Preventing serious injuries and fatalitiesDr. John Howard, director of NIOSH, gave an audience of several hundred at the National Safety Congress what was for him a different type of presentation.

Over the years, Dr. Howard has been hailed as something as an occupational health and safety visionary. He has been especially devoted to corporate health promotion activities for employees, and psycho-social issues that get little play in the U.S. political circles – things like job stress, work-life balance, a holistic 24/7 approach to worker health and safety, and how work is organized to put less stress on employees.

But at his presentation Tuesday afternoon, Dr. Howard focused exclusively on the very practical topic of falls, especially in construction.

Among the points he made:

Falling from heights in workplaces is a persistent problem.

NIOSH has developed 15 strategic goals specifically related to construction safety problems.

Two-thirds of all falls occur from heights of 20 feet or less. As Dr. Howard said: “It’s how you fall that determines the extent of your injuries, not necessarily the height.”

Two-thirds of all falls are from roofs, ladders and scaffolds.

NIOSH is especially targeting small residential construction contractors, their supervisors, foremen, and workers, with an education and awareness program about falls.

This outreach effort is a two-year campaign that currently has 39 sponsoring organizations.