Do the math: Safety pays. Falls cost.

David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

David Wylie, Senior Technical Writer

There are reasons people pursue writing careers. Some were never much good at sports. Others can’t think of a better way to spend a rainy afternoon than curled up on the couch with a good book. And then there are those, namely me, who simply fear math.

I spent four years, give or take a few semesters, earning a journalism degree. In that time, I took countless classes in researching, writing and edit, but only one math class. And that was just fine with me.

Despite my affinity for the written word, however, I admit hard numbers sometimes make a stronger case than fluid prose. And in this case, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did the math for me.

Consider these OSHA statistics about on-the-job fatalities among America’s construction workers:

  • 20 percent of workplace fatalities happen in the construction industry.
  • 500 construction workers’ lives could be spared each year if we eliminated the top four causes of fatalities, otherwise known as the fatal four: electrocutions, struck-by incidents, caught in/between incidents and falls.
  • Falls are the most deadly of the fatal four, accounting for 40 percent of fatalities.

OSHA is working hard to raise awareness of the potential deadly consequences of falls in the construction industry. Today, the agency launched its Stand Down for Safety campaign. The annual, week-long event encourages employers and employees to pause during their busy days and talk about the potential deadly consequences of falls.

If you think the few minutes it takes to put on a personal fall arrest system isn’t worth the investment, this two-minute video will change your perspective.

As part of the campaign, OSHA offers a multimedia repository of educational materials, a national directory of campaign events and downloadable certificates of participation.

OSHA designed the Stand Down campaign for the construction industry, but everyone can and should get involved. In fact, the U.S. Air Force was the campaign’s largest participant last year, sharing the message with 1.5 million service personnel and civilians.

I admit my journalism training did nothing to prepare me for navigating life’s everyday mathematical challenges – tipping waiters, balancing a checkbook, doing my taxes. What it did teach me was the importance of closing strong.

So here’s one more statistic to consider. Think of it as the numerical equivalent of an exclamation point.

Approximately 4,000 workers die on the job each year. That’s 4,000 too many. If you take just a few minutes to talk to your team about the importance of fall prevention, you might save someone’s life. Even the most mathematically challenged among us can see those numbers add up just fine.

Tips for a fall-free work day
Falls are the second-leading cause of fatalities across industries, behind only motor vehicle accidents. Whether your employees build high-rise offices, conduct routine maintenance on ladders or take the stairs between floors, they are at risk of suffering a severe fall. Anyone can follow these simple tips to protect themselves:

  • Keep walkways, stairs and exits clear of extension cords, tools, supplies and clutter.
  • Wipe up spills as soon as possible.
  • When taking the stairs, slow down, use the handrails, and avoid reading and sending text messages.
  • Comply with OSHA’s fall protection standards: 6 feet in construction, 4 feet in general industry.
  • Remember that guardrails are usually your best protection against falls. That’s because guardrails prevent you from falling, while safety nets and personal fall arrest systems limit how far you fall.
  • Keep walkways, exits and stairs clear of extension cords, trash, supplies and other clutter.
  • Learn how to choose, inspect, set up and work safely from ladders.

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