Tool-Box Talk at Tully’s


Pre-Planning and the Blame Game


Good Morning Ladies and Gentleman!

I hope you all had a pleasant day off to celebrate Independence Day!

As gentle night turns into busy and bustling day we have found our way to another ToolBox Talk day.

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for keeping it together and giving a professional days work during this recent heat wave. The current stretch of heat and humidity tests the mettle of even the most gentle soul. Thank you for keeping it together and keeping your cool as best as can be.

Shop Stewards continue to check on your levels of inventory of water so we can ensure we have enough for the men/women.

Any tools/equipment you might think you need, it was suggested to me that the guys could use fans to cool the workers during the concrete pour @ the Pacific St Retaining Wall, please Shop Stewards make that a part of your pre-planning routine.

If you encounter trouble getting things you think you will need, in regards to the men/ women’s safety, we will step in and inquire about/ obtain them if we feel it is necessary.

Workers take the time to drink plenty of water and take breaks out of the sun if you are feeling overheated. 8 people died across the U.S. during this recent heat-wave.

Now I would like to tell you a story that occurred during my time as a Construction Inspector at the Department of Buildings – Concrete Unit.

My supervisor – Assistant Chief Dennis Burkhart – of the Concrete Unit took me to a job-site in Flushing. He explained to me that he was preparing to give the owner a Stop/Work Order with violations.

Apparently, the job-site was working on SOE (Support of Excavation) approximately 15 feet sub-grade level and had not put any guardrail systems at grade level/ street level for safety of work personnel at an approximate 1,000 square foot construction site. So all around the perimeter was a 15 foot drop to certain injury/death.

Mr. Burkhardt suggested I check out the interaction between him and that particular owner as we drove to the job-site. He informed me that he had given them many violations prior.

We parked and waited for the owner to arrive. Upon his arrival, Mr. Burkhardt promptly got out of the DOB car and handed him the Stop/Work Order and the violations.

The owner had a somewhat puzzling response.

His response was to say ,“Thank You” to Assistant Chief Burkhardt.

Assistant Chief Burkhardt looked over at me then back at the owner and responded, “What are you thanking me for you are not supposed to be happy about getting a Stop Work Order and violations?

The owner responded thank you again!

Chief Burkhardt explained that it was not his job to have to come to that particular job-site and continuously explain to his supervisors and workforce how to do their jobs properly. You guys are supposed to be professionals who know how to do the job.

The owner explained he will fix things and said Thank You one last time!

He was perfectly content to keep the same production and safety priority time as aligned.

He felt it was better for business to not waste fine labor/ workers health on safety – and pay the NYC Department of Building it’s dime. After all if someone died it is most never considered a crime. Safety affects the profit numbers – the bottom line.

Chief Burkhardt fired back – That is what you always say but yet I still keep coming back here having to tell you how to perform a professional job.

Does anyone have any idea what point I would like to make by relating this story? Yes, that we are all professionals and must act and perform safely as we are expected to. Each of you is responsible for your own safety.

We are interested in your safety as well as your co-workers not in any Super Hero Worker Fame. We are primarily concerned with building an effective Worker Safety Culture – not the Blame Game.

I would like to remind everyone that serious accidents benefit no one.

If you are the one involved in a serious accident – you will most likely be out of work for a long period of time. Or worse. Six feet under.

Anyone who has been in the industry knows it is a production business.

Thus, if you are seriously hurt, you will be negatively affected physically, financially and probably emotionally.

Such a serious accident will adversely affect your family.

It will affect your co-workers.

The job will probably be stopped for a period of time. More than that, who amongst us will feel the same the next day at work if one of our co-workers should suffer a serious or fatal injury?

The company will pay more insurance. Driving up cost and jeopardizing – incident by incident – its standing in the construction industry.

One of the most important responsibilities in performing safely on any job-site is pre=planning.

Just as we prepare for the production end we must also prepare for the safety of our workers and ourselves.

If we are working @ B10 Area, at heights above 6 feet or at leading edge, we must make sure we have harness with lanyard/retractable. Whether it be tying rebar, working in man-lifts, or fixing chutes at top of retaining wall.

If we are working at East Portal chopping out material – we might need N95 Respirators (dust masks) or we might need half-face respirators. Do not forget to get the right size that you were fit tested for.

