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Preventing falls while working at height

Do you operate boom lifts as a part of your career? Maybe a scissor lift? What about scaffolding – does it play a role on your jobsite? No matter the means of how work is being done while “in the air,” one common factor plays a role: safety.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, fatalities caused by falls while working at height continue to be a leading cause of death for construction employees, accounting for 351 of the 1,008 construction fatalities recorded in 2020.

Honestly, the industry should be ashamed of itself. Year after year, the number one cited OSHA standard is fall protection. And there’s simply no excuse for it; there is a wealth of online and in-person work at height training courses that cover everything from supported scaffolding and mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs) to fall protection systems and fall protection awareness.

Yet, despite the glut of training and available resources, falls while working at height are still happening. This indicates that companies aren’t managing or prioritizing proper training and certification. Remember: it starts at the top. It starts with you.

Just take a look at United Rentals, for example. As the world’s largest equipment rental company with roughly 18,500 employees under its blue belt, United not only prioritizes safety and training, but says safety is a core piece of its purpose.

And in early 2022, the National Safety Council (NSC) named United’s CEO Matt Flannery as one of the nation’s top safety leaders. The annual NSC recognition is “presented to safety leaders who go the extra mile to protect employees both on and off the job,” and this year’s list honored CEOs who have built their organizations’ safety strategy using four key components: risk reduction, performance measurement, safety management solutions and leadership and employee engagement.

Flannery, speaking with the NSC’s Safety & Health magazine, said his goal is “not just for employees to go home as they arrived, but for employees to go home even better than they arrive each day – safe, inspired and motivated.”

That should be a main goal of every company, contractor and manager. Work at height training isn’t just about meeting required standards, it’s about human life. Let’s stop being the leading contributor to a deadly statistic and instead lead by example. If you’re looking to book work at height courses, Easybook Training offers a range of classes to get your staff not only up to speed, but also certified.

For those looking to zero-in on the importance of training, certification and working safely while at height, the upcoming National Safety Stand-Down is a perfect opportunity to do so.

Running May 2-6, the annual safety event from NIOSH, CWPR and OSHA serves as a voluntary event for employers to talk directly to employees about safety. OSHA encourages all workplaces to participate by hosting an event, which can include:

  • A toolbox talk or a safety activity such as developing rescue plans;
  • Conducting safety equipment inspections; or
  • Discussing job-specific hazards.

Any employer can hold a stand-down by taking a break to focus on fall hazards while reinforcing the importance of fall prevention. For more information on how to participate, visit OSHA’s website (and while you’re at it, book that work at height training, too with Easybook Training.)