Stupid Stuff

By David H. Glabe, P.E. / January 1, 2008

Here is why me friend called.  He wanted to know whether there was any new information regarding the use of plywood with plank on a scaffold.  He had been informed by a certain individual that you cannot do that.  (Presumably that concern was based on an OSHA Letter of Interpretation that declared that using plywood with plank was hazardous.)  Please tell me why, I encouraged him.  The reason, so he was told, was because you could not inspect the plank underneath.  This is what the letter had said too.  Think about it.  Does this mean that I have to tear up my living room floor every day to look at the floor joists?  Granted, I don’t typically run wheel barrows across the living room but come on, where’s the reasonable logic?

Before I get into trouble with my friends with OSHA, here’s one to consider.  Why, after 10 years, do we have people in the scaffold business who do not know what the OSHA standards are for scaffolding?  And that 10 years is based on when the “new” OSHA standards were issued.  If you want to wonder a little more, how about 33 years, when the first OSHA standards were issued?  That’s scary!   Why do scaffold erectors insist on refusing to use fall protection when it is feasible?  And why is it, that safety “professionals” insist that erectors use fall protection when it won’t work?  Stupid stuff.

Now that I have alienated everybody, and none of you will ever talk to me again, why is it that engineers can’t appreciate the practical side of the problem?  I remember learning a very valuable lesson a long time ago.  Early in my career, I created a scaffold layout that, without a doubt, was probably the most incredible, ingenious scaffold application ever developed by man or woman.  Recognizing my incredible aptitude, my boss, in his infinite wisdom, sent me to the jobsite to see how the construction of the scaffold was doing.  Proud of my accomplishment, I told the crew that I was there to see how things were going.  Once the foreman discovered who I was, he asked, in no uncertain terms, and unprintable I might add, how the heck they were going to build it as I had it drawn.  I had produced stupid stuff!

What about the tagging system for scaffolds?  Why do scaffold users think there is magic in the tag?  Why do users think they have no obligation for their own safety when a scaffold has a green tag?  The tag isn’t any more foolproof than a green traffic light.  It only works if everybody behaves.  A green tag doesn’t stop somebody from screwing up a scaffold anymore than a green light prohibits a driver from going through the red light from the other direction.  To think that you don’t have to check out the scaffold before you use it is stupid stuff.

Before we give up on this whole concept of stupid stuff, at least for now, here’s one I always wonder about:  Why do people hang from ropes, as in a suspended scaffold, which are less than a pencil in thickness and not have any personal fall protection?  Is that stupid stuff or what!

Do you know of any stupid stuff (that applies to scaffolds)?  Email me (dhg@glabe.com) and let me know.  Title it “Stupid Stuff” so I know what it is.  Who knows, maybe we can have a monthly stupid stuff column.  Oh yeah, to answer the question about 100% tie off and 100% fall protection, the one has nothing to do with the other.  To think that there is a relationship is stupid stuff.

Tags: Fall Protection Scaffolding OSHA OSHA Standards & Regulations Resources Safety Hazards tagging systems Uncategorized

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David H. Glabe, P.E.

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