Work shouldn’t be a deadly place

In Michigan, 43 people were killed on the job last year, the state’s highest number of workplace fatalities in a decade.

According to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration 22 of those deaths were due to falls — three times as many as in 2015.

Gov. Rick Snyder has declared the month of May as Workplace Falls Awareness Month, urging caution and safety when working at higher elevations.

According to MIOSHA, most of the fall-related tragedies it investigates are in the construction and tree-trimming industries.

“Employers can prevent falls by having an effective safety and health management system that includes proper training and protective gear,” said Snyder. “Every fall-related death can be prevented and our goal is to help ensure that Michigan workers go home safe to their families at the end of the day.”

One reason for the increased fatalities is an improved economy, resulting in more construction projects and work in other industries, noted Bart Pickelman, MIOSHA director.

At the same time, efforts to emphasize fall prevention have been underwhelming.

Letters sent out by MIOSHA in February offering free safety training to high-hazard industries drew only a modest response, Pickelman said. The agency, he said, will continue to reach out.

MIOSHA has launched a comprehensive fall prevention public service campaign and website: www.michigan.gov/stopfalls, which includes fact sheets, standards, public service announcements, videos, and other informational resources.

The goal is to connect with employer and employee groups to raise awareness about fall hazards to ensure that employers provide and enforce proper safety standards.

“Our number one priority this year is to stop falls and save lives,” said Pickelman. “We urge employers, employees and all Michiganders to utilize MIOSHA’s safety resources. We need everyone’s help to prevent falls and protect our workers.”

To prevent employees from being injured from falls, employers must:

– Plan ahead to identify fall hazards on the job and how to prevent them.

– Provide employees with the appropriate equipment to eliminate the fall hazards.

– Train employees on the fall hazards and the proper use of equipment and safeguards.

– Guard floor openings and unprotected floor edges to prevent falls to lower levels.

MIOSHA’s Consultation, Education and Training (CET) Division is available at no cost to help employers develop a safety and health program and comply with current MIOSHA regulations. Employers can contact CET at 517-284-7720 for a free evaluation of their jobsite.

The best time to take advantage of these free services is before an accident happens.

More information can also be found at www.michigan.gov/miosha.

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