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Cheryl Ambrose - Fighting for Fall Protection - PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

rrt - s5 - nrca - safety - transcription
April 17, 2023 at 6:00 a.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with NRCA safety experts Cheryl Ambrose and Rich Trewyn. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews, and exciting news in the roofing industry today. Hello and welcome to Roofing Road Trips from RoofersCoffeeShop.

My name is Heidi Ellsworth, and we are here today on this Roofing Road Trip podcast to talk about something that is the most important topic in roofing, and that is fall protection. I have to tell you, we lose so many people every year to falls, and it is the passion of the National Roofing Contractors Association, NRCA, to help prevent that.

I am so honored today to have Cheryl Ambrose and Rich Trewyn here to talk about fall prevention. Yay, welcome to the show.

Cheryl Ambrose: Hey, Heidi. Thanks, thanks for having us. Always great to be with you.

Rich Trewyn: Thank you so much for having us.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Thank you. Well, wow, we're coming up to May, Safety Stand-Down and there are so many great things happening. Let's talk about this and really bring home the importance of fall prevention.

But before we do that, let's start out with some introductions. Cheryl, if you could introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about you and NRCA.

Cheryl Ambrose: Yeah. Thanks, Heidi. Yeah. I'm the vice president of Enterprise Risk Management for NRCA. I joined NRCA in 2021, and I've been in the industry going on 30 years now. It's hard to believe, it's gone by in a flash. Worked as an occupational safety and health professional throughout that whole time in the construction industry. Roofing is an area that I like to say we're at the top of the building now, which I started off in the heavy highway, which we were down on the ground.

Now I'm up at the top of the building. And everywhere in between, every building, every project I was on had a roof. The falling and the issues of falls in construction has been an issue and it's claimed way too many lives, injured way too many people, not just in roofing, but across the construction industry. Really want to thank you again for allowing us to focus on this topic and bring some awareness to how it can be prevented.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: So important, it is so important. Thank you so much for being here today. Rich, can you introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about your history.

Rich Trewyn: Sure. My name is Rich Trewyn and I'm the director of Enterprise Risk Management with NRCA. I've been here for about eight years. Been in the roofing industry in the safety side of that for over 28 years now. Definitely fall protection is one of those things that's near and dear to my heart.

I've been one of those people that has experienced a fatality in the industry, and it's not a pleasant thing to have happen, and I want to bring more awareness to that. That's why we're doing these training sessions, and that's why we do that so much at NRCA.

Is bring forth that those training sessions to protect people and protect our members, and making sure that they go home safe at the end of the day.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Nothing more important than people going home to their families safe and sound every day. Well, okay, let's talk about that a little bit, about the NRCA's ongoing focus on safety and risk.

Obviously, both of you, very leading roles within NRCA. This is a top priority. Cheryl, can you talk a little bit about the NRCA focus?

Cheryl Ambrose: Yeah, absolutely. The enterprise risk management department, I should say, focus is primarily on anything related to safety, health, environmental, and of course risk management, which then takes us even into that insurance realm. What we're talking about today impacts all those areas, in terms of the safety and health and the risk management side. This has been the number one thing that has killed or injured people in construction for my entire career.

It's one-third, it's not just, "Oh, it's number one by a little bit." It's number one by a lot, and it has been as low as a third, 33%, but there have been some years where it's actually inched up a little further than that. Some years it's been even closer to 35% or even 40%, which is really hard to wrap your head around. We have an amazing relationship with CPWR. CPWR has done some really great work, not just related to the roofing industry.

We have a relationship with their research to practice partnership, if you will, and it's NRCA and the Roofers Union and CPWR got together a number of years ago, which is I guess about seven years ago now. We're in the second part of our total 10-year partnership, which is pretty phenomenal. Always looking for ways to impact safety and health there. One of the things that they did, and we like to showcase and can get the word out on any of this, the good work that they're doing.

One of which really hit home here at NRCA, is a survey that they did recently on the underlying causes of falls from height. As Rich and I both know, Rich has experienced this as well, we know this is an issue. Every safety professional across and every contractor across the construction industry pretty much knows that falls is a big issue. If they don't, well, we'll help them get there because it is a big issue.

The thing I think that CPWR did really well here was they peeled back the layer of the onion, if you will, to get to those things that we knew were potentially probably an underlying cause, but we really couldn't quantify it. We couldn't come out and say, "Well, we think it's this." Your gut instinct tells you it might be the lack of planning or the lack of training. I can jump right into some of those key findings, or just simply the lack of no fall protection being used at all.

This survey found an astounding number of almost 50% of the people that fell, were using no form of fall protection whatsoever. No guardrail, no personal fall arrest system, nothing. In this day and age, when there's so many solutions out there that are available, that still leaves us, as safety professionals, really scratching our head. We're like, "Okay, we still have a lot of work to do." Planning certainly was the top thing.

