No Shortcuts Please

By Thad Plumley

Pop quiz time! I recently saw a painter redoing the trim of a two-story building on a blistering hot summer day.

When he realized he had painted everything within his reach and needed to move the ladder, what do you think he did?

A. Practicing smart ladder safety, he climbed down the ladder, and with two hands, picked it up, walked a few paces, leaned it against the building, insured it was secure, and then climbed back up to continue his work.

B. He leaned his body’s weight to the left, jumped up on the rung he was standing on so the ladder would hop a few inches to the left. Needing to go much farther than that, he hopped his way over and over before finally resuming his brushstrokes.

I know you all passed with flying colors (paint pun intended). After all, you’ve been reading this column long enough to know I’m not writing about the painter if he did what is described in item A. Indeed, the painter hopped his way over, painted for a while, and then hopped his way on down the front of the building, a huge living facility for seniors.

Below the painter was a concrete walking path. One lean too far or one bad jump and he would have landed with a thud on the unforgiving surface. He could have also landed on a passing senior whose reflexes may not have allowed the resident to get out of the way in time.

On the other side of the walking path was the visitors’ parking lot. A slip and the ladder may have ended up the hood ornament of someone’s vehicle as well.

In other words, it wasn’t a good look at all for the painter.

I know everyone is busy. I know many of you have record backlogs that look forward several months. And while finding extra employees is like finding unicorns today, I know if some of you could have an additional crew, you would have a full-time workload for it too.

Despite all of that, taking shortcuts to save time is never a good idea. There is no doubt this painter’s company is busy just like yours. There are surely dozens of jobs in his worklog, and I know the sooner this senior facility was completed, the sooner he could be off to the next customer.

But what if the painter would have slipped off the ladder on one of his hundreds of hops? How soon is that next customer’s job getting done now? At a minimum, he would have been severely hurt. At the maximum, critically injured.

I am sure your company has safety talks weekly or even daily. First, if you are talking safety on a daily basis, absolutely good on you. Second, while your meetings eventually touch on all of the different aspects of safety for groundwater professionals, one thing that could be reminded at every talk is to never have anyone take a shortcut on any task at the jobsite, at the shop, or in the yard.

Taking them may lead to a job or two being done slightly quicker in the short term, but taking shortcuts on a regular basis only speeds up one thing—the inevitable trip to the emergency room.


Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and director of information products at the National Ground Water Association. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.