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SIA Archives | DH Glabe & Associates

Imagine

By | OSHA Standards & Regulations, Resources | No Comments

Imagine a scaffold industry without rules and guidelines.  Imagine that you could do anything you wanted with a scaffold.  Imagine a scaffold industry without OSHA or ANSI.  (I’ll bet a few of you could easily imagine that!)  Imagine that you had no idea how to use a scaffold safely.  Imagine nobody cared about your safety.  Imagine a scaffold industry without dedicated people.  If you can imagine any of those things, then you probably cannot imagine that a dedicated group of men and women convened in Long Beach California in July to do what many cannot imagine:  promote the safe use of scaffolding, advance the knowledge base of the business of scaffolding, and yes, develop guidelines, codes, training materials, and methods to help you use the product of scaffolding in a safe manner.

And wait, there’s more!  These same dedicated folks work with the very organizations that set regulations and rules that govern this scaffold industry.  Now, if you don’t like this kind of relationship, then you are in the wrong company of individuals.  Simply stated, because of the Scaffold Industry Association (SIA), you have workable standards.  Because of the SIA, you have guidelines for the safe use of scaffolding.  Because of the SIA, you have fall protection representatives talking with scaffold people who are talking with scaffold users.  Because of the SIA, scaffold users are talking with industry experts and getting advice on the proper use of scaffold products.  And the best part of all this is that these dedicated folks, who have worked hard on your behalf have done it because they get paid — nothing!

That doesn’t make any sense, somebody doing something for nothing.  But that’s what was going on at the Long Beach Convention.  And it goes on all year.  Look at some of the specifics:  The Supported Scaffolds Council is producing a presentation that you can use to train your employees and customers on the safe use of scaffolds.  Similarly, the Suspended Scaffold Council has also produced an excellent presentation that you can use to train your employees and customers on the safe use of suspended scaffolds.  The Plank Council has done the same for you.  All of this is done without any financial compensation.  That, frankly, is pure dedication.

The upside on all this effort is a safer and more productive work environment.  The association also works with the code and standard writing agencies, representing your interests and ensuring that the codes and standards that are developed reflect the best intentions and requirements of all interested parties.  For example, the SIA is the secretariat for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) committees that develop the consensus standards for aerial platforms.  The SIA has been involved with the ANSI committee for scaffolds for many years, protecting your interests and helping in guiding the committee in developing effective guidelines.  SIA has participated with federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA) for decades; that participation continued in Long Beach where a safety conference was held.  California OSHA representatives participated in a panel of experts who answered questions and explained policy.  This is indicative of the type of work that is being done for you and the industry.

At the Long Beach convention, you had the opportunity to talk to manufacturers and suppliers of scaffolding products and services.  These exhibitors illustrated the essence of the business, the vibrancy and future of the business.  Many exciting new developments could have been viewed and inspected, from new scaffold innovations to software that improves your productivity to safety products that impact the welfare of your employees.

Finally, there is one important aspect that you may not have seen had you attended the convention. It’s what I like to call the invisible operators.  This essential group of individuals includes the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee and the SIA staff.  This is the behind the scenes activity that steers the association and makes it function. The dedication of the members to the cause drives the association; individual participation and expertise sustains it; new ideas propel it to new expectations.  The results were apparent at the Long Beach convention.  This is what your association does for you. Thanks for being part of it.

Older Now

By | Resources, Scaffolding | No Comments

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!

Idiot Proof?

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

Is it possible to make a scaffold idiot proof?  For that matter, is it necessary?  At the recent Scaffold Industry Association (SIA) convention, safety and training were major topics at the various council meetings.  This would suggest that it is not possible to make scaffolds idiot proof, but rather it is possible to train workers so they understand that there are minimum expectations (standards) when using a scaffold.  Is it reasonable to assume that workers can be trained?

 

To answer the third question first, of course workers can be trained.  Otherwise the SIA would not have invested the money in its’ training program.  Besides, the Federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires that workers who use and work with scaffolding be trained.  The training requirements are straight forward and don’t expect too much of the worker.  But these same requirements do expect that workers learn enough about scaffolds so that hazards are minimized and/or eliminated.  Can all hazards be eliminated?  I would like to think that on a properly constructed scaffold, the hazards are eliminated.  After all, that’s what safety is all about.

