Stories From the Field

Post: Some Thoughts About Safety (#3 in a Series)

Wednesday January 20, 2016

This is the latest in an ongoing series of safety-related posts. See earlier entries Part 1 and Part 2.

While driving through the west side of Chicago recently, I passed by this building and was very disturbed by what I saw.

There are a number of really serious safety violations at this job site (the kinds that can lead to serious injury or death) and I thought it important to share my observations.

The first thing I noticed was the swingstage hanging from the top of the parapet wall. Even though this photo was taken from across the street, it is clear that this parapet wall is structurally compromised—look at the numerous applications of mortar applied (a cheap and short-lived method of repair), the loose and crooked capstones at the top of the building, and the green vegetation and SMALL TREE growing out of the parapet wall (about three feet below the capstones and just right of center of the swingstage)! So why in the world anyone hang a swingstage from the top of this compromised wall and expect to work safely? If this wall were to shift laterally, even slightly, the wall could collapse, and the swingstage and its occupants fall to the ground. OSHA considers any fall hazard greater than 6 vertical feet to be life-threatening, so this set-up is definitely unsafe. And what about all of those bricks falling on top of those injured workers? And what about the pedestrians walking under the swingstage, workers, and falling bricks?!? OSHA safety laws require that a swingstage be tied back to a secure immovable structure capable of handling the force generated by a fall by a factor of four in case of catastrophic failure, but I doubt those metal wall hooks at the top of the rigging are tied back to anything!

Then I noticed that this swingstage lacks a secondary braking system. Secondary braking systems are required in case the ropes from which the stage hangs (the yellow ropes on both ends of the board) fail or come loose. Without a secondary braking system the swingstage will free-fall should the ropes slip.

OSHA requires the presence of back rails to prevent workers from accidentally stepping off the swingstage. The "back rails" in this set-up appear to consist of a few pieces of 1" X 4" lumber tacked together. Completely inadequate and very unsafe! And where is the required kick board at the bottom of the stage to prevent tools and debris from falling off the stage and striking pedestrians below? And speaking of pedestrian safety, where is the required pedestrian canopy to protect passers-by from potentially catastrophic injury?

Maintaining a safe job site is of paramount importance at our company. We have a responsibility to our clients, to the public, to ourselves and to our families to safely perform our work and maintain a safe work environment. All of the masons at AAA-1 Masonry & Tuckpointing have passed Scaffolding Safety classes and maintain current certifications for fixed and swingstage scaffolding; every crew of masons is led by a foreman with over 25 years of hands-on field experience; and effective this year, every mason will have attended and passed an OSHA 10-Hour safety class.

With good training, thoughtful job site set-up and an awareness that comes from decades and decades of field experience, we mitigate work site hazards and provide you with peace of mind.

Be safe out there, and thank you for your support.


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