Today I received a voice mail from a larger roofing contractor in the valley, who read my recent article about fall protection and it made him mad "Your article personally offended me as a contractor who has been working for 30 years to keep my guys safe". My first thought was, "Wow; someone read one of my articles." I am always a little surprised when someone reads what I write, I don't see myself as a writer, but I also didn't intend to become and roofer, and it's been my life for several decades.
My second thought was that I was glad I made him mad, not that I like upsetting people, but since he had an emotional response that means I hit a nerve. Enough of a nerve that prompted him to call and tell me that I had offended him, and later in the day when we finally connected we had a great conversation about the fall protection problem in Arizona. Most of what he told me is common knowledge within the roofing industry, but not so much to the general public. He felt that the way I wrote my article made it look like the entire industry was failing and that I could have been more clear that there are in fact roofing contractors who have been working hard for decades to make sure their crews are safe. He is correct about that; there are contractors who are busting their butts to provide training, equipment, and supervision to their employees so their workers will go home to their own families every night.
You know the phrase one bad apple spoils the barrow. That principle applies to the roofing industry, and the entire construction industry to be honest. For all the well-meaning, training, equipment and enforcement there are always those workers who "are too smart to wear their ropes," the roofer I talked to today said that, as soon as no one is looking. Off comes the rope and sadly sometimes that results in an injury or worse a death. As you can imagine that is very frustrating to a contractor, who did everything they could to prevent this. The question is, "When does this become the employee's personal choice?" What do you think? Where is the line when the employee is accountable for their own choices?
Another issue that has come up a few times is the sad fact that some subcontractors and even employees, will jump ship and go to another contractor who is not enforcing fall protect. Think about that for a moment; they are walking away from the contractor who wants them to be safe and live, to work for a contractor who does not care about their lives. Sometimes these guys will walk off the job in the middle of the work, leaving the contractor with an open roof and potential problems for the owner. Not to mention how bad it makes the contractor look when their crew walks off that way. Sadly, as long as there is that other contractor out there, they will keep doing it.
To quote the roofer who called me today again "They are too smart to wear their ropes," he is being ironic of course. But I get what he is saying if you go on FaceBook and read some posts by "roofers" around the country. They talk about fall protection in a very negative way, suggesting that "real roofers" don't need it. That wearing it proves you are not a professional roofer, that it makes you weak and "gay." Yeah, I have been called "gay" for suggesting roofers wear fall protection. If you can make the connection let me know, as best as I can figure out they are using the word "gay" to imply un-manly. In my opinion, those guys are not professional roofers; they are not professionals at all. They should not be on a roof with that attitude, and eventually, if they keep doing what they are doing, they will get hurt
How about the Sub-contractors who walk-off jobs? Oh and get this, those same subs offer and a "with" and "without" price! Can you believe that? What nerve they have to suggest they if you let them brake the law and put you and your clients at risk they will charge you a little less? Those guys have more or less the same attitude as some of the roofers I talked about from FaceBook. Not so much that it's not manly or whatever, but that it gets in the way and slows them down. Since they get paid by the square and not the hour, the amount of work completed in a day makes a massive difference to their wallet. I get it too, that's what kept me coming back to roofing, I could go out in a day or two and make as much money as my friends made in a week.
At the end of the day, the problem is a cultural one, and by the way that is the same position as ADOSH and OSHA. They believe that safety is cultural, something that we do without thinking, much like putting on your seat belt out of habit when you get in your car these days. If you are an old guy like me, you can still remember when cars didn't have seat belts, and YES, people made fun of you for wearing one. Now, though no one even thinks about it. You do it.
Thank you again to the roofing contractor who called me today, you are right, many roofing contractors are working hard to make their jobs safe and to make sure they are compliant. And the resources are readily available here in Arizona for EVERY contractor to get it right.
- The ADOSH Roofers Alliance is a meeting of roofing contractors every third Tuesday in the basement of the Arizona Industrial Commission building. Contractors who care meet and discuss safety with the Jesse Atencio, the director of ADOSH. These are guys who compete with each other in the market place, representing large and small companies. They talk one day out their busy months, every month to get together and talk about safety and how to build a more safety conscience culture.
- The Arizona Roofing Contractors Association offers FREE! Yes, I said FREE training to its member's employees, OSHA 10 and 30 training and roofing material installation training as well. The cost to join is less then $500, and the training you get far exceeds the cost of membership if you can't afford to join you can't afford to be a roofing contractor.
There are two resources right there that I knew about, and was reminded about today in my fascinating phone conversation.
If you are a contractor, take safety seriously and use the resources available to you.
If you are an owner, insist on the roofer you hire working with proper fall protection PERIOD.
If you have questions, want to tell me I made you mad, or whatever. Give me a call and lets talk (480) 265-1613
Oh to the roofer who called me today THANK YOU! I hope that today was the start of a long and prosperous association between the two of us.
Roof Consultant and Roofing Industry Advocate