A Lesson in Safe... Salvaging


It's a sure bet that most businesses in our industry would jump at the chance to lower insurance costs, employee turnover and training demands, while at the same time improving their image and reputation. Well, as an 18-year veteran of the deconstruction industry, a licensed demolition contractor in California and a former general contractor, I've learned that improving safety is one of the surest ways to accomplish all of those aspirations.

I visit over 300 jobsites a year. Some are TRP jobsites and those of TRP-certified deconstruction contractors. Others belong to wannabe deconstruction contractors, folks who hope to start a business or expand existing operations by joining the green movement. The rest are objects of curiosity. I like to see what's going on and, if I have a chance, spread the word about deconstruction.

The minute I drive up to a jobsite, or for that matter view a jobsite photo, I can judge the professionalism of the contractor. Some contractors seem to think that having everyone attired in a company shirt establishes professionalism, so they emphasize fashion while forgetting about headgear, safety glasses, boots, gloves, harnesses, and secured 4:1 extension ladders.

I know, OSHA only has a limited number of inspectors covering entire counties, and they are not generally concerned with small construction (deconstruction) projects like those that are typical in our business. However, OSHA doesn't have to make an impromptu inspection in order to levy a fine. They can do so after the fact based on accident reports. Besides, we should all be concerned if our main motivator is satisfying OSHA rather than ensuring the health and safety of our employees.


Consider this typical scenario: An employee falls off a ladder, breaks an arm and is out indefinitely on medical leave. His crew is now operating at 75 to 80 percent capacity. What are the costs?

  1. Depending on the company's accident history, insurance rates may go up.
  2. Additional days might be required to finish the job, increasing travel time and delaying cash flow.
  3. If the supervisor (company owner, manager) steps in to help, cash flow may be delayed because the next job can't start on time. Worse, bidding on the next job might be delayed and that job lost to the competition.
  4. If a worker is taken off another job to substitute for the injured person, the other job may take longer, again delaying cash flow.
  5. If the company is a sub, the general contractor may question its safety practices and refuse to give the sub additional business.
  6. The company may have to spend resources screening, interviewing and training a new worker.
  7. The building owner may give the company negative online ratings or deny letters of recommendation.
  8. The company may have to pay a fine.

Training and documentation are almost as important as safety gear and proper equipment. Simply having a respirator is not the same as having one and knowing how to use it. Personnel records should reflect training, especially the specialized variety, like lead and asbestos abatement. Good (not necessarily lengthy) documentation and written policies and procedures are helpful when accidents do occur.

Even well trained employees can make some pretty dumb mistakes. But if you have documentation showing proper training and supervision, and if you consistently supply workers with all the required personal protective equipment (PPE), while you may not escape an increase in workers compensation rates, you will avoid a fine.

The late management guru Peter Drucker famously said, "The cost of doing something right is exceeded only by the cost of doing it wrong."

Let's all dedicate ourselves to doing the right things, in the right way.

2011 Reuse Contest
Entries to the 2011 ReUse Contest are now closed. Watch upcoming e-letters for an announcement of this year's winners.

New Inventory

The Oakland warehouse has just received beautiful cabinetry and fixtures from a remodel in Piedmont.

Bathroom Fixtures

Beautiful Cabinetry

At the Los Angeles (Pacoima) warehouse, we've received hundreds of square feet of Wilson art laminate flooring in Frontier Pine--fantastic condition, phenomenal savings!

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