Part of my reading routine includes newsletters and blogs emanating from the U.S. Department of Labor, which includes OSHA. I do not read all of them, as many do not apply to roofing and construction, and I am sure I do not read all that do. There is no way I could read everything that the DOL produces but I do find some of it interesting and useful in the pursuit of knowledge that may be useful to the roofing industry.

Recently I read through a blog posted by Dr. David Michaels,Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. His attack on falls in construction has been relentless. While I do not agree with everything OSHA has done under his administration, I do appreciate that he has taken up the fight. Here is his blog followed by the response I posted.



Preventing Construction Falls



As the country continues its economic recovery and construction businesses enter the peak season, the resulting flurry of projects should also remind us that construction is the deadliest industry in the country. A worker may be stepping onto a ladder, scaffold or roof right now, and without the right planning, equipment and training, that worker may be putting his or her life at risk.  For this reason, falls are the deadliest hazard in the construction industry.

Too many workers continue to plummet from a towering scaffold, a roof or precarious ladders due to a lack of supervision or provision of safeguards.  The numbers are glaring: in 2010, more than 250 workers lost their lives in falls on construction sites, while more than 10,000 were seriously injured. At the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, we have answered the call to prevent any more needless deaths with our nationwide education and outreach campaign to prevent falls in the construction industry.  It’s my firm conviction that each and every one of these falls is preventable.

And the costs of falls in the construction industry are alarming. Falls from heights cause not only physical and emotional hardships for workers and their families, but can each cost well over $100,000 in lost wages and medical costs.

Working from heights is inherently dangerous, but protecting workers from falls is feasible and effective. OSHA’s fall prevention campaign is spreading awareness about how to prevent construction falls. There are three simple steps that workers and employers can take:

  • Plan ahead to get the job done safely.
  • Provide the right equipment.
  • Train everyone to use the equipment safely.

OSHA has created a new fall prevention Web site, with resources in English and Spanish that include a posterfact sheet and a webpage on construction hazards including fall prevention that will give you the tools you need to ensure that any construction work at heights is done safely. You can also find OSHA’s constructions standards, where you can learn about OSHA required protections for workers in various construction-related jobs.

By sharing this life-saving information, we can save lives. We can make real the promise that all workers deserve to come home safely at the end of a shift.

Dr. David Michaels is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.



July 20, 2012

Dr. Michaels,

Thank you for your passionate and deliberate assault on death and injuries from falls in construction. I agree that "zero" is the number of acceptable fatalities in the course of building and retrofitting our nation’s homes, buildings, and infrastructure.

I have been involved in the roofing industry since 1974 and my present capacity is in distribution of roofing products and as an industry observer/freelance writer for the trade publication Roofing Contractor.

I would like to see OSHA work more closely with industry groups to work toward a solution to this problem. In particular, I wonder what OSHA is doing to lobby the design community to build better safety practices into the construction process from the drawing board forward. For instance, passive fall protection systems are superior to personal fall restraint systems on a number of levels. But there are no building codes requiring them to be baked into the construction process. I am writing, most particularly, about single-family home construction. Fall protection is generally well considered in the design and construction process of commercial, institutional, and industrial spaces.

While it may take generations for this kind of change to take hold, would that not be a decent legacy for our generation to push forward?

I have worked in the roofing industry since 1974 and the issue of fall protection has been, in one fashion or another, front of mind for me since day one. I believe the industry does considerably better protecting workers from falls than it did 38 years ago. But if it were 'job one' for everyone working in the field (beginning with the design community) for all that time, we would be much closer to zero than we are today.



 Rick Damato