Twin Towers of New York City
Twin Towers of New York City
September 11, 2016 6:00 AM CDT

What is Safe?

Full Contact Project Management

By

What do we mean by “safe”? The MCAA is always concerned about safety, as are its members. Masonry Magazine has done a great job of outlining specifics when it comes to making the workplace much safer. What can Coach Gary possibly add that will make a difference to you?

Then it hit me: this issue is being released in September 2016, just as everyone in the country is talking about the 15th anniversary of 9/11. “Safety in the workplace” takes on a special meaning when you begin talking about 9/11 and the former Twin Towers of New York City.

Let’s look at the Towers’ specs. Each tower had 110 floors, 97 passenger elevators plus 6 more just for freight. Each tower was over 1,360 feet tall, contained 198 miles of heating ducts, with a total building weight of some 500,000 tons per tower.

Between the two, there were 12,000 miles of electric cables, 200,000 tons of steel, 425,000 cubic yards of concrete, 43,000 windows, 1.2 million cubic yards of excavation, a peak workforce of 3,500, and a project total of 10,000 construction workers, from whom 60 lives were claimed.

Once completed, some 50,000 people worked in the buildings on any given day, while another 200,000 visited or passed through daily!

Safety concerns? Yikes!

Sixty seems like a horrific number of deaths, and it is, particularly for the families of those 60. And yet, that’s not the number of deaths we normally associate with the Twin Towers, is it? As Americans, we know that number to be around 3,000. Put another way, safety ended up being a much bigger concern post-construction: 50 times as deadly. Looking at it another way, 60 deaths out of 10,000 is 0.6 percent, while 3,000 out of 50,000 is 6 percent. No matter how you look at it, the numbers are way too big for all the people involved.

Whether contractors or citizens, we are practical and pragmatic. Both groups grieve the deaths. Yet there is an inescapable reality when you look at the math: the construction industry, charged with oversight of those 10,000 workers — and sometimes seen as the industry “bad boy” who needs to clean up its safety efforts — did a far better job of safety than did those with responsibility for the 50,000!

I say all of that just to remind us of this: these days, safety goes far beyond the jobsite, doesn’t it?

This column has to serve double-duty for me, as it will be my only opportunity prior to the general election to remind everyone how important it is that we all vote, and all take very seriously proper governance of our country.

Older than most of you, I was raised in a different time, when virtually nobody dropped out of high school. It was rare. We had no fenced-in schools, metal detectors or grief counselors on campus, and if the teacher sent us to the principal’s office, we’d be in trouble because our parents or families would side with the school before they’d believe our flimsy excuses!

U.S. history was a required class, and nobody yet had dared try rewriting it. So, we studied it, instead. We raised the (American) flag every day and pledged our allegiance to the USA. As a bonus, nearly everybody could read, write and do math — granted, some did so better than others — but everyone could function, and a diploma did mean something. A tradesman with those skills was really a prized employee.

Precisely because I have those high school skills, I understand that the U.S. Constitution pretty much begins by saying how a primary function of the federal government is to “provide for the common defence” of its people. British spelling aside, it means that the people of the United States have a right to expect governmental protection of the country. And that’s where the builders and developers of the Twin Towers messed up.

You see, there was an assumption that, if we could somehow get the thing built, and in a safe manner, that the people using it and working there would be reasonably safe, because the building had been properly constructed, with all of the latest and greatest engineering, architecture, craftsmanship and componentry — that we were home free. As they say in the fairy tales, “happily ever after.”

Again, that pre-supposes that the people in charge are paying attention. I am not talking about the military, police or firemen here. All our first responders performed exactly as planned, and actually even better. The building performed as designed, given the criteria with which it was engineered. Unfortunately, very few building specifications give any concern to withstanding a bombing attempt by a terrorist group. This was not a fault of the building’s architects and engineers, because it wasn’t their job at the time to consider those things.

As we move into this fall and into the election season, as good contractors and business people, we will do all that we can to ensure safety on our jobsites and in all of our workplaces — just as almost every one of us has always done. We put our stamp of approval on the noble idea that our people, to the greatest extent possible, should have a decent workplace, one that is as safe as reasonably possible.

I’m pretty conservative, but am also simple and rational. I am still concerned that we keep vigilant on the jobsite as well as at home. When working in particularly dangerous locations and times, we are extra cautious. Maybe we need K-rails out in the street, flaggers watching traffic, portable light plants for night work, maybe even a police cruiser present.“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
— Edmund Burke

As a project manager or a business owner, I want my guys and gals safe. Whether at home or office, Little League field, Disneyland or Sea World, whether they are working there or enjoying the fruits of working, I have expectations of safety.

So that brings me back to the idea of this election season. Here’s what I’m thinking: I agree to do all I can to help and protect those who look to me. I, in turn, will look to those who are constitutionally mandated to secure my safety. This means I’ve got to make some tough decisions, because right now, particularly this fall, it’s nighttime out there.

These days, I could be in extreme danger just sitting at a sidewalk café, a night club, watching fireworks on a holiday…you name it. This is not the time for us to throw up our hands, figure that we can do nothing at all, and think our vote doesn’t matter. Please don’t take an attitude that says something like, “At this point, what difference does it make?” It makes a difference, just as it always has and always will.

As the year closes, be vigilant. Watch your workplace. Watch out for your family. Watch how you vote, particularly this year, because the stakes are greater than ever.


About the Author

Gary Micheloni is a working project manager, speaker, author, consultant and coach. He has severals years of industry experience, including a background as a licensed general engineering contractor. For further information and insight on the Full Contact Project Management approach, write Coach Gary at FullContactTeam@gmail.com.

 

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