focus on fall hazards and reinforcing the importance of fall prevention. Employers can use a Stand Down as an opportunity to have a conversation with employees about job hazards they face, protective methods and the company’s safety policies and goals. It can also be an opportunity for employees to talk to management about fall and other job hazards they see.
Why does it matter?
Despite industry-wide efforts and education, falls from height continue to be the leading cause of death in construction. In 2020, there were 351 fatal falls to a lower level out of 1,008 construction fatalities (BLS data.) additionally, data from OSHA, NIOSH, and the CPWR show the top three causes of death from falls include roofs (33.3 percent,) ladders (23.8 percent) and scaffolds (14.8 percent.) Between 2015-2017, one out of four fall-related deaths occurred from ladder use.
These deaths were preventable.
Conducting a Safety Stand-Down to address falls is a strong first-step in the safer direction. These can be one-time events or weekly and monthly happenings. When preparing to conduct a Stand-Down, OSHA suggests managers plan for what best suits their workplace by considering the following:
- Hold a toolbox talk focused on ladder, scaffold or roof safety
- Conduct a safety inspection along with employees
- Developing a rescue plan
- Holding a training session
- Showing a safety video
OSHA also suggests planning these events early by first designating a coordinator to organize the Stand-Down. If a contractor has multiple work sites, identify the team that will lead the Stand-Down at each site. Ask subcontractors, owners, architects, engineers and others associated with the project to participate in the stand-down.
A top consideration is to review fall prevention programs currently in place. This will help provide a road map on what the next steps and practices can be. Think about what types of falls could happen:
- Falls from ladders
- Falls from a roof
- Falls from a scaffold
- Falls down stairs
- Falls from a structural steel
- Falls through a floor or roof opening
- Falls through a fragile roof surface
From there, ask:
- What needs improvement?
- Is your program meeting its goals?
- Are you experiencing fatalities, injuries, or near misses?
- Are employees aware of the company’s fall protection procedures?
- What training have you provided to your employees?
- Does it need revision?
- What equipment have you provided to your employees?
- Is better equipment available?
Managers can then develop presentations or activities that will meet their needs. Decide what information will be best for the workplace and employees. The meeting should provide information to employees about hazards, protective methods and the company’s safety policies, goals and expectations. Hands-on exercises (a worksite walkaround, equipment checks, etc.) can increase retention, according to OSHA. Above all, keep in mind the importance of working at height training and consider offering employees updated or refresher training.
It is also worth considering how long the Stand-Down will last and when it will take place (e.g., over a break, lunch period, start of the day or other time.) Make the presentation or event interesting for employees, whether that means having interactive elements or snacks. It’s also essential to promote the event in all ways possible (flyers, e-mails, posters, direct communication, etc.)
After you hold the Stand-Down, let employees talk about their experiences and encourage them to make suggestions and then follow-up and make changes if necessary. The goal is to keep the conversation open – and keeping everyone safe while working at height.
For more information, visit OSHA’s dedicated Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction website.