As an advocate for occupational safety and health, I’ve always stressed the importance of fall prevention. Frankly, I can’t stress it enough. In construction, workers are exposed to many dangers – but falls represent the most critical hazard and the statistics tell that story. Falls are the leading cause of death in construction, accounting for one-third of all work-related deaths in the industry.
This year, we’re calling on everyone to join us in a National Safety Stand-Down to stop fatal falls. From June 2-6, workplaces nationwide are being encouraged to participate, raise awareness and save lives. We’re inviting employers, trade associations, federal, state and local government agencies, professional societies, institutes, labor organizations and contractors to take a break and talk to employees about fall hazards and their prevention in the workplace. Many of them have heard our call, and we’re expecting more than 25,000 businesses to host events with over 1 million workers participating. It’s a truly unprecedented effort to stop these senseless tragedies and protect hard-working Americans across the country.
These injuries and deaths hurt workers, families, co-workers and entire communities. A total of 806 workers lost their lives in construction during 2012, and almost 300 of them were from falls. These are fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who never made it home at the end of the workday building ours. With the summer construction season underway and a housing market on the rebound, the time to act is now.
Falls can be prevented and lives can be saved. When employers plan ahead, provide the right equipment for work and train all workers on proper use of the equipment, the job can get done safely. These are the three principles we’re emphasizing during the stand-down, which is a part of our broader Fall Prevention Campaign. The effort in its third year and our partners include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Occupational Research Agenda and the Center for Construction Research and Training.
But we need your help, too: Spread the word that stopping falls can save lives. Join us the first week of June by participating in an event in your area, distributing OSHA’s free multilingual educational resources, and telling everyone you know about this unprecedented effort by following @USDOL and @NIOSHConstruct on Twitter and using the hashtag #StandDown4Safety.
Jim Maddux is the director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Directorate of Construction at the Department of Labor.