Joe Arrants fell to his death off the I-520 bridge project on Thursday, March 12, 2015. Joe fell about 60 to 70 feet and died at Harborview Hospital shortly after the accident. He was a member of the Southern Puget Sound Carpenters Union, Local 129 down in Lacey. He had a wife, Heather, and two young children, ages 4 and 5. Joe was said to have had a great sense of humor and was active in his church. Joe Arrants was much like all of us.
He was like us because we all have family and different interests away from work. He was also like us because he was a union building tradesman doing commercial construction. He worked at heights and with a lot of the same fall protection safety equipment we work with. Safety equipment that’s meant to keep us alive.
Employers are responsible for jobsite safety of their workers. This sounds great but no one can keep you safe at work other than you. Know the rules for fall protection. Become familiar with the equipment. When superintendents and foreman expect certain equipment to be used, they need to show their workers the proper use. Journeymen need to help new apprentices with the safety rules and equipment.
When teaching the safety laws for a full body harness system, I like to say “all on, or all off”, meaning don’t walk around with leg straps or chest strap undone. Don’t put it on if you’re not going to use it correctly. When working in a harness always inspect it before you put it on. Make sure none of the webbing or strapping is worn, burned or frayed. Check your lanyard and lifeline for the same. The harness is only one part of a full body harness system. This means the harness, lanyard, lifeline and anchorage point. Harnesses must be inspected officially twice a year. The average life of a safety harness is usually 5 years.
Guardrails are a fall restraint system that keep workers, material and equipment from falling off the edge of the roof. Guardrails must be from 39ʺ to 45ʺ tall. Guardrails must have a top and middle rail, along with a toe board. Toe boards are mandatory to protect the workers below us as well as ourselves. You must have at least 4 feet of guardrail out past each side of your material loading area and any hot pipe. Material cannot be stored within 6 feet of the edge unless guardrails are in place at the roof edge.
Open holes must have a cover. If not, they must have guardrails or a safety monitor at the open hole when not covered. Covers must be able to support an 800 lb. load and be fastened down so they cannot be accidently moved. Covers must have the words “Hole” or “Cover” written on them.
If your crew is using a safety monitor warning line system as fall restraint, always follow the instructions from the safety monitor. They have safety authority over you when you’re working at the roof edge. Keep an eye out for the other workers as well as yourself, it can get a little cramped inside those warning lines. The warning line safety monitor system is still a legal fall restraint system under Washington State law. Some have tried to say it’s now illegal. It’s still legal, but most general contractors like it less and less on their jobs.
You’re required to have a current Fall Protection/Competent Person card. This requirement is in the Local 54 contract. A fall protection card does not have an expiration date like a driver’s license or a first aid card. Employers can decide who must have the card and how often to renew them. The Seattle Area Roofers Apprenticeship Program has apprentices renew their card every two years. State law says if an employee is working as a safety monitor on the crew, they must have Fall Protection/Competent Person training, and their name has to be listed on the companies Fall Protection Work Plan.
No amount of rules and laws can keep you safe on the job. It’s up to you and your crew to protect each other from fall hazards on the job. The next Fall Protection/Competent Person class date and time will be posted on this website. You can always call the apprenticeship office at 206-728-2777 to find out about the next class