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Posted 5/8/2015

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By Amy Christopherson
Middle East District

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry so each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration asks employers in the construction industry to participate in the voluntary National Fall Prevention Stand-Down.

This year’s National Safety Stand-Down, which raises awareness of preventing fall hazards, is May 4-15. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Middle East District asked contractors on each project to set aside some time to pause their work and conduct a focused safety talk on ladder safety, scaffold safety or other fall protection topics.

Chris Nelson, the district’s safety and occupational health manager, said though contractor participation is not mandated, all contractors on the district’s major projects participated last year and he expects similar support this year.

With nearly 23 million contractor hours worked in FY 14, safety training is essential. And as the leading cause of death in the construction industry and a major cause of injury, fall prevention is an important area of focus.

“We’ve seen a vast improvement in fall protection on our sites because we’ve made it an area of focus,” Nelson said. “The stand-down will help re-energize that focus to ensure that it continues.”

Capt. Sandra Richards, the Iraq area officer in charge, said over 400 workers from the Bahrain Resident Office conducted a stand-down at their work site May 4. Shahzada Shahrukh, the area engineer, emphasized general safety in the workplace in addition to fall prevention.

“Besides the topic of fall prevention, they also talked about safety first and the importance of wearing the appropriate safety equipment,” Richards said. “They were encouraged to use the buddy system at all times and reminded that they’re being safe for themselves and their family because if it affects one person it affects them all.”

In FY13, contractors working on Middle East District projects had a rate of mishap that resulted in days away from work, job transfer or restrictions of 0.08 per 100 full-time construction workers. The U.S. national average in the same time frame was 2.2 per 100 workers.

Why the difference? Nelson believes this is a result of government oversight teams that are on construction sites regularly and a partnership between the organization and the contractor.

“We require contractors to put an accident prevention plan in place prior to beginning any work,” he said. “And they need to do an accident hazard analysis to reduce hazards.”

Nelson said many contractors find innovative ways to meet and improve upon safety standards

“One contractor designed channels through the columns in a building for perimeter protection,” he said. “Then they ran cables through the channels on each floor to provide fall protection for workers.”

construction safety