If there was a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for largest national worker safety event, we’re pretty sure that the National Safety Stand-Down to prevent fatal falls would take the prize! Over the course of last week, more than a million workers across the country have confirmed participation in the stand-down, and that number just keeps growing. New completion certificates are being printed every day!
The campaign, which ran from June 2-6, saw terrific support from employers nationwide as well. Everyone from Clark Construction to the U.S. Air Force to Nucor Steel joined forces for the safety and health of their employees over the course of the week in all 50 states. Even the sports community got involved! NASCAR’s Greg Biffle met with over 500 Barton Malow workers and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jordan Barab to demonstrate the importance of fall safety at the Daytona International Speedway’s renovation project. Similar events were hosted at construction sites for the Cleveland Brown’s FirstEnergy Stadium, the Green Bay Packer’s Lambeau Field and the new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.
I was lucky enough to join nearly 300 workers at the construction site of the new National Museum of African American History and Culture during their fall stand-down event. In the shadow of steel beams and the Washington Monument, a sea of hard hats and yellow vests gathered to hear about fall protection and its importance. It struck me that these men and women come to work every day to help protect a part of America’s history, and we owe it to protect them while they’re doing it.
The scope of this effort is truly unprecedented, and we here at OSHA could not be happier with the commitment businesses, workers and other stakeholders showed to ensuring a safe workplace for all. We feel confident the results will be unprecedented as well, and we know our work isn’t done. In 2012, 570 workers lost their lives in falls, and lack of fall protection remains the most frequently cited OSHA violation. These falls are predictable and preventable if employers plan ahead, provide the right safety equipment and train workers how to use it properly. We still have a long way to go towards stopping these senseless injuries and fatalities, but the stand-down was a creative and collaborative example of what we can do to ensure the safety of the people who build our bridges, our businesses, our homes and this country.
And that’s why I am proud to say our efforts did not end last week. The stand-down was a part of OSHA’s fall prevention campaign, which was launched two 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. Not only will this campaign continue, but we will also be extending the stand-down itself for a couple weeks.
Dr. David Michaels is the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.