WASHINGTON, D.C. — Every day in this country, construction workers fall. One wrong step and they're tumbling down a steeply pitched roof, sliding or dropping off an unstable ladder, or left hanging from a scaffold. The difference between an unexpected stumble and tragedy is simple: fall protection.
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, as hundreds of workers die each year and thousands more suffer catastrophic, debilitating injuries. Yet, lack of proper fall protection remains the most frequently cited violation by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. To recognize this often fatal hazard, tens of thousands of employers and more than a million workers across the country joined OSHA in 2014 for a weeklong Fall Safety Stand-Down, the largest occupational safety event ever held. OSHA hopes to triple these numbers during this year's Fall Safety Stand-Down from May 4-15, 2015.
"With the economy on the rebound and housing starts on the rise, now is the time to for all of us to renew our commitment to sending workers home safe every night," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "Last year's Stand-Down showed us what employers and workers sharing that commitment can accomplish. Responsible employers understand that safety is not a luxury — it is a necessity."
Building on last year's widespread participation, OSHA has made this year's Stand-Down, a two-week event. From May 4-15, employers and workers will pause during their workday for topic talks, demonstrations and training on how to use safety harnesses, guard rails and other means to protect workers from falls. Underscoring the importance of this effort, industry and business leaders, including universities, labor organizations, and community and faith-based groups, have already begun scheduling 2015 stand-downs in all 50 states and around the world.
"Fatal falls and injuries impact workers in all kinds of jobs across the country; it's a broad problem that takes a terrible toll on workers and their families," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Given the tremendous response we've received, it's clear that this is an important issue to a great number of people across this nation. I know it is, to me and all my colleagues here at the department, which is why we are so pleased to work towards preventing these tragedies through innovative and collaborative efforts like the Stand-Down."
The National Fall Safety Stand-Down is part of OSHA's fall prevention campaign, launched three years ago with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda and The Center for Construction Research and Training. Additional partners for this year's event include: American Society for Safety Engineers, National Safety Council, National Construction Safety Executives, the United States Air Force, OSHA-approved state plans, state consultation programs, and OSHA Training Institute Education Centers.
"No child should lose a parent, no wife should lose a husband and no worker should lose their life in a preventable fall," said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard. "The Stand-Down serves as an important opportunity for worksites to recognize the hazards that cause them, train employers and workers how to avoid them so that these senseless tragedies can be prevented once and for all."
OSHA and partners would like to encourage all workers and employers that face fall hazards on the job to participate in this year's Stand-Down. The newly launched National Safety Stand-Down 2015 Web site provides details on: how to conduct a Stand-Down; receive a certificate of participation; and access free education and training resources, fact sheets and other outreach materials in English and Spanish. It will also include a list of stand-down events free and open to the public, as soon as they become available.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.