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Monthly Archives

March 2008

Still Developing?

By | Aerial Lifts, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffold Components, Scaffolding | No Comments

One new development is in the manufacturing of scaffolding components, particularly scaffold frames and systems scaffolds.  In the past, manufacturing has generally occurred inNorth Americafor most supported and suspended scaffold components used inNorth America.  Now, as with other manufactured products, most scaffold component production has shifted to countries with lower manufacturing costs.  Is this good for the industry or is it bad?  It depends on who you talk to. On the one hand, cheaper equipment costs mean better competition.  On the other hand, cheaper costs may suggest lack of quality.  (I wonder how manufacturing would have developed if OSHA, and others, had enforced 29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1) for the past 10 years.  That’s the regulation that says all scaffolds shall have a 4 to 1 safety factor, requiring the employer to know the strength of his/her scaffolding.

On a brighter note one promising development is in the relationship between the Scaffold Industry Association, SIA, and the US federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA.  An alliance has been established between the two entities to promote access safety in the construction industry.  This alliance, a couple of years in the making, provides a common platform to share ideas and formulate strategies that will encourage better workplace practices for scaffold users.  This is another positive step in the evolution of access safety, an evolution that started with the establishment of both OSHA and the SIA in the 1970’s.

Another evolving development is the continuing growth of the SIA training program.  I had the opportunity to visit one of the training classes at the SIA Committee Week and it was a genuine pleasure to see the progress that has been made.  What an evolution this program has experienced since Committee Week inAlbuquerquein the mid ‘90’s when the concept was first proposed.  While it’s been a long road, the fruits of the labor are paying off handsomely.

A development that isn’t new but continues to manifest itself in clever and disturbing ways is the harassment of professional scaffold erectors concerning fall protection.  The extremely well written regulation regarding erector fall protection (29 CFR 1926.451(g)(2) is being abused, interpreted and mutilated, all cloaked in the sanctity of safety.  Let’s call this folly for what it is – a misunderstanding by misinformed individuals who haven’t worked in the shoes of an erector, perceiving that erectors, and by association the entire access/scaffold industry, just don’t care about safety.  This isn’t to say that the industry hasn’t dragged its’ collective feet in the past nor that all erectors are perfect.  However, based on my experience, this industry has invested more time, energy, money, and expertise in developing new strategies, products, knowledge and commitment to reduce the risks inherent with scaffold erection and use in the past decade than any other sector of the construction industry.  Unfortunately all this effort is being undermined by well meaning (I hope) but ill informed personnel who do not understand the bigger picture.  What a waste.  Professional erectors and professional scaffold companies are not the problem, they are the solution.

Enough of the negative thoughts.  Some (whoever they are) may think that a 70 year old product isn’t going to encourage new developments.  When put into perspective, scaffolding, whether its frame, system, suspended, aerial lifts or some derivative thereof, will continue to spawn new developments since access in construction will always be required.  It may be in the components or it may be in related areas such as engineering, assembly, inventory control, accounting or employee productivity.  We may not know what the development will be, but you can be sure there will be new development-look for it!

Promising Future

By | Aerial Lifts, Resources, Scaffold Components, Scaffolding | No Comments

One new development is in the manufacturing of scaffolding components, particularly scaffold frames and systems scaffolds.  In the past manufacturing has generally occurred in North America for most supported and suspended scaffold components used inNorth America.  Now, as with other manufactured products, most scaffold component production has shifted to countries with lower manufacturing costs.  Is this good for the industry or is it bad?  It depends on who you talk to. On the one hand, a cheaper equipment cost means better competition.  On the other hand, cheaper costs may suggest lack of quality.  (I wonder how manufacturing would have developed if OSHA, and others, had enforced 29 CFR 1926.451(a)(1) for the past 10 years.  That’s the regulation that says all scaffolds shall have a 4 to 1 safety factor, requiring the employer to know the strength of his/her scaffolding.)

On a brighter note one promising development is in the relationship between the Scaffold Industry Association, SIA, and the US federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, OSHA.  An alliance has been established between the two entities to further access safety in the construction industry.  This alliance, a couple of years in the making, provides a common platform to share ideas and formulate strategies that will encourage better workplace practices for scaffold users.  This appears to be another step in the evolution of access safety, an evolution that started with the establishment of both OSHA and the SIA in the 1970’s.

