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5 Ways to Stand Down for Falls This May

LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan

Last year, 1.6 million people participated in the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. This year the CPWR – the Center for Construction Research and Training, NIOSH and OSHA hope to double that amount. The goal of this voluntary event, which takes place this year from May 4th-15th, is to get employers and employees talking about fall hazards, protective methods and their safety policies, goals and expectations. Employers across the country are encouraged to take time out of the workday to focus on falls, which continue to be the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry.

“Year after year, falls continue to be the most common cause of serious injuries and fatalities in the construction industry,” says LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan. “Keeping LIUNA members safe on the job takes top-notch training, careful fall prevention planning and a strong commitment to require and always use fall protection.”

Want to participate in the Stand-Down but not sure how? Below are suggested activities that can have a big impact on safety even though they only take a few minutes out of the workday. You can find more suggestions at

1. Give a Toolbox Talk on Preventing Falls

These short on-site trainings are usually given at the beginning of a shift when workers are already gathering to discuss the day’s work. The key with toolbox talks is keeping workers engaged by encouraging them to participate, ask questions and discuss the topic afterwards. The LHSFNA’s Fall Protection in Construction and Falls from Heights Health Alerts can be given as toolbox talks and are available through the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue. The CPWR also has additional ready-to-use toolbox talks on ladders, scaffolds, skylights, aerial lifts and more.

If you’re unsure how to get the most out of your toolbox talk, the Lifelines article “Giving Effective Toolbox Talks” provides gives plenty of useful tips.

2. Ask Workers to Share Their Stories

If your site has members with 10 or more years of experience in construction, chances are they’ve known someone who has suffered a fall or had a close call. Ask members to volunteer to share a personal story that’s impacted their lives. It can be positive or negative – the goal is for workers to understand that falls are not just something that happens to other people. Falls, and the consequences that come with them, are a very real hazard that can happen to anyone if the proper precautions are not in place.

If workers don’t have personal stories or are hesitant to share, show one of the short videos below. They talk about real workers who have lost their lives or been seriously injured from falls.

  • Kevin’s Story (5 minutes): Kevin Ramey, a Laborer from West Virginia, suffered a fall from a tractor trailer in 2007 that will affect him for the rest of his life.
  • Preventing Falls Through Skylights in English and Spanish (6 mins.): Joe was a 45-year-old roofing supervisor in California who died after falling 30 feet through a warehouse skylight. In this video, two of his co-workers discuss the events that led to his death.
  • Don’t Fall for It! (13 minutes): This video interviews workers about the impact falls have had on them and their families.

3. Inspect Equipment That Could Cause a Fall

Ladders, scaffolds and personal fall protection must be inspected regularly and replaced if they show signs of damage or wear that cannot be repaired. The American Ladder Institute’s Ladder Inspection Checklist covers step ladders, extension ladders, and combination ladders. The CPWR site also offers a checklist to help ensure that all parts of safety es are functioning properly. Don’t wait until a fall occurs to test the safety of your equipment.

4. Demonstrate Proper Use of Equipment on Site

Have a supervisor or experienced employee demonstrate how to properly use equipment found on your site. This guide gives an overview of how to properly fit, wear and use a safety harness. You could also give a short refresher on safe practices for ladder use, such as how to set up a ladder at the proper angle (NIOSH’s ladder safety app can help) or the importance of never standing on the top steps of a ladder. All workers must be trained on the proper care and safe use of all equipment and personal protective equipment being used.

You can also ask manufacturers to come out to the site for a demonstration – most are happy to do so. The CPWR provides several additional resources on its Ladders page.

5. Walk Your Site for Fall Hazards

Designate an experienced employee to lead workers around your site in search of fall hazards. Walk as a group and encourage workers to ask questions or point out potential hazards even if they aren’t sure about them. Looking for hazards as a group can help workers see preventing falls as a team effort and make them more prone to speak up in the future if they see a hazard. During this tour, take pictures of any hazards that are found and follow up afterwards to make sure they are corrected.

Consider partnering with a LIUNA Training and Education Fund training center in your area to improve fall prevention on your site. For more ideas on how to participate in this year’s National Safety Stand-Down, visit The LHSFNA also maintains a hazard page dedicated to preventing falls that includes many additional resources to help employers prevent falls on their jobsites.

[Nick Fox]

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