Canadian Contractor

This homebuilder should be made to walk the plank!

Alec Caldwell, the founder of occupational health and safety group, CARAHS, explains why builders should be called upon to test the safety conditions at their own job sites.


October 25, 2013
By Alec Caldwell

There are some individual home builders who should be forced to “walk the plank,” essentially testing the safety conditions on their own job sites.

A few weeks ago,  I knew exactly where the plank should be placed for one  particular builder I went to see — at the end of a  job site walkway that ended suddenly with a 20-foot drop into an open excavation.

Anyone who “walked the plank” that day would land on the heads of two workers working underneath. Why? There were no barriers or warning signs at the end of the walkway.  

Advertisment

Can you imagine the two workers in the hole, oblivious to the situation, having people fall on them from above? Not to mention the unsupported walls surrounding them that could cave in.

After failing to find a site supervisor, I left the job site feeling troubled. I approached one of the workers, explained the danger of the excavation, suggested he take a photo, send it to his boss and get directions on proceeding safely That’s when one of his colleagues stepped up to announce that he was, in fact, the site supervisor. He held his phone to his ear, talking with the builder.  I repeatedly asked to speak to the builder on the phone, but I was denied the opportunity.

A few days later, on September 17, the chief prevention officer from the Ontario Ministry of Labour put out a call to action:

“I am extremely distressed by the number of workplace fatalities related to falls. Since June 2013, nine workers have died.”   

“Preventing these injuries and fatalities requires workplace partnerships to support awareness and education programs and appropriate enforcement.” 

Part of my job with CARAHS is to visit residential building and renovations job sites daily to deliver that awareness and support employers who sometimes can’t keep up with current laws or regulations. Continually, I see misinformation penetrating downward to business owners. But the full weight of the law can come crashing down on all  employers found guilty of contravening the occupational health and safety act. With fines of up to $500,000 — and the possibility of up to 12 months in jail — this is a serious matter.

It would have taken just a few minutes for me to speak to that builder on the phone. I could have helped him provide a safer workplace to his workers, reducing his liability keeping the fatality count to a minimum.

CARAHS is a non profit association for renovators and home services providers. We offer education, information and benefits.

CARAHS offers over 70 Health and Safety e-courses online here.

Toll free 1-866-366-2930 www.carahs.org


Print this page

Related

Tags




8 Comments » for This homebuilder should be made to walk the plank!
  1. This article arrived in my email this afternoon and thought it would interest readers, re my article above with regards to me mentioning “unsupported walls surrounding them that could cave in.

    ONTARIO MINISTRY OF LABOUR – Blitz results: Excavation

    Health & Safety At Work TODAY
    Issue #4 | October 2013 Issued: October 29, 2013

    Excavation and soil-removal can result in serious, even fatal, injuries to workers at construction sites.

    In May 2013, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted a blitz on excavations at construction projects. Inspectors checked compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

    The goal of the blitz was to:

    Raise awareness of hazards involving excavations at construction projects
    increase worksite compliance with the law, and
    prevent injuries that could arise from unsafe work practices

    During May 2013, ministry inspectors conducted 794 visits to 719 workplaces and issued 1,781 orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including 151 stop-work orders.

    Inspectors checked for hazards that could lead to:

    slips, trips and falls
    sudden collapse of soil due to unsupported excavation walls
    objects falling on workers because of mishandled or improperly stored materials
    contact with underground services or overhead electrical cables
    workers being struck by equipment or vehicles

  2. From LinkedIn Ontario Construction Connection – Ronald Valdez, PMP Visionary Entrepreneur said:

    Alec, it’s great that you took the initiative in getting an unsafe condition sorted. My only comment is that the third paragraph of the article seems suggesting that a “warning sign” at the end of a walkway with a 20-ft drop (to an open excavation with 2 workers in the hole) would have been acceptable.

    Warning signs would not prevent human error; barrier should be provided – full stop. $500,000 fine and 12 months jail time will not bring back the life of a dead person.

    I hope your organization would start encouraging a change on how safety is managed in Ontario. It’s not about policing, it’s not about strict implementation of the occupational health and safety act, jail time and hefty fines. It’s about encouraging everyone to live a safety culture where employees work safely and go home to their families and friends at the end of each work day. Caring for one another, looking after the safety of the next person to you, and not walking away when an unsafe condition is seen. Big challenge I know but I have seen people with such an attitude towards safety, and a company living such a corporate culture”

    In reply By Alec:

    Hi Ronald,
    Thanks very much for taking the time out in replying to my article and adding your valued comments. I only wish everyone was like you and get it. Its about changing the Culture and its a slog sometimes, but we don’t intend giving up in trying in reaching out to everyone connected.

    I write weekly online with the Canadian Contractor magazine and in my next issue (www.canadiancontractor.ca) my article talks more about putting more boots on the ground to correct these problems. I recommend people sign up for this no charge newsletter at the Canadian Contractor.

    With regards to your signage question in paragraph 3, I says: “There were no barriers or warning signs at the end of the walkway” with the word barriers, I’m referring to guard rails, but my use of words should have said guard rails. So I understand your comment with my lack of wording. I appreciate you pointing this out to me.

  3. The following comments were posted elsewhere after reading this article at the Canadian Contractor magazine

    4 COMMENTS on: LinkedIn Contractor Discussion Group. For Plumbers, Electricians, Remodelers, Roofers, HVAC, & Handyman after reading Canadian Contractor article.

