CalOSHA Archives | DH Glabe & Associates

The Standard Standard

By | OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources, Scaffolding | No Comments

I can answer the one question easily: no, safety standards are not there to make your life more difficult.  The fact is, they are there to make your life safer.  Depending on your age, you may think that they come from ancient history but in reality they are a relatively recent development in workplace safety, going back about 100 years.  The federal OSHA standards have their beginning December 29, 1970 when the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 91-596.  This law required that employers “furnish to each of his/her employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his/her employees.”  That’s fine that Congress says we have to have a safe workplace but what exactly is a safe workplace?  Well, that is where the standards (regulations) come in.  Basically, the standards define what a safe workplace is; the scaffold standards define what a safe scaffold is.  Rather straightforward I must say.  But is it?  Who gets to say what the actual standards are?  Some bureaucrat in Washington, D.C.?  Or, maybe a scaffold association?  How about the scaffold manufacturers?  Just a concerned citizen?  Believe it or not, the answer is:  All the Above!

When the original OSHA standards were developed, they were based on existing codes and standards, primarily the standards developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).  For scaffolding, the ANSI standard that was used was A10.8.  This standard, known as a consensus standard, was developed by devoted manufacturers, users, engineers, safety specialists, and academia.  (This consensus standard still exists today and is updated periodically—the most recent edition is A10.8-2001.)   Basically, the standards are developed by people with diverse backgrounds, expertise, experience, and interests who come together to determine the most effective guidelines for you to use so you are safe while working with and on scaffolds.

For example, last month 40 individuals met to discuss changes to the scaffold standards that are used in California.  The group included scaffold users, manufacturers, suppliers, safety consultants, CalOSHA personnel and designers.  I attended as your representative from the Scaffold Industry Association.   Two intense days were spent debating the plank standards in the California OSHA standards.  Healthy dialogue, a disagreement or two, and finally agreement for changes resulted in updated standards that defined plank used for scaffold platforms.  This is how it works.  While this activity involved only California, the process is similar for other states and the federal OSHA standards.  Basically, no standard can be changed without due process.  While this may seem cumbersome, it is the only reasonable method for developing fair requirements.  Imagine if we didn’t have it.  The standards would very quickly develop into self-serving, non-effective worthless trash.

The process is taken seriously as well it should be.  The government is required to notify us, the citizens, for any changes that are being suggested.  We are invited to comment on any proposed standards that will affect us.  We can do this by writing to the government and/or attending “hearings.”  How long can this process take?  Quite a while.  For example, the federal scaffold standards became effective in November, 1996.  The initial decision that revisions to the existing standards were necessary was made in the mid 1970’s.  That’s right, it took approximately twenty years to revise the standards.  Therefore, the next time you think the standards stink, think about how many hours of work went into what you use every day.

Think about what went into writing these standards.  Dedicated individuals labored over the language and ramifications of their decisions.  Writing standards is not easy; the wrong use of a word, the wrong reference and incorrect grammar have far reaching effects, not only in relation to other standards, but also to you and I who have to apply these standards every day.  The next time you criticize the standards, you may want to pause and consider what you are doing.  Instead, you may want to thank those talented individuals who were watching out for your safety, even if it was back in ancient history!

Only A Beginning

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

So, what has the association been up to for the last 25years?  Back in the early 1980’s the big issues were insurance, OSHA, CAL-OSHA, liability exposure and membership.  Sounds familiar doesn’t it?  But wait a minute; it isn’t the same issues although the agencies may be the same.  Federal OSHA was only 13years old and the agency was in the process of revising the scaffold standards.  The scaffold industry was operating under the difficulties and confusion of the original specification standards.  Cal-OSHA’ relationship with the SIA was congenial (as far as I could tell from 1000 miles away) and the liability issues were being addressed through the development of Codes of Safe Practices.  The association was entering its second decade and the membership was growing.  Since that momentous occasion when I was the scribe of the Shoring Council, the association has certainly had its low points and high points.  But there is no doubt that the high points greatly exceed the low points.  The fact that the association has survived some of those low points illustrates not only the tenacity of its members but the value of its existence.  We were on a roll back then, just as we are now, but in a different way.  At that time, we were almost a decade away from initiating the SIA training program as we know it today.  But the foundation for that program was being laid through the development of 35 mm slide shows (remember those) and the Codes of Safe Practice.  Just as now, members donated countless hours to the SIA for the sake of those who use scaffolds.  There is no way to measure the effectiveness of those efforts since we only measure injuries and deaths and scaffolding still shows up on the “Top Ten” in OSHA fatality statistics.  But one has to wonder where we might be without the efforts of those early members who contributed so much to the industry.

It is a comfort to see a reinvigorated membership improving the safety of the industry.  Back in the early ‘80’s, frame scaffolds dominated the market.  Systems scaffold was a relatively new product and aerial lifts were in their infancy, at least compared to today.  Scaffold erector fall protection was just beginning to become an issue for the industry.  At that time the bigger issue was getting the scaffold users to use guardrails; some things never change.

Denver has changed since the early ‘80’s too.  We were known as a “cowtown” to some, the “QueenCityof the Plains” to others. Coloradohas added over a million folks to its population since 1983, greatly changing the size and feel of the city.  We have the Sixteenth Street Mall, which didn’t exist at the last convention.  The present convention center didn’t exist either.  There was a convention center but we tore it down because we didn’t like it.  I can’t promise perfect weather but it usually is pretty nice in July.  Besides, you can always head to the mountains if it gets too hot in the city.  (For those of you from locales that have an elevation less than 4000 feet, you’ll appreciate the lack of humidity—we have a law that doesn’t allow it to go above 50%.)

For those of you who like gambling, Colorado has a couple of towns not too far up the canyon that lets you leave money for us but my suggestion is don’t bother—just give me the money and I’ll save you the trip.  Just kidding, I don’t want the Chamber of Commerce to be mad at me.  Go to Blackhawk and Central City and gamble.  Take the “Oh myGod Road” out ofIdahoSprings up into Central City.  The drive is a thrill and a gamble.  When you get to Central City go gamble at the tables.  It may be low stakes but its fun.  (Russell and Gregory Gulches, where Central City is located, are where the big gold finds of the 1850’s occurred.   In fact, Central City is known as the “Richest Square Mile on Earth.”)   Or, if you don’t like the idea of gambling, try out driving the Lariat Trail up to Buffalo Bill’s grave.  The view of the city from Lookout Mountain is fabulous.  The road starts out in Golden, the gateway to the west, and home of the world’s largest brewery, Coors.  Speaking of beer, Denver is also home to more micro breweries than anywhere else in the country which, of course, should keep a few of you occupied for the entire convention.

If you like hiking, we have lots of opportunities.  If you are adventurous, try tackling a fourteener-we have 52 of them.  These are mountains over 14,000 feet high.  Not so adventurous?  Then drive to the top ofMt.Evans, one of the fourteeners and the highest paved road inNorth America. You can say you did a fourteener; I won’t tell.

By the way, we have lots of construction going on.  Admire how we do scaffolds inDenver.  They are unique because they are always much taller than the rest of the scaffolds inNorth America; we start out a mile high!  Welcome to theMileHighCity, theQueenCityof the Plains, and the host city for the Scaffold Industry Association 2008 Convention; we the proudColoradomembers of the Scaffold Industry Association are pleased to have you.  Let’s continue what was started in California in 1973, added to in Denver in 1983, and goes on today, better than ever!