DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – This week is OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down; a nationwide effort to remind and educate construction workers and employers of the dangers of falls – a leading cause of death in the industry.
As the economy rebounds, so does construction. However, an unfortunate side-effect is that deaths have increased in recent years, and it’s a trend that holds true nationwide and here at home. The construction industry had the largest number of fatalities in Ohio with 38 in 2014. Falls, slips and trips accounted for 13 deadly injuries in the industry across the state, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“There are a couple of things that lead to deadly falls,” said Ken Montgomery, area director for OSHA in southern Ohio and Cincinnati. “It’s misuse of equipment, improper equipment being used, or just not having the training to use it. We’ve investigated fatalities where people will have on harnesses, but they didn’t have it hooked on or they didn’t have anchor points established.”
“You have to get them the right training, the right tools, and the right safety equipment,” said James Clark, president of the IUE-CWA. “But, then you also gotta look at the guy next to you, or the lady next to you, and say ‘hey’ you’re watching out for them as well.”
It is that kind of important training to meet standards by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, that’s happening in Fairborn. A partnership between the IUE-CWA and Wright State University is helping save lives.
“You can learn by reading in a book, but it’s not the same as the hands-on experience you actually get when you’re testing your equipment and testing yourself,” said Danny Sallie, the IUE-CWA local president from Huntington, West Virginia. “It’s totally different when you’re on the tower as opposed to reading it in a manual or watching it on a video.”
Sallie donned a hard hat and safety harness inside an old factory at the National Center for Medical Readiness in Fairborn. He, along with a little more than half a dozen other men are here for training.
The IUE-CWA donated a climbing tower to Wright State University. The mission: to protect all workers when working at heights. It is open to students and the public.
“My dream job would be OSHA director,” said Alex Kleine, a Wright State student.
Kleine has taken the 8-hour Fall Protection class offered through the university, and now helps teach it.
“We’ve had classes as small as three people and as big as 12,” he said.
Newbies and vets working side-by-side; learning and perfecting how to properly use a ladder, scaffolding, climbing harness and more on the 40-foot tower.
The unique environment draws industry workers from around the region. For many of the workers, this isn’t just important training, it’s personal. They have either worked with someone who’s been severely injured on the job or died.
“It made us realize that safety can never take a backseat,” said Sallie. He lost a coworker and hopes it never happens again.
They all have different backgrounds at the tower, but one common goal.
“Be safe and go home to your family every day,” said Sallie. “If it’s unsafe, don’t do it.”
According to WSU: Upon successful course completion, including demonstration of skills competency on all learning stations and passing skills test and a written test, students receive a Competent Person Fall Protection course certificate and completion card, valid for two years.