August 2012

Safety First

Nothing is more important than your safety! It is the only issue with universal agreement among owners, contractors, our union, and your brother and sister ironworkers. By heightening the safety awareness of everyone on the job site, we reduce incidents, injuries, and fatalities. We have no greater responsibility as a union and as a union ironworker than to use our best efforts to ensure that everyone returns home safely every day. Our Zero Fatality campaign, enhanced training programs, and focus on looking out for each other have one goal: Keeping foremost in your mind the safe performance of every task you undertake.

As of this writing, four families no longer have their husband and father to greet when he returns home, a tragedy that will continue to ripple throughout their lives and the lives of family, friends, and co-workers forever. While Zero Fatalities is the only acceptable outcome, the effort of everyone involved is demonstrating that we are making a difference and we can reach zero. The four fatalities we have suffered through July are far below the five-year average of 10.2 deaths. My thanks to everyone for your efforts in saving these six lives and your continued commitment to safety. It has been said many times but is at the heart of Zero Fatalities: "I could have saved a life today, but I chose to look the other way." Do not take the chance of bearing this burden. See Something-Say Something!

Your efforts to work safer have been recognized by contractors and owners alike. It was the subject of much discussion and praise at the recent TAUC (The Association of Union Contractors) meetings. General Secretary Eric Dean gave an informative presentation to the owner committee representatives on our safety initiatives and what the Iron Workers are doing to make jobs safer, more productive, and of the highest quality. They have seen the improvement on their job sites and remarked on the green wristbands displaying our pledge to job site safety. Safety violations, experience modification rates (EMRs), the number of incidences, or even close calls are prime screening filters for the selection of contractors. The value of safety extends past the enormous personal costs, translating into more work and more opportunities for our members and contractors.

Although safety pays for itself many times over by preventing injuries, there is a cost in doing business safely and responsibly. State and federal regulations help to force higher standards of compliance on non-union competition to protect those workers through enforcement and fines. Too many times, irresponsible contractors cut corners and put their employees at risk to save on costs. Rather than descend to that level, safety regulations help to equalize the playing field. The enactment of those regulations and their enforcement falls to legislatures and elected administrations. Your support of candidates committed to safety helped save lives with Subpart R on steel erection and will do the same with our proposed changes to the reinforcing steel and post-tensioning standards.

Safety is ingrained in every aspect of our union and deservedly so. Ironworkers organized over 116 years ago because of safety and it remains our top priority. It must be yours also. Nothing is more important than your safety!

Thank you for helping to build our great union.