Press Teleconference on National Safety Stand-down to Prevent Falls in Construction


Moderator: Mary Brandenberger
June 2, 2014
12:00 pm CT


Welcome and thank you for standing by, at this time all participants will be on a listen-only mode until the question-and-answer session of today's call.

At that time you can press star 1 to ask a question from the phone lines. I'd also like to inform the parties that today's call is being recorded, if you have any objections you may disconnect at this time. I would now like to turn the call over to Mary Brandenberger thank you, you may begin.

Mary Brandenberger:

Thank you and thank you for joining us today as we announce this week's national safety stand-down. I'd like now to turn the call over to Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.

Tom Perez:

Thank you Mary, this is Tom Perez, Labor Secretary, it's an honor to be here with you today and thank you for joining us to discuss this serious safety issue for American workers.

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Almost 300 construction workers died in falls in 2012, that's nearly one every day, thousands more were seriously injured. These tragedies are preventable through planning at the worksite and by providing proper fall protection and training on how to use it. This week there Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is partnering with tens of thousands of businesses for a national safety stand-down to prevent and stop fatal falls.

During stand-down events a record number of companies and workers nationwide will voluntarily pause work to raise awareness about fall hazards and how to prevent them. These events will run throughout the week all across the country. We estimate that more than a million workers and over 25,000 businesses will participate. This is an unprecedented effort and we want the outcome in the form of fewer fatal accidents to be unprecedented as well.

Never before have we been able to reach such a large number of people with a single worker safety initiative and it couldn't come at a more vital time. With the economy recovering and housing starts on the rise this is the moment to ensure that no one has to loose their life in order to make a living. The summer construction season is underway as we speak, now is the moment to make sure that those who build our homes are able to return safe and sound to their own homes every night.

And this isn't just about the construction industry; fatal falls and injuries touch workers in all kinds of jobs across the country. It's a widespread problem that has a devastating impact not only on workers and their families but on our economy. The record number of people mobilizing for this stand-down underscores that we have - that we can all accomplish what we can all accomplish when we work together.

The US Air Force will be hosting fall stand-down events at their bases worldwide so we can ensure the job safety of the men and women who keep us safe everyday. At the Daytona Speedway where a massive renovation project is currently underway, NASCAR driver Greg Biffle will emphasize the importance of fall safety by strapping on a fall arrest system rather than strapping into his car.

These are a few examples of innovative stand-down activities taking place this week. Working with labor unions, business leaders, community groups, universities and safety and health professionals we can make a real difference in preventing falls. We can stand-down for safety and we can save lives. And with that let me turn it over to our Administrator of OSHA the Honorable David Michaels.

David Michaels:

Well thank you so much Secretary Perez and thank you all for joining us as we talk about this important nationwide event.

This week all across the country employers and workers are voluntarily stopping work to focus on achieving safe working conditions and saving worker's lives by preventing fatal falls. With this stand-down we are reaching more workers, more businesses and a wider variety of work places than ever before. Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry - 279 workers lost their lives in 2012 in falls from heights and more than 8800 construction workers were seriously injured in falls.

Lack of fall protection is also the most frequently sited OSHA violation. These falls cause enormous pain and suffering and we must do everything we can to prevent them. As Secretary Perez mentioned we are thrilled to be joining with 25,000 businesses across the country in this unprecedented partnership to raise awareness among employers and workers about the hazards of falls and the commonsense steps necessary to prevent these tragedies.

The reach of this effort is unprecedented with more than a million workers expected to participate in stand-downs in all 50 states.

During this week OSHA is partnering with the Associated General Contractors, the Associated Building - Builders and Contractors, the National Association of Homebuilders, the National Roofing Contractor's Association, the Steel Erection Association and over ten international unions including the Carpenters, the Laborer's Union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Ironworkers, the Center for Construction Research and Training, the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health - state OSHA programs in all parts of the country, community organizations, faith-based organizations, universities and many others nationwide.

There are hundreds of events happening all across the country this week and here are just a few. Tomorrow in Palo Alto, California Clarke Construction will be hosting a stand-down at the Stanford University Medical Center with OSHA Bay Areas staff.

On Wednesday as you heard, OSHA's Deputy Assistant Secretary will be out on the Daytona Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida with racecar driver Greg Biffle. They're going to do full protection harness demonstrations with hundreds of construction workers, emphasizing the need to provide the right equipment to prevent deadly falls. In Nebraska our Omaha staff is teaming with the Heartland Workers Center to pre- host a free fall prevention program for the public at Our Lade of Guadalupe Church.

In Dorchester, Massachusetts the Youth Build Boston Group will be hosting a stand-down with our Braintree office to reach out to underserved young people. Young workers, new workers, temporary workers are all especially vulnerable - we want to make sure that no one's first day on the job is their last. Our Honolulu area director will join Nordic PLC Construction for a stand-down event at their condominium project.

There will be other events across five different islands covering fall protection, ladder safety, inspecting fall gear and wearing gear properly - that's Hawaii. In Kentucky a series of stand-downs are expected to attract more than 700 attendee's including the Commissioner of Workplace Standards, Anthony Russell and Deputy Secretary Rocky Comito.

(Merrill Endosh) has organized a series of six events across the state. In fact so many people called in to register that the organizers had to add more activities to accommodate the high demand. There are dozens of outdoor billboards across the country promoting stand-downs locally including Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Arizona.