    “making a site safe for workers and anyone else takes so little time I can’t understand why it isn’t second nature. If it were their children on site they would take every precaution” Says Ross Simmons Master Handyman & Property Mgr

    “This is one thing that as a contractor you just have to do, with out excuse”
    says Robert Fisher

    “Reality is that people of all kinds do as little as demanded to get the maximum return. ethical and safe, etc. are backseat romances and not celebrated publicly. (that means w/o permits). I have a DIY site, but there is a limit to the efficacy of DIY both legally and ethically. Yes, walk the plank!” Says Greg Chick Web based Plumbing Consultant at DIY Plumbingadvice.com

    “as the boss how would feel if some one got heart because you were not keeping your site safe” Says Jim Dunn owner at J.DUNN Contracting

    3 COMMENTS on LinkedIn Owners/Builders Group (9 comment posted on site)

    “When you rate Contractors on a scale of 0 to 10, ask yourself how many are the 10. Forget where you rate yourself we all think we are a 10. Any Contractor, who lacks safety, lacks many other things. Walk a jobsite, a very clean site shows excellence in their work. Stare at a wall, or a slab, is it level and plumb to a structure off in the distance. Lines are smooth and straight, that contractor cares. Sorry but I put the majority of Contractors in the bottom tier” Says d. McGarvey Owner at Ed McGarvey Construction

    “The lack of site safety on job sites is appalling, and this is not an isolated case. Lack of competent supervision is a real problem on a lot of construction jobs. Contractor’s do not put any of their costs into supervision, and it is a real problem” Says Jack Rosebery Architect/CEO at Rosebery Architectural Studio

    “There are definitely issues when it comes to job site safety. However the majority of contractors I see and work with in my area are very conscious about safe working conditions. I know this is not the case everywhere” Says Tim Logan Pres. at Midstate Contractors LLC

    This is a sample of comments, as they were ten fold through many LinkedIn sites

  4. IMPORTANT REPLY

    “A friend and customer was hooking up a sewer connection when the trench walls collapsed, he was buried alive. (Mark Olson) just married and had children. The week before this happened, I was at his mothers ranch where he lived we were talking about safety, he made the comment “you do what you gotta do, I will probably die in a trench” He was a young die hard…. I have one of his Oak trees from his green house in my yard named after him” says Greg Chick at the LinkedIn Contractor Discussion Group. For Plumbers, Electricians, Remodelers, Roofers, HVAC, & Handyman

  5. MINISTRY OF LABOUR – Blitz results: Excavation
    Health & Safety At Work TODAY

    Issue #4 | October 2013 Issued: October 29, 2013

    Excavation and soil-removal can result in serious, even fatal, injuries to workers at construction sites.

    During May 2013, ministry inspectors conducted 794 visits to 719 workplaces and issued 1,781 orders under the OHSA and its regulations, including 151 stop-work orders.

    In May 2013, Ministry of Labour inspectors conducted a blitz on excavations at construction projects. Inspectors checked compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations.

  6. WHEN THE TRENCH WALLS COLLAPSED HE WAS BURIED ALIVE” “JUST MARRIED AND HAD CHILDREN”

    “A friend and customer was hooking up a sewer connection when the trench walls collapsed, he was buried alive. (Mark) just married and had children. The week before this happened, I was at his mothers ranch where he lived we were talking about safety, he made the comment “you do what you gotta do, I will probably die in a trench” He was a young die hard…. I have one of his Oak trees from his green house in my yard named after him” says Greg Chick at the LinkedIn Contractor Discussion Group. For Plumbers, Electricians, Remodelers, Roofers, HVAC, & Handyman

    Read this story and more at:

    http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=3728103&type=member&item=5799624733251100672&commentID=5801413037009158144&goback=.gmr_3728103&report.success=8ULbKyXO6NDvmoK7o030UNOYGZKrvdhBhypZ_w8EpQrrQI-BBjkmxwkEOwBjLE28YyDIxcyEO7_TA_giuRN#commentID_5801413037009158144

  7. Hi there Greg,
    I really appreciate you sharing this story. I’m sure its something hard to reflect upon and if we had only known what was ahead. Unfortunately we cannot turn the clock backward, I use your words to tell others about your story to make it real. Daily people are put in harms way and its the ones they leave behind who feel the most pain,suffering and in most cases, financially hardship. Much appreciated…….Best wishes
    Alec@CARAHS

  8. In reply on 1October 30, Greg C. wrote:

    “Safety is a strange thing mentally, we rationalize danger in hindsight with words like “Accident” the same mind claims it earned the success from a creative idea. So, we own it if it is good, claim no ownership if if bad. All the self serving thoughts in the world do not out weigh wisdom and respect. I once used caution working on clearing brush on my 8 acres. I wore plastic goggles, I worked hard, I sweat, goggles fogged, I could not see clearly, I fell and “scratched” my eye. I was told by the optician, but the next morning, I awoke with an eye infection from a puncture!. The puncture caused complete blindness in my left eye. An accident? no poor judgment. I will spare you the reason my left ear is totally deaf. Or will I spare you the rationalization why my right ear is deaf? I could go on, but my point is choices are made every minute, as are thoughts made every minute, make yours honest and have good clear thought. Listen to what your wisdom offers. If you have no wisdom, get some”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.