Every year for the past few years around the beginning of May, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has what it calls the National Safety Stand Down. It is an event that is organized in conjunction with national labor unions and other safety organizations around the country.
Specific organizations such as the National Roofing Contractors Association offer information for their workers and member companies around the country to take part in the event and raise awareness for construction safety.
Using The Stand Down For Safety Awareness
During the National Safety Stand Down, contractors are encouraged to set aside one hour each day to discuss safety with their workers, have comprehensive checks on safety equipment, and hold safety trainings to help workers to better understand the importance of job safety. According to OSHA, the event affected over 2.5 million workers around the country in 2014 and has been credited with assisting in lowering the number of construction accidents overall.
OSHA estimates that there were 874 worker deaths in 2014, with 337 of those deaths coming from falls. In OSHA’s opinion, all of these deaths could have been prevented if workers and the companies they worked for focused more on safety. Each year, OSHA encourages companies to put in the time during the week to raise awareness on the importance of safety, and help workers to avoid accidents that can lead to deaths.
Many companies around the country hold special training sessions during lunches, which are provided by the company to workers. Companies that actively participate in the National Safety Stand Down get certificates signed by the United States Secretary of Labor, and they can also use the recognition to help lower their insurance costs and attract more workers.
Raising Awareness Means A Little More In New York City
According to the New York Times, the beginning of May is more than just a time to talk more about safety. It is a time to remember the consequences of poor safety practices by remembering the worker deaths that took place in the previous year in a special mass. The ceremony was first held in 2000 at St. Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street in New York City, but it was moved to the larger St. Patrick’s Cathedral after six workers were killed in a crane collapse in 2008.
From May 2015 to May 2016, there were 16 construction worker deaths. One statistic that stands out is that 14 of those deaths were of non-union workers. While the special mass brings union and non-union workers together to mourn their dead, the union representatives cannot help but feel an added layer of grief with the ceremony.
Prior to a recent announcement that the city was going to start giving out stiffer fines for safety violators and hire 100 more inspectors to try and keep up with the huge surge in construction jobs, the unions would go to non-union sites to try and help with safety issues. When the union representatives would leave those non-union sites, they would feel confident that they had helped improve safety for the workers. But when they would come back just a few weeks later, safety was suffering again and the concern the union representatives would express was real.
The Work Continues To Increase
In 2015, there was 88 million square feet of construction done in the New York City area. That represents a number that is double the work that was done in 2013 or 2014. It is also a number that is more than the work done in 2007 and 2008 combined. In 2007, there were 12 worker deaths in New York City, and 2008 saw 19 workers perish. As the amount of work continues to increase, so do the problems.
There were 472 construction injuries in 2015 in New York City. That number is twice the amount of accidents in 2014, and triple the amount of accidents that occurred in 2011. Each year, workers attend this special mass during National Safety Stand Down week to commemorate those lost on the job. Many of the workers attend the event under knowing that they could possibly lose their jobs. But to the workers who show up at St. Patrick’s, some things are more important than a day’s pay.