January 2016

Inspectors and Loss Control Pros Go to University of Iron

Benicia – More than 30 Cal/OSHA inspectors who were joined by loss control staff from State Compensation Insurance Fund recently took a — pardon the expression — crash course on steel erection safety at Benicia’s University of Iron. No non-government loss control people attended.

“You can’t regulate the industry properly if you don’t understand how the industry works,” said Len Walsh, former chief of the Cal/OSHA and now consultant to the president for workplace safety at SCIF.

Don Zampa, president of the California and Vicinity District Council of Iron Workers, kicked off the two-day session. Department of Industrial Relations Director Christine Baker; DOSH Chief Juliann Sum; SCIF President Vern Steiner; and Dave McCuen, president of Cal-Erectors and co-chair of Ironworkers-Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust joined him.

The participants took the same training that is given to ironworkers on California’s steel erection standard, Construction Safety Orders §1710. The course was presented by Steve Rank, who is the executive director of Safety and Health for the Iron Workers International Union and a member of the State Fund’s board (and former Standards Board chair), and by Russ McCrary of the ironworkers’ Safety Institute.

“Man doesn’t live by fall protection alone,” said Rank. “Fall protection is only one of the ‘deadly dozen’ hazards that ironworkers face” in safely erecting structural steel, starting with proper site staging, housekeeping and column anchorage. Modules included site conditions and construction sequencing, structural steel assembly, multiple-lift rigging, fall protection and pre-engineered metal buildings.

Welsh noted that all areas of construction have a common foe — the underground economy, which cheats what he terms “the legitimate industry.” He did not address the many reasons for California’s booming underground economy.

“Part of the job here is not just to support the workers. You need to support the good companies as well. They’re going extinct. We need to go after the bad guy, not torture the good guys. Help them stay in business.”

California employers have long complained about the underground economy and about what most say is the over regulation that helps create it.

He noted that during his many years as chief of Cal/OSHA, the agency’s mantra to enforcement inspectors was, “It’s not your job to tell the employer how to comply” with regulations, a philosophy he says he did not support. “That’s not good government,” he told the inspectors.