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4 Construction Industry Questions About a ‘Safety Stand Down’

F Marie Athey OHST

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F Marie Athey OHST | June 7, 2013 | Comments Off on 4 Construction Industry Questions About a ‘Safety Stand Down’

4 Construction Industry Questions About a ‘Safety Stand Down’

What do you know about the “Safety Stand Down”?

You’ve probably heard of them. OSHA is partnering with construction and general industries employers to make Safety Stand Downs more common. But what are they? 

The idea is that all work is stopped for a specified period (30 minutes, a few hours or even the entire day) so everyone can focus on safety meetings. This gives everyone a chance to learn about and discuss the company’s comprehensive safety plan.

For example, in Georgia, construction workers stopped work in April to focus on safety training. OSHA (the Department of Labor’s federal safety and health organization) partnered with government officials, construction contractors and the Federal Highway Administration to make the Safety Stand Down a statewide event.

“The Stand Down will heighten construction workers’ awareness of and ability to identify and help employers eliminate work-related hazards,” said Teresa Harrison, OSHA’s acting Southeast regional administrator.

In February, OSHA partnered with the National Service, Transmission, Exploration & Production Safety Network to sponsor a Safety Stand Down at oil and gas exploration and production facilities in Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

“This Safety Stand Down is an important effort to bring heightened safety and health awareness for workers in the oil and gas industry to identify and eliminate work-related hazards,” said John Hermanson, OSHA’s regional administrator. “There is tremendous value in dedicating time during a workday to make a concerted effort to provide training.”

Does the Stand Down work?

In Texas, the fatality rate in construction and construction-related industries is dropping fast, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. 

“While none of our members will be happy until there are zero injuries and zero fatalities on construction sites, the steps our firms are taking in Texas to improve construction safety are working,” said Brian Turmail, the national association’s spokesperson.

Turmail made his comments at a Houston construction site during a Lone Star State Safety Stand Down where contractors halted work to offer safety training for their workers. 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the Texas Safety Stand Downs, and the decline in injuries and fatalities is a testament to their success.

A lot of construction workers unfamiliar with the Stand Down concept have the same questions for us. They include: 

Who participates in a safety stand down? 

A Safety Stand Down is for executives and senior managers to talk about safety issues with frontline workers. Effective communication means having everyone’s attention. When everything else is put on hold, it really drives home the importance of a company’s safety program (internal protocols as well as OSHA guidelines).

Why it is important for senior level executives to communicate safety objectives directly to front-line workers? 

Remember the old children’s game, “Telephone”? A string of kids whispers a message, one to the other, and by the time the message gets to the end of the line it’s usually been changed. The work site and corporate safety message often gets lost in translation, as well. Direct communication with frontline workers gives management a chance to lay out company policy clearly and with less risk of being misinterpreted. It gives workers the chance to find out about the culture of safety straight from the horse’s mouth. Since frontline workers (especially the new ones) are at the greatest risk of being injured in the workplace, it’s important that they get the right message about safety.

What are the topics of focus during a construction industry Safety Stand Down?

In construction, most Stand Down events focus on ways to reduce the risk of falling, reducing the dangers of working with heavy equipment and—particularly as the hot summer months approach—on the importance of staying hydrated and cool when working outdoors. A significant portion of training focuses on the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well.

What is the origin of the Safety Stand Down?

As the term “Stand Down” might imply, these events have their origin in military culture, when a unit would cease most operations to focus on a particular aspect of training (in this case, safety). Safety Stand Downs spread from the military (where an entire base or ship might participate) to high risk industries and companies (where an entire job site or even an entire geographic region might participate).

Is your job site taking safety seriously? If you are planning a Safety Stand Down of your own or if you are simply looking for the best way to get the safety training required by OSHA, online safety training by OSHAcampus.com offers customized occupational safety training for individual workers and entire companies. It’s convenient, it’s affordable, and—most important—it will help you and your team develop the culture of safety you need to get the job done without accidents.

Image by: Richard Datson  [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)], via deviantART

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