 

But does a properly erected scaffold make it idiot proof?  Frankly, no.  That’s because the idiot makes a proper scaffold improper and defeats the safety aspects of the scaffold, consequently making it hazardous and therefore out of compliance with the regulations.   To counteract this type of activity, there are regulations that address this issue; one applicable regulation specifically states that, “Scaffolds shall be erected, moved, dismantled, or altered only under the supervision of a competent person, qualified in scaffold erection, moving, dismantling or alteration.” (If you aren’t familiar with this regulation, you’ll find it under the Use of Scaffolds, 29CFR1926.451(f)(7)).  As with all other regulations, for those who choose to ignore the wisdom of the standards, enforcement is the key to compliance.  Unfortunately, the enforcement is often focused incorrectly and the violator is not punished for his actions.  In the case of scaffolding, it’s the employer who gets nailed, even though he/she has furnished training, retraining, and re-retraining for the errant employee.

 

Here’s one example of many where the employee, not the employer, was the idiot..  An employer provided training for employees installing equipment on the edge of a roof.  They were trained to use personal fall protection when working at the edge of the roof where they could have fallen from a considerable height.  The employees chose to leave their fall protection equipment down in the pick-up truck, electing instead to ignore their training, the regulations, and company policy.  In fact, not only did these employees choose to ignore safe practice, they now reclassified themselves from trained employees to idiots.  Fortunately, nobody was injured, but OSHA chose to fine the employer in spite of the fact that the employer had training records.  Even the employees said that they knew better!

 

As you can see, its not the equipment, nor the training, it’s the individual who determines if he or she is the idiot.  Yet we continue to reward the idiots.  In this case, the employees didn’t get the message because OSHA fined the employer, not the employee.  At some point, the employee must take responsibility for his or her own actions.  Too bad the system doesn’t work that way.

 

As correctly stated in a recent Engineering News Record editorial:  “One of the problems is that there seems to be a growing disconnect in workers’ minds that they are not responsible for their own safety.” (ENR/May 28, 2001)  Besides the present OSHA policy of not citing the employee, civil lawsuits also encourage a lackadaisical attitude by workers.  For example, take the worker who was injured when he fell (actually he jumped because he was about to fall) from an incomplete scaffold. At the time of the accident, the scaffold was under construction by another contractor.  The erectors where on the other side of the building and consequently did not see the employee on their incomplete scaffold.  The injured party (plaintiff) accused the erectors of negligence because the erectors did not assume the injured worker would attempt to use the incomplete scaffold and therefore did not tell him to stay off the incomplete scaffold!  Is this idiotic or what?

 

In spite of clearly written training requirements, it is unfortunate that unequal enforcement of the standards, coupled with misguided lawsuits, encourage continued idiotic practices.  Scaffolds cannot be made idiot proof until the idiots stop modifying scaffolds in hazardous ways.  While we must continue to provide training for all workers, it is time to stop the idiotic practice of not punishing the idiot.

The Art of Science and Training

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

 “To teach so as to make fit, qualified or proficient.”  That’s what Mr. Webster says about training in the ninth edition of his dictionary.   While that definition can easily be applied to scaffold training, the outcome of training is the real measure of whether someone is fit, qualified, or proficient.  This definition requires that the trainer is also fit, qualified and proficient.  What this means is that if training is expected to be effective, the trainer better know his stuff!

 

Before we can even worry about the quality or accuracy of scaffold training though, funds to provide training are necessary.  Historically, training has been minimal due to misguided fears of losing a trained worker to the competition and the lack of profit motive to provide training.  Only recently has it been recognized that training can be an effective tool to increase productivity, reduce lost time accidents, and thus boost profits.  Until recently, user training has been almost non-existent; it only now has received a boost due primarily to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) requirement that all users of scaffolds be trained.  In spite of the fact that scaffold training is required, training funds for compliance officers, believe it or not, has been less than adequate.  Unfortunately, this has been true since the inception of OSHA.  One would think that the agency that mandates training would at least provide for the proper training of those charged with the very enforcement of the training standards.

Interestingly, many assumptions are made in the evaluation of both the trainer and the trainee.  Although there are numerous training programs available for scaffold users, inspectors, compliance officers, and erectors, the programs incorporate information and techniques that may or may not be accurate.  Further complicating the situation is that program costs vary dramatically and typically do not accurately indicate the effectiveness of the training.   Couple this with false perceptions of quality or expertise and all scaffold training effectively becomes, well ineffective.  Wallet cards and certificates frequently become the measure of program quality or at least as an acceptable measure of adequacy, relegating course content to the category of inconsequence.  The end result is training that has no content, only a title, and the intent of the standards produces counterproductive results.

