Falls Cost, Safety Pays
On May 17, 2012, a 28-year-old temporary worker named Adrien Zamora was sent up on a scaffold to do restoration work on the façade of an 11-story luxury building in New York City. He was working in an area that was not protected with guardrails and he should have been wearing a safety harness secured to an anchorage point. But Adrien was not wearing any fall protection gear at all. His employer had not even provided him with required training on routine safety measures like fall prevention. At the end of a hard day of work, Zamora and his coworkers were cleaning up to go home when he slipped from the unguarded scaffolding and plunged 40 feet down, landing headfirst on a construction shed below and losing his life. Adrien’s loving wife and two young daughters will never forget the day he didn’t come home from work.
Unfortunately, stories like this are not uncommon. In fact, falls remain the leading cause of death in construction, accounting for more than a third of deaths in the industry. In 2012 alone there were 269 fatalities from falls in construction. For those that do survive a fall, injuries can be extremely painful and costly, preventing them from continuing their work. For employers, the cost of falls can be so burdensome that their business is jeopardized. The National Council for Compensation reports that these falls can result in such serious injuries that the average worker’s compensation for a lost-time claim is close to $100,000 per case.
To raise awareness on fall safety and provide training materials for employers, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration partnered with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in 2012 to create the Fall Prevention Campaign. “Preventing falls in the construction industry benefits everyone, from the worker, to the employer, to the community at large,” said Dr. John Howard, director of NIOSH. The campaign emphasizes that planning ahead, providing the right equipment, and training all employees in proper use of equipment can save lives. OSHA has conducted more than 1,000 workshops on fall safety, produced new low-literacy fact sheets and other publications, and produced 10 fall-prevention videos in English and Spanish in an effort to reach workers all over the nation.
As part of the ongoing effort to prevent falls in construction, OSHA has announced a national safety stand-down for fall prevention in construction from June 2 to 6. During the stand-down, employers and workers are asked to pause their workday to talk about fall prevention in construction and discuss topics like ladder safety, scaffolding safety and working on roofs. The national safety stand-down website offers information on how to conduct a successful stand-down, resources for employees and workers, and an opportunity to receive a personalized certificate of participation following completion of a stand-down. “We’re working with employers, workers, industry groups, state OSH plans and civic and faith-based organizations to host safety stand-downs that focus on recognizing hazards and preventing falls,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “We are getting the message out to America’s employers that safety pays and falls cost.” Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez has also issued a video statement on the stand-down announcement, detailing the best ways to get employers and workers involved in the stand-down.
When it comes to falls in construction, cutting corners on safety can result in tragedies for hard-working families. OSHA’s mission is to prevent these tragedies by providing education and resources that will help employers and their workers create habits that increase their safety on the job. The best protection a worker can have is an employer who takes the time and effort to plan ahead, provide the correct fall prevention equipment, and train each worker in the proper use of that equipment. OSHA encourages all construction employers and employees to join the stand-down this June to prevent falls in in the workplace.
To learn how to partner with OSHA during the stand-down, visit http://www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown. The page provides details on how to conduct a stand-down; receive a certificate of participation; and access free education and training resources, fact sheets and other outreach materials in English and Spanish. For additional information on the stand-down, see the OSHA press release.