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How to Protect Workers from Falls from Height

May 3, 2022
OSHA's annual Safety-Stand Down Week aims to prevent falls and reduce avoidable fatalities for construction workers.

Birds are chirping, bees are buzzing and lawn mowers are revving. These are sure signs of warmer weather, but there’s another harbinger of summer: construction work.

Unfortunately, the increase in construction work means greater risk of injuries. Falls from elevation remain a leading cause of death for construction employees, accounting for 351 of the 1,008 construction fatalities recording in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Services.

To prevent future fall fatalities and injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is holding its annual safety stand-down.

This week, May 2-6, employers can participate in the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. The safety stand-down is a voluntary opportunity for employers to talk directly to employees about fall hazards, fall prevention and other safety concerns.

Stand-downs can vary by workplace or tailored by the work performed. They can be a single training or a week’s worth of activities and can include:

  • a toolbox talk on safety from heights,
  • safety inspections,
  • training sessions or other simulations,
  • safety from heights lecture,
  • watching a video or
  • testing workers' knowledge.

OSHA provides many resources for employers, in both English and Spanish, here.

Any employer and every worker can join in a safety stand-down; it is not limited to those in the construction industry. In years past, the U.S. military, other government participants, unions, employer’s trade associations, institutes, employee interest organizations and safety equipment managers have participated.

OSHA is partnering with several groups for the Safety-Stand Down, including the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), National Safety Council (NSC) and the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR).

OSHA will issue employers a certificate of participation for their efforts to educate, discuss and prevent falls with their workers. Employers can apply here.

The National Safety Stand-Down was launched on Workers Memorial Day in 2012. The stand-down was originally planted as a two-year initiative but was so successful it has become an annual weeklong event. Tens of thousands of employers and millions of workers have participated, according to the NSC. OSHA is encouraging employers to share their safety stand-downs on social media using the hashtag #StandDown4Safety. 

About the Author

Nicole Stempak

Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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