You won’t catch me predicting what’s going to happen with emerging changes in leadership at the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA, but surely change is coming. While I had a very hard time supporting the tactics of the now former OSHA leadership, I had to agree with their idea that injuries and deaths from falls in construction, and roofing in particular, are unacceptable.
I believe that government working with industry to resolve safety issues can be more effective than taking the power approach of enforcement and fines. So in the face of impending change, I cannot help but wonder which part the roofing industry will take in solving the issue of protecting workers from falls.
In the many years since OSHA threw down the gauntlet and took away nearly all exemptions from full fall protection, the roofing trade has only done a poor to fair job of compliance. This isn’t based on any scientific study, but simple observation. You don’t have to ride around roofing and construction jobs very long before you notice that workers fully protected from falls are in the minority.
We still have a long way to go as an industry in reaching a state of excellence in our routine safe practice of the trade. But we’ve improved. I pray that some loosening of regulations and oversight won’t set our good efforts back.
So, what’s your stance on safety? Are you a talker, an investor, or a salesman?
I hardly encounter any roofing contractor who’s not a talker when it comes to the topic of safety. And you all should be. Talking about safety topics in the shop and on the jobsite are an important part of a sound safety program. But not if all you do is talk about it.
Roofing contractors who really invest in safety have it as a line item (or items) in their budget and in their business plan. They invest in the training it takes to create safe workers and they invest in the tools, equipment, and management systems it takes to get everyone home safe at the end of every work day.
Roofing contractors who take their investment in safety seriously really know how to sell it. Not only to their internal customers (jobsite management and crews), but to the rest of their world. Roofing safety salesmen put safety at the forefront of their sales and marketing efforts. They constantly keep score of and preach the gospel of safety. Not the only feature of a world-class safety program, but it’s an important part.
Perhaps the most important reason that we all need to be selling safety is how it’s tied to recruiting, building, and maintaining our workforce. Bringing in fresh young talent to replace our aging workforce continues to be one of the greatest challenges today in the roofing and construction industries. And if we don’t turn the tide, future growth may be at risk. Let’s keep working to create great, safe places to work in roofing. And tell the rest of the world what we already know: Roofing is a good and honorable trade, full of great opportunities for those willing to put in the effort.