The word "safety" should conjure a boring story. Among the six-and-a-half million people who work on one the nation's 252,000 job sites each day, unfortunately, safety is not a boring story.
It's a life, or a limb, or a career-ending head or spine injury.
Instead of being a boring story, safety brings to our mind's eye a litany of recent incidents and accidents that happened to people—people like you and me, who wake up in the morning and kiss kids good-bye that morning, and pay bills, and root for favorite teams, and have people who depend on them for things—that shouldn’t have happened.
And wouldn’t have happened if safety were not the kind of word that makes many of our eyes roll back in our heads, the kind of word in a newspaper or magazine headline that says, “skip this story” for something more compelling, like a top 10 places list.
Should it be considered ironic that an industry with a labor capacity crisis should also--in albeit rare circumstances and on the watch of an infinitesimally small number of supervisors--put its precious workforce in harm's way of any kind?
Still, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration tells us that residential construction ranks above average in fatal injury, and has an above-average consequence in hazards like these:
- Falls (from heights);
- Trench collapse;
- Scaffold collapse;
- Electric shock and arc flash/arc blast;
- Failure to use proper personal protective equipment; and
- Repetitive motion injuries.
Safety, unfortunately, becomes a captivating story in its absence, when a precaution was not taken; when something everybody understands is the right thing to do doesn't happen because somebody's in a hurry or somebody wants to spend a few dollars less. The thing we all know so well about safety is that it's not one of those some time things. It's not something you do nine times out of 10 and think that's a pretty good record. One of the toughest things to get our minds around with respect to safety is that we can get away with not practicing it, many, many times. Nothing will happen. One more time, just like every time before that, should turn out okay.
Safety is a choice we make over and over and over, every day, and many times a day, and often with a cost of inconvenience, or time lost, or more money spent. And when we do not make that choice, we, instead, choose flagrant disregard for our fellow worker's life and well-being. That's the way safety works. Or else.
Afterwards, when "too late" or "I'm so sorry for your loss" couldn't come close to describing the profound levels of grief and regret and consequence.
So, don't let it come to that. Do something about it. A good place to work is a safe place to work--physically, mentally, emotionally.
That's kind of the point of the work that home builders and residential construction contractors are in, right--to give people shelter, safety, protection, and well-being.
Let's celebrate a busier Summer building season for all it's worth, and hope that next Summer building season is even busier, thanks to an even busier Spring selling season. And let's celebrate Fall as a season, not as a statistic of one of the hazards of the trade. Be safe.