Job Site Safety, Then & Now

April 2006

When it comes to safety on the job site, what is it you know now that you wish you knew then? What aches and pains are you experiencing now that you’re sure could have been avoided if only you had [blank] every day?

Do not exceed 75 pounds of lift per man. It ain’t worth it!!! Put your macho where it belongs—in your head.—Marc Duncan CEI, General Manager, Dundee Co., Raleigh, NC

[If only I had] thrown all scrap pieces of drywall into a pile in the middle of the room instead of leaving them laying around the room where they could be stepped on, twisting an ankle (that 10 years later still aches).—Israel Watkins, President, Premier Wallboard, Fountain, CO

[If only I had] stretched the lower back muscles before heavy lifting.—Robert A. Wright, CR, Cabinetry & Construction Incorporated, Richmond, VA

My aches and pain are mine to be proud of. I have over 50 years in construction work, starting when I was 14 years old, I am now 65 and a half. I have had on-the-job injuries, both knees injured, both ankles broken, low back injured at least 30 times, one wrist broken, and god only knows of all the insignificant injuries. Off the job, "my heart broken 20 times.” I gave a kidney to my 20-year-old daughter, besides a host of other injuries like almost losing a leg in a motorcycle accident, another knee injury while ice skating. These are all somewhat major but have only taken a short period of time out of my life, and I hold no one other than myself responsible.

I have always practiced jobsite safety without having been safety trained. I have always looked out for myself and in doing so all who were close to me or working with me were in a safe environment. I have to admit that I don’t know more now than I knew then as life has never changed. I still look out for me the same way I did then and all who are around me are in a safe environment.

I still work in construction because it’s what I want to do. I am still in very good health and have no intentions of retiring.

I overcome my pain by being positive and on the go. I am at work by 7 a.m. and get home between 6 and 10 p.m. each day.

One thing comes to mind that I have witnessed over time with others who don’t look out after themselves and are injured or in many cases fake an injury—you are the ones that feed our lawyers and allow them to live high on the hog at your expense and mine because I to have to pay the high cost of workers’ comp insurance so there will never be a shortage of cash for them to attach onto. My message to the workers in the work force: Don’t be stupid and think you can cash in because the game isn’t played that way. You will only lose; the lawyers will win and take the easy money.

Don’t let yourself get into a position to be injured, but if it happens, mend your mind with positive thinking and you can get back on the job where you are needed, a job that will pay you more in the long run than any big settlement you could ever hope to get. "You” are needed on the "job” more than "you” need to waste your time feeling sorry for your self and petting your pain. You will live and most of or all of the pain will go away without you even realizing it.—Ken Bradshaw, Ken Bradshaw & Associates Inc., Anchorage AK

[If only I had] asked for help lifting heavy or difficult items.—Mike Cone, Southland Industries Inc., Thibodaux, LA

[If only I had] not tried to hang so many full sheets by myself.—Miles (Scoochie) Moffit, Manager, Moffit Brothers Drywall Inc., Salisbury, MD

I wish I had worn ear protection. I hear what sounds like a tea kettle whistling off in the distance now all the time. This is called tinnitus, which is caused by damage to the ears from loud noises.—Jeff Collins, President, Les Collins Plastering, St. Joseph, MO

None. The most fit I have ever been was when I was putting mud on the wall, all day, every day. However, I do wish I had quit eating like I did when I was working in the field, after I started spending all day in the office.—Mark Cline, President, Plaster Inc., Garland, TX

[If only I had] 1) not jumped off Perry Scaffold, 2) worn knee pads for laying out wall.—Richard A. Celani, Estimator, PJ Dick Inc., Pittsburgh, PA

Worn hearing protection! I am now the proud owner of two hearing aids. Plus, I am enrolled in a sign language class. There is no doubt that hearing protection in my early construction days would have helped to avoid the hearing loss I have experienced.—Roger Olson, President, Sig Olson & Sons Plastering, Inc., Moorhead, MN

[If only I had] gone into a different business.—Kim H. Sides, Sides Drywall, Inc., Auburn, AL

[If only I had] used hearing protection.—Steve Tovey, Project Manager, Mowery Thomason Inc., Anaheim, CA

Over 20 years ago I used to not care about wearing my respirator—only in the painting booth but hardly ever in the open shop areas. We used a lot of LEAS primers, lacquer thinners ... lots of Bondo dust etc. We welded a lot of metals, releasing a lot of toxins too … rust was also not given much concern.

