WASHINGTON - More than 1 million U.S. workers and over 25,000 businesses are expected to participate in "safety stand-downs" in all 50 states this week to emphasize the importance of workplace safety and guarding against falls, the Obama administration said Monday.
"The economy is on the rebound, housing starts are on the rise and the summer construction season is getting underway. Now is the time to focus on this vital safety issue and make sure all construction workers come home at the end of every workday," Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez told a news media conference call.
Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Almost 300 construction workers died in falls in 2012 and thousands more were injured, Perez said.
The Labor Department said 2012 statistics were used because they were the most up-to-date, confirmable ones available.
And it's not just the construction industry, Perez added.
"Fatal falls and injuries touch workers in all kinds of jobs across the country."
The National Fall Safety Stand-Down was being organized by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. During the weeklong observance, companies and workers are being asked to pause at some point during their workdays to talk about hazards of falls and how to prevent them.
David Michaels, the assistant labor secretary who heads OSHA, said the "lack of fall protection" is the most-frequently cited OSHA violation.
He said the various events this week would emphasize "common-sense" steps necessary to prevent such mishaps. "Young workers, new workers, temporary workers are all especially vulnerable," Michaels said. "We want to make sure that no one's first day on the job is their last."
"We emphasize planning ahead and providing the right equipment: Guard rails, safety harnesses, lines and anchors. And training all employees. These simple steps can save lives," Michaels said.
Among the planned activities:
The Air Force, which has a base in North Charleston, will host fall stand-down events at its bases worldwide.
At the Daytona International Speedway in Florida, now undergoing extensive renovation, NASCAR race car driver Greg Biffle will demonstrate fall protection on Wednesday by strapping on a "fall-arrest system" harness with hundreds of construction workers.