Safety first or look out below!

Nov 1, 2007 by

The gas station up the corner from our office was torn down and a new section of single story retail stores are under construction. About a month ago, as I waited at a red light, I watched the construction crew tilt up a prefabricated exterior wall. They used a forklift (ok) and a scissors lift (not ok) to tilt it up. There was one fellow standing on the forks (15 feet in the air) tugging vigorously at fabric straps that fastened the wall to the forks, in a vain effort to release them. He wore no safety harness.

A second fellow was climbing up on the exterior of the scissors lift to assist the guy on the forks. A small cluster of supervisors stood at the base of the wall (presumably to break the fall of the guys in the air, if they should slip). It was a classic accident chain formation, just waiting for a triggering event. I didn’t hear any ambulance sirens that day and the wall was standing the next day, so they got away with it.

In the weeks that followed, on my daily commute, I watched men on the edge of the roof nailing trim in place with helpers standing directly under them, handing them pieces, without a single hard hat visible anywhere on the job site. We assume that simple safety practices are universally observed in this day and age of OSHA regulations and inspections-to say nothing of the more egregious violations. Sadly they are not. Some contractors have replaced the old “Safety First” motto with “Look Out Below”.

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