Wearing saftey glasses and gloves was overlooked a lot too. I have seen a lot of people die since from asbestos poisoning, lead poisoning ... some are blind, some lost hands and fingers. I, luckily, learned to use safety equipment from others’ miseries.

One note: a good friend of mine was 27 when he died of asbestos cancer in his lungs. All he did every day was cut MDF wood trim in new construction. Practically everyone cuts MDF without bothering to wear any face mask at all. There are no warning stickers on MDF, as there are on Hardibacker® board. The same goes for those I know using Hardibacker underlayment for tile. Practically everyone I know does not read labels or warnings. They cut Hardibacker with diamond tipped cut off tools, and the fine dust is everywhere. I always warn others about this, but hopefully a bigger voice can make a bigger impact on awareness.

Another area is after cutting or using hazardous materials ... I always vacuum my clothes with a shop vac equipped with fine particulate bag inside. Then I carefully wash my clothes to make sure that I do not contaminate my family members at home. I read a sad article on a young man in his 20s, newly married, who worked on the state capitol renovation in Utah. He was exposed to lead … [he] came home each night and dumped his clothing on the floor next to the washing machine. His dog would sleep on his dirty clothing, as he was man’s best friend ... and died of lead poisoning. But it was also too late for the young man. He is now in a vegetative state. His newly married wife must care for him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He cannot respond to her in any way.

Luckily, these days I always wear safety equipment all the time. It gives me a bit more protection but a lot more peace of mind. Everyone I know and even those I do not know, chuckle when they see me working. If you can imagine: I wear safety glasses, face respirator, ear protection, gloves, knee pads, long sleeves … . It is hot sometimes, but life is too short to take undue risks—something that I no longer am willing to do.

One last note: When working on roof tops, few people bother to wear safety ropes. It is expensive. It is bothersome at times, dragging it around. And it may not seem cool, but I have seen too many people fall off roof tops, break legs, backs, arms. Last year one guy down the street rolled down the roof, fell on his head. He broke his neck and died. It was about a 15-foot fall.

Life is relatively short. Time passes very quickly. Imagine all the things you might want to experience later on down the road.—Larry Lee, Owner, Cache Valley Paint Co., Logan, UT

I hung rock for 15 years, and I would not have supported it on my head. I would have used my arms and shoulders more when hanging lids (ceilings). It will save you neck aches in years to come.—Larry England, President, Pueblo Tribe LLC, Meiswinkel Nevada, Henderson, NV

If only I had practiced safe lifting techniques at work and at home, every day, my back would not be always "on the verge” of a very painful episode.—Leslie Donley, Chartier Drywall, LLC, Prescott, AZ

[If only I had] stayed home.—Robin W., Vista, CA

[If only I had] inspected my equipment.—Doug Montrose, President, Acoustics & Specialties, Inc., Naperville, IL

[If only I had] stretched my muscles.—Sean Glynn, President, Paramount Construction Inc., Eagle Point, OR

[If only I had] used "real” ear plugs with the shotguns and screwguns.—Steve Sharpe, Sharpe Interior Systems, Sun Valley, CA

[If only I had] not jumped off the scaffold every day, my knees might not need replacing today.—Renny Huntley, WeKanDo Construction, Inc., San Juan, PR

Wear your earplugs and safety glasses every day.—Brad Spencer, President, Spencer Drywall Inc., Payson, UT