Safety isn’t a line item
As a youngster, I did what all of us do at one time or another: dream of what I was going to become. In the process, I considered most of the professions a young boy considers. For a time, one career seemed more perfect than all the others: logging. I love the outdoors, enjoy physical labor and logging is done in some of the continent’s most picturesque settings. Plus, loggers get to eat stacks of pancakes every day. What could be better?
My attitude quickly changed when I read a newspaper article that went into graphic detail about the dangers of logging. Apparently, it’s not all that unusual for loggers to suffer severed appendages of all kinds or to be crushed by falling trees. At the time, logging was considered one of the country’s most dangerous professions — and I’m guessing still is.
I was reminded of this while editing this month’s cover story by Lynnette Luna on tower-construction safety. Intuitively, I knew that tower construction is inherently dangerous; when workers are plying their craft several hundred feet in the air, risks rise proportionately. But I had no idea just how dangerous the work is — Luna reports that tower-construction workers have a fatality rate that dwarfs other high-risk professions.
That wasn’t the most startling aspect of the story, however. What surprised me most were the anecdotes that describe poor — or non-existent — training, slipshod construction techniques and inexperienced or irresponsible workers who have no business being on a tower. While a “cowboy mentality” among some tower-construction workers likely is a factor, Luna reports that money is having the much larger impact, as some companies are wont to take shortcuts to be more competitive in the bid process.
That could be shortsighted thinking. Government agencies are becoming more concerned about tower safety, and are contemplating what to do about it. While there is little doubt that training and proper safety equipment are expensive propositions, they pale in comparison to what it is going to cost tower-construction companies should the government decide to get more involved, either through legislation or increased regulation. The last thing any industry needs or wants is the government telling it what to do and how to do it. Consequently, construction firms and tower owners immediately should take proactive steps to shore up safety deficiencies, so they can avoid the onerous intrusion of lawmakers and government agencies.