Doing It Right
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Doing It Right

Being under time pressure can tempt us to cut corners—particularly when it comes to safety

By Neil Houtman

My uncle has a magnet on his fridge that reads, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you ever have time to do it twice?”

There are days when it feels like it would be a luxury to have time to do it wrong.

In most aspects of our lives, it seems we have less and less time. I know that the construction industry is no worse off than most, and probably has it better than healthcare—particularly long term care—but time management is still critical for us too.

Most days we only have a set number of hours to do the job, and it seems like every project is behind schedule for a variety of reasons. The worker shortage, supply chain issues, and weather delays are the main culprits and hard to work around.

Some days it is hard to stay afloat, let alone get ahead. And in the construction business, it becomes easier to justify cutting corners to save time.

Unfortunately, one of the easiest corners to cut is safety. A five-minute job can easily take half an hour if you need to get a harness, life line, rope grab, do inspections on them, set up the fall arrest system, do the job, and pack it all up again.

Some workers may see the situation and want to ignore safety rules. The height may be “just out of regulation,” or the risk “not really that big.”

Maybe new workers are unfamiliar with the proper procedures. Or maybe the boss is getting pressure from clients and owners and does not see the harm in just “doing it the quick way.” And safety can be easily pushed aside for a hundred other reasons too.

But when the clock is ticking and concrete is waiting, or water is pouring in through a roof, we need to be sure to pay attention—for ourselves and each other. We need to remember that we have the right to know, the right to participate, and the right to refuse.

The defence of these rights is the job of everybody, from worker to boss, steward to union representative. Doing a job safely is doing a job right.

Neil Houtman is a journeyman carpenter, Local 52 member, steward, and bargaining committee member employed by Maple Reinders Constructors Ltd. He is also a member of the union’s National Board.

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