Work Smart, Not Hard

My friend Bart was raised with the motto, “work smart, not hard.” When he was a teenager, Bart’s dad asked him to clean out a large cattle barn while his parents went away for a long weekend. Bart realized he would not be able to clean the barn himself with only a pitchfork in three days time. So he hired his family’s neighbor who had a skid loader to do the chore for him. When his father returned, Bart said his dad was proud (and surprised) he had accomplished the task. While bragging around town about what a good worker his son was, Bart’s dad learned from the neighbor that Bart had not cleaned out the barn himself. His dad returned home angry with him, but Bart reminded him that he had taught him to “work smart, not hard”. Bart explained he cleaned the barn using his brain instead of his back. His father couldn’t argue, and Bart carries this life lesson with him. He says he finds ways to work smarter every day.

As a roofing worker, the motto “work smart, not hard” seems easier said than done. Every day is physically demanding and consists of climbing, heavy-lifting and lots of bending. But there are ways roofers can work smarter, and Mark Carpenter, president of Tualatin, Ore.-based Columbia Roofing & Sheet Metal, shares a few of his company’s techniques in our “Safety” column.

Carpenter notes safety is his roofing contracting company’s No. 1 priority and, as such, he strives to keep his workers healthy and safe. Among his tactics is a program called “Save A Back” in which his employees are taught how to prevent back injuries through specific lifting methods and education. In addition, Carpenter’s foremen lead crews every morning in “Stretch and Flex” activities, which further help prevent on-the-job injuries.

I think Carpenter’s proactive approach to protecting his workers’ health helps them to work smart, not hard. After all, back injuries are difficult to cure and are expensive. Consider the following:

    ▪▪ More than 1 million workers suffer back injuries each year. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, D.C.)

    ▪▪ Back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

    ▪▪ One-fourth of all compensation indemnity claims involve back injuries. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

    ▪▪ Thirteen percent of back injuries last two years or longer. (Source: National Council on Compensation Insurance, Boca Raton, Fla.)

    ▪▪ The average total cost of a back injury exceeds $24,000. (Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association)

As Carpenter states in his article, “You are never ‘money ahead’ making sacrifices related to safety. … The value of sending home employees and customers to their families in a healthy way—every day—is priceless.”

About Christina A. Koch

Christina A. Koch is editor in chief of Roofing.

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