Never work in a confined space that has not been previously checked with an air monitor. We must utilize an air monitor prior to entering a Confined Space to check that the oxygen levels are safe and there are no dangerous gas/vapors present. A monitor/safety personnel must be present checking air monitor at all times until work is finished in Confined Space location. The monitor must fill out hourly readings of air monitor on Air Monitor Safety paperwork provided by Safety Personnel. A life-line should be set-up near Confined Space locations where elevations are such that a worker needs to use a ladder for ingress/egress. All workers should utilize full Tyvek suits and 1/2 face or full-face respirators depending on situation.

Never attempt to save a worker who has succumbed to toxic fumes in a Confined Space. The noxious air will not despair continuing to fell worker after worker who blunder asunder with good intentions apace.

We must keep our work areas clean daily. We must provide un-obstructed walkways of a minimum of 3 feet so as to avoid tripping/ falling hazards.

Fire extinguishers must be present and within 25 feet of all Hot Work operations. The fire extinguishers should be checked daily to ensure it is in proper working condition. A certified Fire Guard must be present at all times during Hot Work operations and for 30 minutes thereafter. Combustibles should be removed to no less than 35 feet away from Hot Work operation. All personnel must know how to operate a fire extinguisher. We use the PASS system. (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep). Do not try to be a hero. If the fire is too big for a fire extinguisher to extinguish then move away. The FDNY must be called right away.

We also must inspect our equipment daily. Check your harness and retractable to see if it is in proper shape. Check the electrical chords to make sure they have not been compromised – especially on rainy days. We must also hang chords high on rainy days to ensure they do not get stuck in water. Make sure the electrical chords have a third-prong for grounding.

Check all slings/rigging equipment daily. If nylon slings have a break in them where you can see – RED Thread – it is no good. Throw it away. It will fail.

Let Safety Personnel know about it. Only use rigging equipment such as slings, shackles, lifting bags, hooks, etc.  that have been approved for rigging specific loads that have been determined prior. We must always utilize tag-lines. No worker should ever stand underneath a load while it is being transported/lifted by a crane/ cherry picker.

Cranes/ cherry pickers must have a load chart available that show maximum load capacity of crane/ cherry picker at different crane/ cherry picker operating positions (90 degrees, 180 degrees, etc.). Check overhead lines and ensure crane picks do not come within 10 feet of any power lines. Only certified riggers can be involved in crane operations/ rigging. If the crane pick is a “critical pick” then a Master Rigger must be present to supervise. Critical lift means a lift that (1) exceeds 75 percent of the rated capacity of the crane or derrick, or (2) requires the use of more than one crane or derrick.

Pre-Planning is one of the most important responsibilities that you must perform in the construction industry. It has saved people’s lives and will continue to do so.

That is why we do the Daily Safety Huddles. We call them Take-Fives. Take five minutes daily prior to the commencement of work. Read them. Understand what job tasks you will be performing for the day’s work at that location. Identify all hazards/ possible hazards before you begin working.

Ask for safety equipment you will need. We will provide it for you.

As professionals we should endeavor to give an honest day’s work as well as ensure that we go home safely – all of us – without accident/incident to our family – every day.

To do so we must prioritize Safety in our Work Culture – it is the only way.

We want all of our working women and men to be safe and sound, alert and aware of all danger that surrounds, in creating our work safety culture we shalt not sway for expedience, cost nor delay – of this all day I pray.

Donald Reith Safety Manager

low angle photo of topless man on concrete platform
Photo by Wendelin Jacober on

The Appeal To Safety LLC

Donald Reith – Owner


Published by The Appeal to Safety LLC

I am the owner of The Appeal To Safety. The Appeal to Safety is a Construction Safety Management/ Safety Consulting business. We provide Site Safety Managers/ Site Safety Coordinators/ Concrete Safety Managers/ Construction Site Fire Safety Managers for prospective NYC Construction companies that are well-versed in NYC Dept. of Buildings, FDNY, CDC, DOT and other relevant government agency codes and regulations/ safety standards. We also can provide EHS Construction Safety Managers for Heavy Civil Construction projects based in New York City and vicinity. We have a vast database of Licensed Safety Managers that we utilize to find Outstanding Safety Manager Candidates for our clients. Please contact for any and all of your Construction Safety needs! Together we will make The Appeal to Safety! Enjoy my original poetry with curated music videos! Have a great day!

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