APRIL 30, 2021 – For the eighth year, the Department of the Air Force is partnering with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration during the National Safety Stand-Down to prevent falls being held May 3-7. The DAF theme for this year’s focus is “Make a Difference in Fall Prevention.”
The theme incites every Airman and Guardian to make a difference in the prevention of fall-related injuries and fatalities by taking the opportunity to expose fall hazards in their workplace and to highlight ways to prevent the next mishap.
“Last year, we lost an Airman to a preventable on-duty fall from rock climbing/rappelling,” said Michael Ballard, Air Force Safety Center chief of occupational safety. “This loss of life is unacceptable and we encourage all Airmen and Guardians to have open discussions on fall prevention and protection. Accelerate change by asking the hard questions, make a difference and highlight ways you, your work centers, and units can help prevent falls.”
While proven achievable by the Air Force in 2018, the goal of “zero” fall-related fatalities remains a challenge as the DAF has suffered 19 on- and off-duty fall deaths since 2011. Nevertheless, strides were made over the same period resulting in a more than 47% decrease in on-duty fall injuries, with FY19 to FY20 dropping by almost 3%.
During this year’s focus, Air and Space Force members are encouraged to take time out of their daily routines to pause and discuss fall prevention, identify hazards, recognize methods of protection, inspect protective equipment, and evaluate their fall-prevention programs to ensure compliance.
Federal law requires anyone exposed to fall hazards within general industry, construction and fire and emergency services go through training in accordance with 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1910.30, Training Requirements, which shall be conducted and completed on an annual recurring basis. The Air and Space Forces should also look to Air Force Manual 91-203, Air Force Occupational Safety, Fire and Health Standards which provides guidance for all personnel to follow on fall protection and prevention.
Fall prevention does not pertain solely to obvious hazards associated with activities conducted at heights, but also includes everyday, routine tasks like walking up and down stairwells, through hallways or out to the parking lot, even the use of ladders. In FY20, same level slips, trips, falls and stumbles accounted for 403 injuries across the department with a total injury cost of $6,546,901 million.
The DAF Fall Prevention Focus is a perfect opportunity to take a break to discuss fall hazards and reinforcing the importance of fall prevention. We encourage everyone to take measures not only during OSHA’s National Stand-Down, May 3-7, but year-round to integrate fall prevention and awareness efforts in your work area and at home.
The impact of one Airman or Guardian lost to a preventable fall is too high of a price to pay. Every member of the Air and Space Forces is empowered to make a difference and prevent the next mishap on or off duty.
For more information on fall prevention, visit the Air Force Safety Center’s website.
By Lisa Gonzales, Air Force Safety Center