Live and learn – if you're lucky enough to live
I watched four men and one young apprentice scramble to finish tiling a roof on a new home in my neighborhood on a particularly blustery day recently. And to my horror (but not surprise), only one worker was wearing a hard hat or using fall restraint equipment such as a safety harness.
At their next coffee break, I approached the only worker who was adhering to safety regulations for roofers - Dan, 23, a construction apprentice learning the trade from skilled craftsmen.
Last year Dan slipped down the slope of a roof, stopping inches before a 20-foot fall. He told me it really scared the life out of him, and now he wears the right safety gear every time.
I think Dan has uncommon courage - uncommon because, sadly, many rooftop workers rarely bother wearing fall protection equipment.
Don't believe me? Take a drive, look up for yourself.
And yet falls are the leading type of injury in the construction industry!! Are most of these injuries preventable? YES!
Where are the supervisors checking for use of PPE? Where are the government inspection agents regularly monitoring work sites? Where's the proper training for workers so they know their options and the degree of risk they're taking??
Dan may well be an example of the younger bucks who are bucking the unsafe practices of their older tradesmen colleagues.
But that's no easy road for a young worker.. will he be mocked by co-workers for not being "tough enough"? Can he stand up, over and over again, to such peer pressure?
Dan's company could send the message to all their employees that safety is not an option for anyone - and good luck to any company that doesn't send that message! As the giant wave of Baby Boomer workers get set to retire, employers are more and more dependent on new hires like Dan.
But how will they attract younger workers, with their desperately needed skills, if all they're offering is money? That's just not enough anymore.. and we want to keep it that way.