Thirty five years and what do we have to show for it? This year the Scaffold Industry Association celebrates 35 years of service to the industry. Through the good times and the bad, the association has strived to represent the interests of those involved in the business of access. And frankly, it has done a good job.
The association began in California in 1972 when several business owners recognized the potential hazards of not having a unified voice that represented their interests. Of particular concern were insurance and regulatory issues. To the credit of those farsighted individuals, who included the first president, Jerry Towse, and the first executive director, Victor Saleeby, the association initiated a journey, that while at times rough, continues today to represent the industry and more importantly encourages the safe use and operation of access equipment.
My first involvement with the SIA began in the early 1980’s when the convention was held in Denver. At the time I was working as a shoring salesman for the local Waco distributor. Since I was new to the association, I didn’t know the protocol, or more precisely, the informal and unwritten initiation of becoming involved in the organization; I was appointed to the prestigious position of minutes taker at the first shoring council meeting I ever attended! (It took me a time or two to finally figure out that it wasn’t as prestigious as I originally thought.) While I had been involved in the scaffold business for the previous ten years or so, this first exposure showed me that there were a lot of folks with the same interests. At that time, various codes of safe practice were being developed and improved for use by members in advocating safer practices. That effort still continues today as the industry expands and adjusts to change.
Of particular importance when the association started, and a continuing facet today, is the issue of regulations and standards. The association has been involved, intimately at times, in representing the interests of its members. Although some suggest the SIA acts as a lobbyist for the industry, that term misrepresents what the association has actually done for its members. Initially beginning with CalOsha, and expanding to encompass federal and other state safety and health regulatory agencies, the SIA has proactively encouraged these governmental departments to develop fair and effective mandatory rules. At the time the association started in 1972, the OSHA standards were new and to a certain degree, a novelty. However, with time it was discovered, much to the chagrin of certain people, that there was no novelty here and that a new era had begun. The SIA, to its credit, has been involved since then in assisting in the promulgation of standards and codes that exemplify the meaning of participation.
This effort was best seen when the federal government revised the scaffold standards, first producing them for review in 1986. Through the efforts of the SIA and other organizations, revisions were made, resulting in the scaffold standards that we use today. This effort took ten years but is well worth it when one considers the ramifications and costs of ill conceived standards.
Of course, the history of the SIA cannot ignore the tough times that it has experienced. As with any volunteer organization, leadership and member participation are key to its survival. There were times when some members doubted that the organization would survive when Mr. Saleeby passed away. But the organization, through its members’ determination, adapted to the situation. Members and companies stepped forward to ensure that the efforts of those initial members 35 years ago would not be to naught.
In the mid 1990’s, the SIA took another huge step forward when the decision was made to develop a training program for scaffold erectors and users. This program is still evolving today 12 years later, and represents the effectiveness of member participation. As a participant in the development of the program, I am still impressed with the amount of time and resources that were voluntarily offered by members and companies. Frankly, this is what this organization is all about.
What the future holds for the industry and the association is unlimited. If the past 35 years are any indication, this association will exploit the opportunities in a positive way and continue to be the voice of the access industry. Its members will see to that. My congratulations to the members of the SIA and 35 years of service to the industry–thanks for your efforts and dedication!