Respondents, and by the way, let me talk a little bit about the people that responded to the survey. There were approximately 500 respondents, all of which had witnessed or investigated a fall at some point in their construction careers. These weren't just people who studied it or knew about it or did some research on it. These are people who lived it, so they did a good job in their sample group. That was where these, it was interesting to see that adequate planning was an underlying key.

Rich, I know, wants to talk more about that. Here's a crazy statistic. The odds of using fall protection were 71% lower for individuals whose employer or competent person did not do anything compared to those in terms of planning, in terms of those who did.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Wow. Wow.

Cheryl Ambrose: Yeah, right? It was another one of those wow data points.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It's a lot of people at risk.

Cheryl Ambrose: Yeah. If the employee believed that there was a fall protection policy in place that they were required to use it, they were more likely to do so, in fact, like eight times. Rescue training also was pointed to as one of the things that if that was lacking, there was likely to be a worse outcome if there was a fall. Then of course, just how the work's getting done.

We know the subcontractors are performing most of the work, so it didn't surprise us when they said, "Oh, almost three times the falls occurred in subcontractors." That wasn't a wild data point because that made sense because general contractors in large part do not self-perform work. But those were the key findings. We really have used it to help us inform our approach to training and things that we're already doing and just refine that even more.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. Wow, those are some key, and you're right, it's things you know, but to see it in those hard numbers. Rich, when you saw this report, this survey, and saw this information.

With all of your experience in training, what were some of the things that just came to your mind around that planning and ongoing training on how to make these numbers better?

Rich Trewyn: Right. I think one of the numbers that is just staggering to me that stuck out in my mind, and it's pretty obvious, is that among those who did not have the training, period, zero training whatsoever, about 74% of those didn't use fall protection on the job. It goes without saying, they weren't trained, they weren't going to use the protection. It's unfortunate that many companies have that same thought or that thought process that they don't have a training program.

They don't have some type of formalized training program. It's really unfortunate that many of them, we get calls all the time from members, non-members alike that ask, "Do you have a half hour version of a fall protection training program that we can show our people or give to them, or have them sit in a room by themselves and then we can put them on the job?" Well, unfortunately, that's not enough. Then there's other companies out there that they go a step above, they try and do things a little bit better.

Unfortunately, they fail as well because they don't have the proper type of training. You see what they do, and OSHA has a great program. They have an OSHA 10-hour training program, OSHA 30-hour training program, and a lot of companies felt when this came out, that's it. They'll be all, we've got this great training program and it's good. It's a really good program. It's a well put together program. We train it ourselves. However, one of the issues with it, is it was not meant as an end-all be-all program.

It was not meant to be that inclusive program that all-inclusive that says, "We've got fall protection covered, we've got hazard communication covered." It was meant to be this just brief awareness of a lot of different safety topics over a 10-hour period of time or a 30-hour period of time. Unfortunately, not a lot of people go into depth when it comes into fall protection training. That's what we want to change. We have a full day course, we have a two-day course.

We also have courses that are done specifically for a topic, specific to a part of the fall protection program, like the rescue training that we talk about. It's so important, as Cheryl mentioned. It's one of those areas that we saw in the survey that shows that there's a lacking of proper training for both fall protection in general, and that rescue training, which is going to try and help somebody in the case that they do have a fall. Because the numbers are there, it shows that we've had falls.

Now what do we do? Unfortunately, a lot of these people that fall, aren't aware of what's going to happen after the fall. You've had a violent fall, you've fallen over the edge of a roof or through, now what do you do? Unfortunately, a lot of them don't understand what to do and they can't help themselves. There are things that can occur. It's called orthostatic shock. Basically what happens is your femoral arteries in your legs, the circulation is cut off because your legs are hanging lower than your heart.

The femoral arteries are basically trapped or a tourniquet of sorts, because your leg straps are coming off that artery. When that happens, you start to slow the demand of blood back to the heart. It leads to some alarming effects and some alarming things that occur. What we do with rescue training, is we try to show how you can delay those effects and properly rescue yourself after a fall. Unfortunately, again, it's something that a lot of companies out there don't do.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That self-rescue is so important because you're right. Yay, you were wearing a harness and yes, you were doing the right thing, but if you don't know how to take care of yourself while you're waiting to get help down, a lot worse can happen.

I know it's probably talked about, Rich, but it doesn't seem like it. It just seems like self-rescue should be something that is talked about every single day.

Rich Trewyn: Companies actually tell us, "I never thought of it that way. We have a great fall protection program, but we don't have the rescue program." It's a really easy thing to train on. You wouldn't see an athlete go out there and go out onto a field without practicing first. That's the unfortunate part about rescue.