 

So then, what constitutes training that meets not only the intent of the standards, but also provides meaningful information for students?  The Federal OSHA Standards state it quite well in requiring that the training be supplied by qualified instructors, individuals who have the knowledge, expertise, experience, and training to not only recognize the hazards associated with scaffolding, but also have the ability to explain those hazards and the solutions to mitigate those hazards, to students.  No longer does it suffice that the instructor knows how to read the standards or has some safety training.  The scaffold student deserves more and should expect more.  While the Scaffold Industry Association (SIA) Scaffold Training Program is one example of a comprehensive, and systematic, approach to proper training, it, and all other programs, require instructors sho are knowledgeable in the subject.  In other words, the program is only as good as the individual instructing it.  Membership in the SIA, or any other organization, does not necessarily indicate expertise in scaffold safety and usage.  Being able to sell, rent, or erect scaffold doesn’t automatically qualify anybody either.  On the other hand, advanced degrees in safety, engineering, marketing or education doesn’t automatically qualify the individual either.

 

You are on your own when it comes to determining who the qualified instructor is.  No minimum standards have been set by any agency to help the employer determine a good instructor.  OSHA has not accepted the responsibility to establish minimum criteria for instructors other than what is currently specified in the training requirements of the construction industry scaffold standards (29CFR1926.454).  It is my opinion the Scaffold Industry Association should assume the responsibility for establishing minimum criteria for scaffold instructors.  This will be a benefit to members and non-members alike.  It will set the benchmark for determining the quality of the instruction and enable the scaffold user, erector, and others to acquire the knowledge to work safely and efficiently on scaffolds.

The Business of Training

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

“To teach so as to make fit, qualified or proficient.”  That’s what Mr. Webster says about training in the ninth edition of his dictionary.   While that definition can easily be applied to scaffold training, the outcome of training is the real measure of whether someone is fit, qualified, or proficient.  This definition requires that the trainer is also fit, qualified and proficient.  What this means is that if training is to be effective, the trainer better know his stuff!

 

Before we can even worry about the quality or accuracy of scaffold training though, funds to provide training are necessary.  Historically, training has been minimal due in part to misguided fears of losing a trained worker to the competition and the lack of profit motive to provide training. Only recently has it been recognized that training can be an effective tool to increase productivity, reduce lost time accidents, and thus boost profits.  User training has been almost non-existent; it only now has received a boost due primarily to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) requirement that all users of scaffolds be trained. Even OSHA hasn’t adequately funded the training of their own compliance officers, suggesting to employers that training isn’t really that important after all. One would think that the agency that mandates training would at least provide for the proper training of those charged with the very enforcement of the training standards.

Many assumptions are made in the evaluation of both the trainer and the trainee.  Although there are numerous training programs available for scaffold users, inspectors, compliance officers, and erectors, the programs incorporate information and techniques that may or may not be accurate.  Further complicating the situation is that program costs vary dramatically and typically do not accurately indicate the effectiveness of the training.   Couple this with false perceptions of quality or expertise and all scaffold training effectively becomes, well ineffective.  Wallet cards and certificates frequently become the measure of program quality or at least as an acceptable measure of adequacy, relegating course content to the category of inconsequence.  The end result is training that has no content, only a title, and the intent of the standards produces counterproductive results.

 

So then, what constitutes training that meets not only the intent of the standards, but also provides meaningful information for students?  The Federal OSHA Standards state it quite well in requiring that the training be provided by qualified instructors, individuals who have the knowledge, expertise, experience, and training to not only recognize the hazards associated with scaffolding, but also have the ability to explain those hazards and the solutions to mitigate those hazards, to students.  No longer does it suffice that the instructor knows how to read the standards or has some safety training.  The scaffold student deserves more and should expect more.  While the Scaffold Industry Association (SIA) Scaffold Training Program is one example of a comprehensive, and systematic, approach to proper training, it, and all other programs, require instructors who are knowledgeable in the subject.  In other words, the program is only as good as the individual instructing it.  Membership in the SIA, or any other organization, does not necessarily indicate expertise in scaffold safety and usage.  Being able to sell, rent, or erect scaffold doesn’t automatically qualify an individual.  Advanced degrees in safety, engineering, marketing or education doesn’t automatically qualify the individual either.

 

At the present time, you are on your own when it comes to determining who the qualified instructor is.  No minimum standards have been set by any agency to help the employer determine a good instructor.  OSHA has not accepted the responsibility to establish minimum criteria for instructors other than what is currently specified in the training requirements of the construction industry scaffold standards (29CFR1926.454).  It is my opinion the Scaffold Industry Association should assume the responsibility for establishing minimum criteria for scaffold instructors.  This will be a benefit to members and non-members alike.  It will set the benchmark for determining the quality of the instruction and enable the scaffold user, erector, and others to acquire the knowledge to work safely and efficiently on scaffolds.  What do you think?