This happens. We live with that.”

These are the words of ironworker Luis Guzman, who was working at the site of a new Manhattan skyscraper Tuesday when his fellow worker, Anthony Espito, 43, fell 40 stories (roughly 400 feet) to the ground. He was killed instantly. It appeared Mr. Espito was in fact wearing a safety harness, but it wasn’t attached to anything.

Some of you may recall, I wrote a post just a few weeks ago about the shocking number of preventable workplace fatalities resulting from falls (see that post here).  The day after, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 835 fatal falls in the American workplace in 2007. That’s a record high. (It’s an increase of 39% since 1992.)

But the numbers don’t speak to us the same way that the stories do.  What really breaks my heart is seeing day after day, the stories of those  men and women who have lost their lives in falls that were, more than likely, completely preventable.

Yes, completely preventable.  As I said in my post on August 19th, fall protection works.  You can lose your footing at 40, 50, 60, even a hundred stories up, but if you were provided with the proper safety equipment and the training to use it, you can go home at the end of the day, eat dinner with your family, and  tuck your kids into bed. It’s not supposed to something you leave up to Lady Luck.

So it should say something to you, me, and EVERYONE, something profoundly shameful and upsetting, when an iron worker says that knowing he might die today is just part of his job.

This happens. We live with that.”

Have we really gotten to that point? Or let me rephrase that: how long have we been at that point?

I don’t want ANY worker– at any time–  to have to live like that.  It’s just wrong.

The business of pointing fingers as to who should have been responsible for ensuring worker safety at construction sites needs to come to an end. Right. Now. I don’t CARE whether the construction workers on your site are contractors. Make sure that they have the equipment they need, that they know how to use it, and that they ARE using it, or you are being negligent. If they’re supposed to get all that from their employer and they didn’t, then don’t do business with that employer. Period. End of discussion.

And enough of this stuff about letting employees “choose” not to use fall protection. If they don’t realize how important it is, if they don’t understand how serious the risks are, then you make them understand.

These are people. They are  husbands, wives, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, grandparents, grandchildren.

I don’t care how busy or important you are: How can you be willing to let them risk it all?

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