A Safety Story from STO Building Group’s Senior Vice President of Safety, Keith Haselman
My friend Jim, a fellow pilot in Pensacola, Florida, was newly engaged and had just bought a new house. He found squirrels had eaten a hole through the cedar siding and were in the attic. His first trip up, he missed the joist and his foot went through the ceiling. Embarrassed, he called me over to help with the issue. He stated he chased the squirrels out but needed to borrow my extension ladder to temporarily seal the siding. I stepped the base of the ladder as Jim went up to spray foam to seal the hole before installing a temporary lap board. He was just about to place the board over the hole when a terrified squirrel, still in the attic, suddenly shot out of the foam and landed on his chest before launching away.
Jim, in a sudden panic, swung sideways but kept a hand on the ladder as I fought to maintain it, while the nails and board dropped from above. He quickly swung back, descended, and thanked me for the save. Then, he paused and stated, “That was terrifying.”
Having one extra person added a layer of safety that may have prevented a disabling injury.
A Safety Story from Structure Tone New York Safety Manager, Bill Coddington
I started my career at Structure Tone in the late 1990s. Through the years, I’ve worked as a laborer, superintendent, a general super, and currently, as a safety manager in NYC. At the time this story occurred, I had only been with Structure Tone for a year or two, and I was a laborer assigned to a small project on Crosby Street. The building we were working in was installing a new modern hydraulic elevator to replace the manually operated, two-person traction elevator.
This day started like every other. Our project was on the top floor, which was the fourth floor of this building. I walked over to the shaft, which had a barricade of two-by-fours across the openings, and I looked in to see what floor the elevator installers were working on. The elevator rails had been installed, as well as the cars in the two connecting shafts. The workers were installing the sills at each landing, as well as the doors. This particular morning turned out to be very different. As I leaned against the top wood rail across the opening of the shaft, it immediately gave way. The mid-rail, still snug in its cradle, ensured my momentum would send me headfirst into the darkness. It turned out, one of the elevator installers had removed one side of the rail from its cradle, resting it on top of the cradle. They say your life flashes before your eyes when you have a near death experience. It didn’t in my case because in an instant, I fell onto the top of the new elevator car, which had been parked just below the floor I was working on, thankfully.
I fell about six feet onto the new car. The top of an elevator has steel running across at different heights, as well as many other pieces of metal and equipment, so I was hurt but alive. The crew working on the car knew immediately what happened and came to my aid. I remember getting helped off the top of the car onto the floor, and just sitting and crying—partly because of the pain I was in, but mostly because my thoughts went to my wife, who was expecting our first son. The young elevator installer who removed the rail that morning was as upset as I was. He still calls me a couple of times a year just to say hello.
I knew that leaning on a guardrail was wrong but had done it anyway, and almost paid with my life. If that car had not been parked where it was, I would not be able to share this. We all can benefit from other people’s experiences. I am certain this is why I have always gravitated towards safety. Please be safe out there.
A Safety Story from a Structure Tone Philadelphia Superintendent
One Saturday last February, a Structure Tone laborer in Philadelphia headed to his site on the roof of a prominent office building in the city’s central business district to button down any loose material due to incoming windy weather. When he arrived, the building’s window washers were hanging from the roof to clean the windows below. During the inspection, he noticed one of the window washers’ lifelines was connected to a roof anchor base made of PVC, instead of the approved steel anchor that’s imbedded into the roof’s concrete. The laborer immediately went to the roof’s edge, which had a 48-inch parapet, and notified the window washer of the tie-off mistake. The window washer was already six stories down the 14-story structure and quickly descended to safety. The laborer may have saved this window washer’s life, all because he saw something that didn’t look right and took action. As a result of the incident, the window washers created a new standard to confirm the approved roof anchors with each building they work with.
Safety Story from Structure Tone London’s Director of SHEQ Systems
A friend of mine has worked in highway engineering for three decades and is a firm advocate of his company’s workplace safety culture. However, a few months ago, my friend sustained serious injuries, including a punctured and collapsed lung and nine broken ribs, after falling from a ladder.
He had been trimming back some bushes at his Cheshunt home when the ladder wobbled, and he decided to jump clear from it. In hindsight, he knows that wasn’t the right decision—it should have been a two-person job so someone could hold the ladder.
After two stays and 23 nights in the hospital, my friend recovered with the support of his family, friends, and colleagues. Now back at work, he preaches safety 24/7, not just in the workplace.
“People don’t think about the consequences an accident can have on you and your family,” he said. “This accident could have been avoided, and that will live with me forever.”
Safety at work is always a top priority, but this is a reminder to apply the same safety principles while taking on odd jobs at home as well.
Safety Story from Ajax Building Corporation’s Safety Director
A few years ago, Ajax was working with a particular steel erector for the first time on a project in Charlotte County. Whether it was getting everyone to wear their PPEGo to https://structuretone.com/safety-stories-ppe/ or enforcing proper fall protection practices, making sure the foreman and crew were working safely was a daily struggle. Throughout the project, we held numerous meetings to discuss safety compliance, and when that failed, we were forced to start sending crew members home for violating site safety requirements. We even assigned a full-time safety coordinator to the project, specifically to monitor this crew.
About two years later, we were starting another project in Pinellas County. Market realities at the time dictated that we expand our base of steel erection subcontractors, so we hesitantly hired the same steel erector. We conducted a pre-construction safety meeting with them prior to starting and—as luck would have it—the same foreman and crew who had been on the last project were also assigned to this project.
During the meeting, I went through all the usual safety topics and the crew was fully engaged. Afterwards, the foreman pulled me aside and told me a serious incident occurred on the project immediately following their first job with Ajax. The event motivated them to hire a full-time safety director and develop safety training programs for all workers. “That accident opened our eyes, but it started with you guys,” the foremen said. “Ajax and your insistence on us working safely made us a better company.”
They ended up being one of the top subcontractors on that project and are now one of our “go-to” steel erection subcontractors.