This week is the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. During this week, OSHA encourages all employers—not just construction employers—to take a break for the purpose of having a toolbox talk or other safety activity addressing fall hazards and fall prevention. Employers that participate in the stand-down event are eligible to receive a certificate of participation from OSHA documenting their activities.
Here’s what you can do to enhance worker awareness of fall hazards and fall protection in your workplace this week.
What is a Stand-Down?
OSHA defines a “safety stand-down” as “a voluntary event for employers to talk directly to employees about safety,” and adds that this week’s stand-down is intended to focus on fall hazards and reinforcing the importance of fall prevention. It’s not just about toolbox talks and training sessions, though—employers are also encouraged to conduct safety equipment inspections, develop rescue plans, and discuss job-specific hazards as part of the stand-down.
Because the stand-down is sponsored by OSHA, the agency is offering recognition for employers that participate. Starting today (May 2, 2016), you can go to OSHA’s website, submit a description of your Safety Stand-Down activities and any suggestions you have for improving future events, and receive a certificate of participation from OSHA for your records.
Planning a Successful Stand-Down
OSHA offers suggestions to help employers conduct a successful stand-down, including:
- Put someone in charge. If it’s nobody’s job, it won’t get done. OSHA recommends that if you have multiple work sites, you designate a stand-down coordinator at each site.
- Think outside the payroll. Would your subcontractors, owner, architects, engineers, or others associated with your project benefit from participating in the stand-down?
- Review your fall prevention program. Ask yourself:
- What types of falls could happen? Falls from ladders are different than falls into floor holes and openings. Know what types of fall hazards your workers face—and know that they could change with the type of project.
- What needs improvement? Do you have a way to identify potential problem areas or opportunities to do better?
- What training have workers received? Is it time for an update?
- What equipment are you providing to your workers? When was the last time you looked at your options? Could you be doing better?
- Prepare your program. Workers need to know what you know about fall hazards and protective measures in the workplace. How are you going to convey that information? Will you use a presentation to provide workers with new information? Will you invite active worker participation using hands-on exercises, worksite walk-arounds, equipment checks, or other methods?
- Choose your time and place. Is it best to present your program in the morning, before the shift begins—or will workers just find a reason to show up late? Would lunch time work better, or do workers customarily eat off-site? How long will your program take?
- Talk it up. Let workers know when and where you’ll host the stand-down and why it matters to them. Offer incentives for participation like snacks, door prizes, or other freebies.
- Host your event. OSHA hopes that employers will make the stand-down events positive, encouraging, and interactive. In particular, OSHA hopes that employers will encourage workers to participate by talking about their experiences and offering suggestions.
- Follow up. If you discovered something that could improve your program, make sure to create an action item, and see that it gets done.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss specific fall hazards and how to identify them.