O Big Brother, Where Art Thou? (Roofer’s Edition)

Every construction workers least favorite phrase OSHA OSHA OSHA OSHA  Oh Sh*7!

Big Brother

We have (roofing industry) experienced interesting safety regulations in the last decade. These regulations range from ropes worn, harnesses, when to wear a helmet, and so on. The ongoing regulations are important and demand the attention of every business. Employee safety is the number one concern without a doubt. Yes, it’s a job, but at the end of the day everyone is a human being! However, the matter in which our government is enforcing such rules seem discriminatory towards small and large businesses alike by enforcing economic hurdles?

So what exactly does the “supposed” economic hurdles entail? Well, majority of regulations are primarily for the employer. It’s his responsibility to monitor all aspects of an employees safety whether it be from safety education, product disclosure, industry standards, and reporting job injuries. However, how do you maintain the same rules and accountability for the ma & pa companies as you do for fortune 500 corporations? The cost to hire an outside safety company, hire an additional safety man, or purchase less bothersome safety equipment is exceptionally high. So, should the government provide grants or safety equipment tax credits? That’s a question our industry should raise moving forward.

American Dream roofer model

  • Laborer-> Installer -> Contractor -> Superintendent ->Roof Consultant -> Business Owner -> Retire

The ma & pa example:

OSHA please tell an out of the truck, licensed, and insured roofer whose completing a roofing project that he’s a menace to society. In this situation, the man is both the employer and employee, so fine him right? Very unlikely, because the job is too small.  Everyday there’s unsafe projects that are visible roadside, but OSHA couldn’t get a big fine so they drive on by or there’s no childish antics going on (explained later). Many have stated OSHA using the term “understaffed” as the reason for not catching every dangerous roofing vigilant. So, why doesn’t big brother understand that for the roofing industry. If we had the revenue to staff our own safety monitor or purchase that retractable rope, we would. Do you really believe employers want to see their employees fall three-stories?

How we feel at the moment in the roofing industry

How we feel at the moment in the roofing industry

Larger company or established enterprises:
Larger companies often have brand recognition or tool resources to qualify for important projects. Four companies bid for large project and one’s awarded it. Now you have three disgruntled companies and one whose ecstatic. The project starts and located on a busy street. The scope of work takes four weeks. Throughout this timeframe a random “good citizen regarding safety” calls OSHA.  More times than not that call is from a roofing contractor, disgruntled company, or a union issue. How many daily citizens are aware of fall protection policies or care about their neighbors roofing contractor?  OSHA drives by or waits until red flag issues arise and takes photos. A photo is evidence and there’s no disproving a photo (even if he disconnected from his harness to get down the ladder).  Is it not worth a OSHA inspector to sit in a parking lot for 2 weeks awaiting a possible fine on a $200,000 project if it’s a repeat offender? That fine would probably constitute his salary and put money in the bank.

In addition, where does the employees accountability fall? If an employer teaches, showcases, and provides equipment that exceeds the normal regulations, but an employee seen without wearing a rope (WHICH IS EXTREMELY COMMON) for one second and a OSHA officer catches it on the camera then a employer is subjected to a possible fine. Even if that employer is in the process of implementing their new safety protocol. Was Rome built in a day? Did children learn to write in a week? OSHA needs to understand the habitual nature of roofing and laboring. This job is rigorous, physically demanding, and not the ideal occupation for the normal person. Workers are not cutting corners there trying to save themselves four hours and conserver their physical energy. However, instead of being patient they instill a double fine on companies that are repeat offenders. Understand training takes time! Creating a habit takes proper reinforcement from both the government and employer.  EVEN COPS WILL TELL YOU TO SLOW DOWN AND CARRY. 

Questions to ask yourself?

Didn’t that employee choose to risk his life by neglecting use of the rope? The government acknowledges these employers as willful and wanton employers, when in reality the individual decided to neglect his safety.

Procedure Process

OSHA states they’ll listen to the offender and subject a reasonable fine. However, that seem’s extremely subjective? An individual with authority (Often the regional administrator) is in charge administrating that fine based off the “evidence” circumstance, and employers history. There’s no definitive fine cost such as local speeding tickets, reckless driving, or an unbiased jury to hear the offender. The fines are on a scale system then?

We understand members of OSHA are human beings and are well aware of a possible “there having a bad day” situation. Now a company maybe fined from a biased individual who works for the party seeking compensation and their agitated.  No jury only a judge.

Can we get answers?

Where does that money go? Payroll, governmental “policies,” or normal business expenses of OSHA? Shouldn’t that money go to a fund that increases safety programs for the roofing employees. If the awarded money went into an account that subsidized harnesses, laddervators, or hard hats, it makes it easier for ma & pa’s to finance safety services. How about that money goes to the employees who were in danger? The individuals whose lives were at risk should receive a compensation?

Also, how come hiring an outside safety company saves you 15% on your next potential fine? Outsourcing your safety program show cases your concern for the workforce? How about the hours applied in-house to show you as proof of our concern for safety and provide us the 15% discount. Where do you create these financial figures?

We need transparency.

Side thought:

Add in the disengaged worker and ask yourself if the “good citizen regarding safety” or adult tattle-tale (childish antics) call will the prompt the OSHA office to get a repeat offender rather than follow the scheduled list in which their supposedly understaffed for. OF COURSE, OSHA will go after a possible repeat conviction. They can enact a double fine for repeat offenders, so why would they risk losing a potential 100% fine increase?

I believe the largest issue for safety and the government’s inability to hold employees accountable. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) needs to start fining the EMPLOYEES TOO. WHO GETS THE TICKET IF YOU ARE DRIVING A CAR AND IT’S YOUR BOSSES CAR, BUT YOU GET CAUGHT WITHOUT A SEATBELT? YOU. NOT YOUR BOSS. Statistics show that those that don’t wear their seatbelt are more likely to experience severe or deathly consequences. What exactly is the difference?

Rant over

If you were to ask a hundred contractors their thoughts on OSHA you’d receive a hundred different answers. Majority of them would be negative, because there’s very few positive outcomes from such programs. The organization is necessary because roofing is the fourth dangerous occupation in the United States and that specifically warrants oversight. However, oversight should be there to assist and improve the environmental conditions in reasonable techniques. The current model that’s in place does not work nor does it improve the overall state of our industry. Our government continues to do what they do best in hiding the truth behind their rational and allowing the rich get richer. We do our best to abide by current policies, but we need change, not chains.

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