Spring Forward, Fall Protect

Spring arrived late here in Michigan, and before the weather — and construction — began to heat up, I saw a press release from MIOSHA indicating the second year of its “Stop Falls. Save Lives.” safety awareness campaign would focus on the roofing industry. I called Nella Davis-Ray, Director of MIOSHA Consultation Education and Training (CET) Division in Lansing, to ask her why.

“Nationally and at the state level, we are pleased to see that overall, when you look at general industry and construction, there is a downward trend in work-related fatalities and injuries, and we like to think we play a part in that downward trend,” she said. “Even though we are seeing this downward trend, when you look at roofers’ fall-related incidents, and particularly when you look at roof-related fatalities, their rate is 10 times higher than the rate for construction workers as a whole. So, if there is any trade we can talk to about falls, the data shows the one group we should be focusing on is the roofers.”

The statistics were sobering, but the overall message was hopeful. “Our message is that all falls are preventable,” Davis-Ray said. “We really do believe that in MIOSHA.”

The key is making sure every employee is properly trained, has the proper safety equipment — and knows how to use it — and follows the jobsite-specific safety plan. According to Davis-Ray, the MIOSHA can help with all of those things — and the services are free.

The CET Division works independently of the Enforcement Division. It provides guidance to employers and employees through a variety of methods, including classroom training and educational materials including literature, videos, and a fall protection website, www.michigan.gov/stopfalls. The greatest tool of all, noted Davis-Ray, is a staff of consultants who can provide individualized training.

“I’m surprised how many employers, particularly contractors, are not aware that all they have to do is pick up the phone and call us,” she said. “At their request, we can schedule a time and location for one of our construction safety consultants to come out and work with them directly on safety and health issues.”

Consultants can review written requirements, explain interpretations of the standard, and answer specific questions about a project and whether or not a contractor might be in compliance. They can also help in crafting a comprehensive safety program. “We always try to look at the big picture,” Davis-Ray says. “The overarching issue is to have an effective system in place so that you ensure that safety is considered as a part of every contract.”

Davis urges contractors in every state to explore the free educational resources OSHA can provide. Michigan contractors can call 800-866-4674 or visit www.michigan.gov/miosha to learn more.