Last week we heard yet another story of a construction worker death on a jobsite in NYC. I know, I typically go on and on about firestop and passive fire protection. If you have been following me for a while, you also know I love to tell a story, so today I have two for you and I hope they make you think about safety on your project, regardless of your job title.
I was working on a massive project and in one of the regular meetings someone from the safety department gave a talk about safety. No big surprise there. He asked everyone who worked in safety to raise their hand. I didn’t raise my hand because I was an engineer, not a safety person. He asked everyone to look around the room…THEN HE LET US HAVE IT. He explained every single one of us needed to have raised their hand. EVERY one of us was responsible for safety. We were all responsible to check that holes are covered, that railings are secure and that other people are tied off and a list of other things. Then, in our own smaller team meeting, my boss reiterated the importance of this and required that everyone of us write up a safety report at least once a week. Even if the report said that we checked a bunch of things and found no issues. I still do that, even when it is not a formal requirement, it is no less important.
Later on a different project, we had just gotten out of a safety lunch. This was supposed to be a celebration of X number of days on the job with no recordable accidents. It was a grand BBQ and everyone got T-shirts. Before I take this story any further, if you have not met me you should know I am a short, skinny, chick with long brown hair and I remind most people of their kid sister or something similar. I used to teach kindergarten, so I have a sugary sweet side and a firm, Momma bear tone that I reserve for special needed occasions.
So, after I left the Safety Lunch, I noticed a guy in a lift, sporting his new safety shirt but NOT HIS HARNESS. I hollered up and him with a flirty voice but quite enough that he could not hear me well over all the noise. So he lowered the lift with a big ole smile on his face and said, “What, sorry I couldn’t hear you.” I asked him if he went to the BBQ and we talked about what a great spread it was and oh look the new shirt. I asked him why they had the BBQ in the first place and he went on to explain that they do that on projects to celebrate a good safety record. We talked about how it really made him feel appreciated and on and on. (Guy’s be careful when someone asks you an obvious question, they may be setting you up.) Then, I asked him for his Mother’s phone number. He smiled quickly when he heard the request for the phone number, then when it sank in that I didn’t ask for HIS number, a look of confusion spread over his face. Out came the Momma bear voice as I told him, I didn’t know how to get it through to him. He has clearly sat in innumerable safety meetings. He JUST LEFT a safety lunch and climbs into a rig, leaves his harness on the floor and starts to get to work. I wanted his mothers phone number, so I could call her and ask for her help. Maybe she could get through to him and remind him to be safe on the project . Maybe she could succeed where the rest of us have failed. He hung his head, grabbed his harness and started to put it on. Before he climbed into the rig again I told him, I don’t care about the safety numbers. I care about the actual safety of the actual people of the project. About a month later I saw the guy again. Again, he was in his rig. This time however he was tied off. I was happy to be able to shout up at him nice and loud (so he could hear me this time), “Good to see you tied off Joe. “
If you work in construction, please do not sit idly by if you see a safety violation.