And just a few days ago I received an email from a solar panel farm out in the Mojave Desert. They thanked us for what we're doing and were excited to tell us about the stand-down they've organized with more than 2000 skilled craft workers that they have on their site. This week's stand-down grew out of our fall prevention campaign. We first kicked off this campaign in 2012 in partnership with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health and representatives of labor and management groups like the National Occupational Research Agenda and CPWR.

We started this campaign together because as Secretary Perez said; year after year falls are the leading cause of dealt for construction workers. Hundreds of workers die in falls every year and thousands more are seriously injured and disabled. The campaign focuses on falls from roofs, ladders and scaffolds. It counted for more than a third of all fall fatalities in the construction industry in 2012.

These injuries, these deaths, these tragedies - they are all preventable. Our message is simple, safety pays and falls cost. We emphasize planning ahead and providing the right equipment - guardrails, safety harnesses, lines and anchors and training all employees. These simple steps can save lives, whether they're working on roofs or scaffolds, climbing ladders or performing any work from heights, falls can be prevented with the right equipment and training.

In stand-down events across the country this week our partners will be using the materials we produced over the last few years, including what we call tool box talks which supervisors can follow to train their workers on fall prevention requirements. Our materials are in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian and include posters, factsheets, videos, stickers and Web materials. All these materials use plain language and clear illustrations to ensure that workers get the information they need.

Providing effective training in a language and vocabulary workers understand and complying with OSHA's fall prevention requirements are critical to preventing falls. All of our materials reinforce that message safety pays and calls cost. Falls are devastating enough, in toll they take on workers, families, co-workers and communities. And all of that without considering that workers compensation cost for one serious falls could put a small company out of business.

The nation's largest provider of worker's compensation data, the National Council on Compensation Insurance found that falls from heights in construction can result in such serious injuries that the average worker's compensation cost to employers is close to $100,000 per case. OSHA doesn't want to see any worker or any company suffer because they didn't have the information they need to prevent fatal falls and serious injuries. OSHA wants businesses to protect their bottom line and employers to keep worker's safe.

As you've heard us mention several times the number of businesses and workers partnering with OSHA in this week's events is unprecedented and we want the impact to be unmatched as well. Our goal this week is to save more lives and prevent more injuries than ever before. We're bringing everyone together for this national stand-down so that we can bring workers home safe at the end of every work shift.

Mary Brandenberger:

Thank you Dr. Michaels. At this time we will open up the call for questions.


If you would like to ask a question please press * one, you will be promoted to un-mute your phone and record your name. Again it is * one to ask a question, one moment please for the first question. The first question is coming from Daniel Glucksman, International Safety Equipment Association; your line is now open

Daniel Glucksman:

Hi this is Dan Glucksman with the International Safety Equipment Association and Secretary Perez and Assistant Secretary Michaels thank you very much for being on this call.

And the question is for Dr. Michaels, I'm wondering following this week will there be any type of either priority on fall protection for the Consultation Program or National Emphasis Program? Like are there any scheduled follow-ups from OSHA, thank you.

David Michaels:

Prevent falls has been a priority for OSHA and all the members of the OSHA family for quite some time.

The Consultation Programs across the country have been giving priority to falls and residential construction. We continue to make the (call) priority and we will continue to do this. The focus today is on this voluntary activity - thousands, tens of thousands of employees - many hundreds of thousands of workers are going to be involved in this voluntary safety stand-down which we think is going to have a big impact.


(Bruce Rawson - Ralston Bloomberg) your line is now open.

(Bruce Ralston Bloomberg):

Okay Secretary Michaels has this - in the preparation for this program have there been bridges built between OSHA's area offices and regional offices and, you know, the companies they work with?

I mean often we hear about this, you know, from the (importion) perspective, I'm wondering, you know, if new relationships have been developed? You know, people who might have, you know, got a big scare when they heard OSHA, now they had OSHA approach them saying, you know, we'd like to help you out.

David Michaels:

Yes we've always been reaching out to local employers and this is certainly a continuation of that activity.

We - this activity though has brought us very close to contractors, trade association representing contractors but contractors in every part of the country because they are the one's who are putting on these activities. Almost all of these activities are employer-based, employers have stepped up to the plate and said they want this and they've gotten materials from us. They've invited us to come to the site and we're very pleased with the strengthening relationships that are coming out of this.

(Bruce Ralston Bloomberg):

Okay thank you.


Mike McCully - SMACNA, your line is now open.

Mike McCully:

Hi Dr. Michaels this is Mike McCully from Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractor's National Association.

I just wondered - I know that NIOSH has a number of initiatives for prevention through design and just wondering your opinions about how fall prevention can be associated with prevention through design and what steps OSHA might be taking in prevention to design moving forward.

David Michaels:

Yes we're very pleased that we're working with NIOSH on prevention through design.

You know, within the federal government NIOSH is lead on that and we are supporting their activities. We think it's extremely important that buildings be designed, that architectures - the architects think about how construction can occur in ways that prevent falls from being a possibility. We continue to work with NIOSH and everybody is interested in that. We don't have any specific initiatives on this because as I said NIOSH is taking lead, but we think it's a great approach and we are certainly supportive of it.

Mike McCully:

Thank you.


I'm showing no further questions from the phone line. And if you have any questions please press * one to prompt your question.

Mary Brandenberger:

Okay at this time seeing there are no more questions, this ends today's call - thank you all for joining.


That concludes today's conference, thank you for participating, you may disconnect at this time. That concludes today's conference, thank you for participating, you may disconnect at this time.