Another evolving development is the continuing growth of the SIA training program.  I had the opportunity to visit one of the training classes at the SIA Committee Week and it was a genuine pleasure to see the progress that has been made.  What an evolution this program has experienced since Committee Week inAlbuquerquein the mid ‘90’s when the concept was first proposed.  While it’s been a long road, the fruits of the labor are paying off handsomely.

A development that isn’t new but continues to manifest itself in clever and disturbing ways is the harassment of professional scaffold erectors concerning fall protection.  The extremely well written regulation regarding erector fall protection (29 CFR 1926.451(g)(3) is being abused, interpreted and mutilated, all cloaked in the sanctity of safety.  Let’s call this folly for what it is – a misunderstanding by misinformed individuals who haven’t worked in the shoes of an erector, perceiving that erectors, and by association the entire access/scaffold industry, just don’t care about safety.  This isn’t to say that the industry hasn’t dragged its’ collective feet in the past nor that all erectors are perfect.  However, based on my experience, this industry has invested more time, energy, money, and expertise in developing new strategies, products, knowledge and commitment to reduce the risks inherent with scaffold erection and use in the past decade than any other sector of the construction industry.  Unfortunately all this effort is being undermined by well meaning (I hope) but ill informed personnel who do not understand the bigger picture.  What a waste.  Professional erectors and professional scaffold companies are not the problem, they are the solution.

Enough of the negative thoughts.  Some (whoever they are) may think that a 70 year old product isn’t going to encourage new developments.  When put into perspective, scaffolding, whether its frame, system, suspended, aerial lifts or some derivative thereof, will continue to spawn new developments since access in construction will always be required.  It may be in the components or it may be in related areas such as engineering, assembly, inventory control, accounting or employee productivity.  We may not know what the development will be, but you can be sure there will be new development-look for it!

New Developments

By | Aerial Lifts, Mast Climber, OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Safety Hazards, Scaffolding | No Comments

I’m no genius and I am not a psychic but hey, I can spin a good story as well as anyone.  I will focus on what I know and what I’ve seen (that’s where a knowledge of the past is handy) and give you my opinion about the effect of new developments.  When one thinks of the scaffold frame, its tough to get excited about a 70 year old product.  It’s even tough to get excited about systems scaffold which, relatively speaking, is a new product in comparison with the scaffold frame.  Suspended scaffolds probably have the edge on new developments as far as traditional products go but even there we are still hanging around when we are using them.  Mast climbers, scissors lifts, boom lifts and similar mechanized devices are probably the biggest change in the industry in the past 25 years and will have the biggest impact as far as new developments.

Actually, the new developments I think are not with the specific products but rather how they are used more efficiently.  Additionally, developments in safety standards application will be a bigger development than the actual product.  Let’s take a look at how the safety standards, including the OSHA and ANSI standards, are affecting and will continue to affect the development of the industry.  You may think that this is not a “new development” but it is because of the evolution of standards and the agencies involved with their enforcement.  If the past is any indicator, and I think it is, this industry will continue its slow apathetic spiral downward, capitulating at every turn to ever stricter standards.  While this appears contradictory to the activities of the Scaffold Industry Association, especially in light of the wonderful developments at the recent Committee Week, I specifically address your attention to the willingness of scaffold industry workers to submit to safety officials who know little of the industry but have great authority.

Often I hear a scaffold company owner defer to OSHA, for example, because he/she does not want to make the effort to learn the subject matter.  I’m not ripping on OSHA or any safety people here; they are only filling the void left by lazy scaffold workers.  If you think I’m off base here, I politely ask you to think about your experience with OSHA and other safety workers.  Invariably, the experience always seems to be less than comfortable.  Why is that? Is it because they don’t know anything or is it because you don’t?

About this example:  For years a regulation has existed that requires all scaffolds have a safety factor of 4.  This means that the scaffold must be 4 times stronger than the load that will be put on it.

You cannot change what over, only where you go.