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May 12, 2014
Safway's campaign to eliminate falls—Plus 7 tips for compliance

Safway’s self-described “obsession” with worker protection has led the company to launch a national initiative to prevent falls. The company is partnering with OSHA, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) to reduce falls internally and industry-wide. Keep reading to learn more about hazards and solutions.

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Hundreds of workers are killed and more than 200,000 are seriously injured each year in falls to the same or lower levels. And the financial burden—about $70 billion per year—is staggering. Safway Group’s Vice President of Safety Paul Amedee says the biggest factor in fall elimination is developing a strong culture, not just corporately, but within the subcultures at job sites.

“When safety is infused throughout an organization's culture on every level, everyone from employees to customers and shareholders wins,” he adds.

To kick off the campaign, Safway will participate in a nationwide stand down for safety on Monday, June 2. The Stop Falls campaign will be introduced at all sites, and employees will discuss safe practices. Safway operates its own training university and has trained more than 40,000 of its own workers and 40,000 client employees. As well, the company has partnered with Honeywell on development of fall protection gear to facilitate compliance with Safway’s 100% fall protection policy.

Everybody talks about fall protection. But what are you doing?

OSHA requires that fall protection be provided at elevations of four feet in general industry workplaces, five feet in shipyards, six feet in construction, and eight feet in longshoring operations. In addition, employers must provide protection when employees are working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the fall distance.

Here’s what the agency requires for general industry workplaces:

  • Guard every hole into which a worker can accidentally walk using a railing and toe-board or a floor hole cover.
  • Provide a guardrail and toe-board around every elevated open sided platform, floor, or runway. Regardless of height, if a worker can fall into or onto dangerous machines or equipment (such as a vat or conveyor belt), the employer must provide guardrails and toe-boards.
  • Other means of fall protection that may be required on certain jobs include safety harnesses and lines, safety nets, stair railings, and handrails.

Generally, employers must:

  • Keep floors in work areas in a clean and dry condition;
  • Select and provide required PPE at no cost to workers;
  • Train employees about job hazards in a language they can understand; and
  • Provide working conditions that are free of known dangers.

An essential step is to get employees engaged and excited about the goal of eliminating falls. Establish a subcommittee of your safety and health committee. Task members with assessing the risk and crafting strategies that reflect your specific hazards and culture. If you use incentives, make sure they don’t encourage under-reporting of hazards and injuries. Instead, reward employees for submitting ideas for reducing injuries, participating in training, and identifying hazards.

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