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Despite being one of the most preventable causes of death for construction employees, falls from elevation continues to be the leading cause of construction fatalities. While the numbers continue to drop year after year, 366 of 971 reported fatalities on construction sites in 2020 were attributed to falls from elevation.

That’s one worker, every day of the year.

This is why every year, OSHA leads the National Safety Stand-Down week to bring attention to the importance of properly training employees to prevent fall fatalities and injuries, and raise fall hazard awareness.

What is a Safety Stand-Down?

Safety meetings go by many different names, including safety briefings or toolbox talks. A Safety Stand-Down is a safety talk, but it has the expressed intent of focusing on Fall Hazards and Fall Prevention on the job site. Often, safety meetings are confined to job sites or companies – however, the National Safety Stand-Down week is a push by OSHA to encourage organizations beyond the individual companies to hold these talks. While it is important that each industry and each company addresses its workers, the Safety Stand-Down Week brings key groups including NIOSH, NORA, ASSE and state consultation programs together for a concentrated push to reduce the top killer of construction workers.

Whether you are looking to conduct a safety stand-down just for your company, for the individual job site, or lead an open event that is free to the public to attend – including workers from other construction groups or the community as a whole – OSHA provides plenty of information and suggestions on what to do, and how to conduct it. You can also submit your event to them to have it publicized, and to work with the Stand-Down Coordinator for your region.

The Importance of Training

Outfitting your employees with the latest ARRESTA Fall Protection gear, and equipping them with the proper Self Retracting Devices and Lifelines is only the start of preparations. It’s one thing to have the best gear available, but without the proper training, it’s not much more useful than if you supply no gear at all.

Training has to tackle a number of facets of fall prevention. Start with addressing the different area of fall potential – working on a roof is different from working on a scaffold, and working on a ladder is different from both of these. All of them need to be addressed differently. There’s no need to worry about greasy rungs when you’re on a roof, and scaffolds are more complex than ladders.

In each situation, address the types of safety issues that could be present, and provide information on how these issues should be approached and addressed.

  • For ladders, address how to properly inspect a ladder, and go over when a ladder should be removed from service and repaired, or if it should be removed from the job site. Address the proper way to use ladders, including assuring that they are long enough for the task, and how they should be positioned for optimum safety. Go over environmental dangers that can be involved with ladder usage, and discuss proper conduct on the ladder itself, including proper climbing and positioning of the worker.
  • With more people to support, and a higher level of permanence on a job site, scaffolding can be more complex to care for, but is a convenient work platform. Discuss the proper design of scaffolding, and focus on the securing of blanks and ties, guys, and braces that keep scaffolding on place. Address daily inspection of scaffolding, and focus on preventing overloading of scaffolding that could bring the entire unit down, and multiple workers with it.
  • Working at heights on a permanent structure sometimes provides workers with a false sense of security. They may act differently on a roof littered with open skylights than on a scaffold, even though the fall dangers are just as severe on the roof. Stairs, structural steel, fragile roof surfaces, and floor openings are all permanent structures that present their own hazards and safety needs.

In all cases, personal fall protection equipment can be used to mitigate the dangers of the environment. You employees need to be trained in the proper set-up, fitting, and use of this equipment. Go over the different components of a Personal Fall Arrest System

Fine Tuning your Fall Prevention Program

There’s plenty to consider when you are looking to improve your fall prevention program. Having a program that considers your employees, and the tasks they face, helps to create a comprehensive and useful program. Making sure they are involved, are hands-on, and help to evolve safety policies are all great ways of creating a fall prevention program that works.

This means reviewing what your program is accomplishing so far, and developing a direction to take it in. Evaluate your program and see if it is currently meeting its goals – are you having to deal with fatalities, injuries, or near misses on a regular basis? Are employees aware of the company’s fall protection procedures? Are these procedures being followed on a regular basis?

From there, you can develop presentations and activities that will meet your needs. Maybe you need to improve your program, or simply evolve it. Consider going beyond toolbox talks and presentations, and utilize hands-on exercises and worksite walkarounds. Making it interesting to your employees – this would hold their attention, and is likely to make them take the material to heart a bit more. Encourage questions and participation, push employees to talk about their experiences and to make suggestions.

Here at Powerpak, we offer a wide variety of fall prevention and height safety equipment, and our team knows how to fine-tune these systems to fit the needs of the individual company or the specific requirements of job sites and tasks. They are ready to consult with you to find the most efficient and effective systems of reducing fall hazards on your job sites, and ensuring your team members continue to succeed in the elimination of fall incidents. Contact us today to see what we can do for you!

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