Earlier this spring, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) teamed up with the Associated General Contractors of Georgia Inc., to host “safety stand downs” across the region.
These voluntary 1-hour pauses gave industry employers time to host safety training sessions for landscaping employees, covering some of the dangers workers in the industry face, including:
- Being struck by vehicles or debris
- Heat exposure
- Electrical exposure
- Lawnmower turnovers
It was a chance to take a break in the busy spring maintenance season and assess safety priorities and goals. It’s one thing to have a safety policy on the books, but there’s no way a policy can be effective if the information isn’t communicated clearly to the workers who need it the most.
What is a safety stand down?
The idea of an OSHA safety stand down isn’t new. OSHA began the initiative in 2012, focusing on falls—still the leading cause of death for construction workers and one of the top violation areas in the industry. Because of this overlap between incidents and violations, OSHA determined that many of these deaths and injuries were completely preventable. There was a clear need for better education and awareness around this hazard.
The stand down events are ideally tailored to the industry and group of workers they are intended for and may feature:
- Reviews of company fall protection programs—making sure that standards and equipment are current and appropriate for every type of job workers may do
- Inspections of fall prevention equipment—ensuring that all gear is still usable, replacing anything that’s worn or out-of-date, and creating materials to train workers to do equipment checks themselves
- Worker training sessions—these can include online courses offered by OSHA, as well as in-person presentations and interactive talks
Today, stand downs are held in all 50 states, as well as internationally, with participation from commercial and residential construction companies and contractors, highway construction companies, the U.S. Military, unions, employer’s trade associations and safety equipment manufacturers. The focus for most stand downs remains falls, but, as the Georgia and Southeastern landscaping-focused event shows, it has expanded to include other potential workplace hazards.
While worker safety should be a year-round concern for any employer, taking a pause in fast-paced, more accident-prone industries to review safe practices is a healthy habit. In addition to giving employers the chance to review their policies and employees the chance to learn and absorb safety training information, it gives any employee the opportunity to speak up about issues. Especially when presentations are interactive and invite participation, workers can feel more comfortable raising concerns, making suggestions on improvements or sharing personal experiences.