Dec 27, 2021
Is That Safe?
Let us begin this month’s Editor’s Note with a blast from the past. In the middle of my career, I spent two arduous years with a university in Southwest Florida. At one point during that tour of duty, the university president and I were interviewing a woman who was partially qualified for the position for which she’d applied, when the learned executive asked her if she was Catholic, if she had any children, and if she was planning to have children in the next few years.
Imagine my horror.
I’m not telling industry anything new by stating hiring managers today have plenty of hurdles to overcome without involving the A.C.L.U. and litigation in the process. The paper trail required to prove you’ve trained a construction worker not to maim himself on the job is overwhelming. Yet it’s vital. We have a responsibility to the people we bring into the industry to ensure a safe work environment. That includes being safe from newbies who have no clue what it means to lock-out/tag-out.
We are in a time when we’re inviting people to join our industry because they enjoy video games that employ joystick controls similar to the controls found in the heavy equipment on the job site. Heavy equipment that can crush their co-workers to death.
Think about that.
Do you want to work alongside a machine controlled by an 18-year-old who was taught common core math? Neither do I. (Side note: I admit to having difficulty with mathematics problems since the “big” chemo treatment protocol in 2011, so I’m not a good one to hand heavy equipment training to, either.) This is why on-the-job training, earn-while-you-learn programs, continuing education, targeted apprenticeships, vocational curricula tailored to our industry, and other such education are vital to the success of the asphalt industry.
I think it’s imperative that we not only teach workers how to operate a piece of equipment to optimize its fuel use for lowest carbon footprint, but also how to operate the equipment in the safest manner possible. Every aspect of equipment operation has safety elements incorporated, from tethering before climbing atop a sweeper to clean a high windshield to placing blocks against tires in addition to activating emergency brakes, and so on.
To grow our industry, we must think outside the box and welcome a wide and diverse set of workers who can think critically and learn both big-picture and technical points. But we must train these new workers for technical as well as safe practices. We’re not just building a wider workforce. We’re building a wider workforce with a safety culture ingrained.
If we’re doing it right.