A roofer should not go out onto a job site, without practicing everything that could possibly happen to them, how to prevent those things, number one. Then number two, in the case it does occur, how can it create a safer area or a better workplace for myself? Rescue is one of those big things.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That is a big one. Cheryl, you were going to say something on that too.

Cheryl Ambrose: Yeah. No, Rich is spot on. I will say, first of all, Rich does an amazing job demonstrating this self-rescue piece. We have folks coming away from the class all the time who said, "Hey, I learned something new." Rich talks about and we train on that, how to have that rescue plan. It isn't how are you going to effectively get someone down if they can't get themselves back up? Or at least and if they're unconscious, then that clock ticking is even more critical.

Because now they can't take the pressure off by utilizing some of the other tips. It's a super big deal. When we saw how impactful that was in terms of this survey, it just really validated all the efforts that NRCA's been doing. I would encourage anybody to, even if you feel like you've got all the parts and pieces of your fall protection plan in place, and you haven't seen or experienced what Rich demonstrates in self-rescue. I would really encourage you to reach out and we can help make that happen.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: A lot of this comes down to also having that competent person who is responsible for the safety on the roof, who's responsible to help everyone have all the training in safety. Rich, talk a little bit about the importance of that competent person on every job site.

Rich Trewyn: The word competent person is trickled throughout the OSHA regulations, it's in a lot of different standards. When it comes to fall protection, one of the main areas that we saw that was not seen by many, that was not understood by many, was that in order to have a solid training program. In order to do fall protection training the right way, you have to have a competent person doing that. What is a competent person?

Well, it's somebody number one that has the knowledge. They have the knowledge of what is fall protection, what areas do I have to cover? They also have the ability, they have the authority to stop something if they see it going wrong, if they see it going sideways. Of course, OSHA has a list of items that a competent person must train on specifically. But the standard says out there, "Hey, listen, in order to do fall prevention training right, that competent person needs to be there."

They need to have the knowledge, they need to understand what they're training. They need to know how to train it. They need to have the authority if they see something, like I said, going sideways to stop that job at that point, to take the risk out of the picture. It's still important to have this. Of course, it's one of those courses that NRCA has worked on so hard to gather together and put a program together, to help our trainers out in the industry.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: One of the things that I have just found out in the last little while visiting with both of you, I was just very impressed, is the fact that NRCA works hand in hand with OSHA and with a couple other organizations to plan National Safety Stand-Down Week. I have to tell you, being in the industry as long as I've had, every year, "Okay, it's the 1st of May, it's National Safety Stand-Down Week."

But I had no idea that the NRCA, that you two were involved in planning this, which I just, sorry, a little geek moment, but I think it's super impressive. Can you, Cheryl, tell us a little bit about one, what is National Safety Stand-Down Week? By the way, it's May 1st through the 5th and two, how you're involved in the planning.

Cheryl Ambrose: Yeah. National Safety and we call it stand-down, it's stand-down to prevent falls in construction. That's OSHA's focus in that week, that first week of May. Really the entire week is Construction Safety Week, but the focus on the falls is through the OSHA Stand-Down. This is actually their 10th year, so this is pretty exciting. Hats off to Tom Shanahan, who everyone knows Tom was with NRCA for 34 years, I believe. I probably have number wrong, a long time.

Most people say I've known Tom a long time, but I won't tell you how many years. But Tom was really instrumental in forging that relationship with OSHA, and getting the focus placed on that particular week. OSHA had started it, like I said, about 10 years ago, and it was actually falling on a week that was different. It was coming the week after the Construction Safety Week.

Then the broader industry got together and reached out to OSHA and said, "Hey, why don't you have your fall stand-down the same week we do the Construction Safety Week?" Then it really just mushroomed from there. As you mentioned, there are some other organizations, CPWR of course, and NIOSH who are a big help organize this and actually get the word out. You can go to OSHA.gov and find the fall stand-down or you just Google it. Just Google fall stand-down, you'll find it. Then the CPWR website is stopconstructionfalls.com.

They all link up to each other's websites and there's tons of resources, hard hat stickers, hazard alerts, toolbox talks. They're doing some really great stuff this year. They're doing some onsite videos. They will be really just going around the industry. Prevention through design is also a big focus this year, which is something that it's not just about all the things that we know are part of the OSHA standard and preventing falls, because we're not seeing these numbers go down.

Then what can we do on a broader scale, which is then looking at how systems are designed, how building's getting put together. Can there be anchor points installed when the building's built, anchor points along a parapet wall? All types of efforts that are going into now thinking about how to prevent falls earlier in the process than ever have been done before, which is pretty exciting. Yes, a lot going on. Then we really are just thrilled to be able to participate.

Aside from that, we have a three-part webinar, free webinar series on falls, preventing falls, that very same week, so May 2nd, 3rd and 4th. One of those is on self-rescue, so you can on May 4th, tune into that. We'd encourage everybody to sign up for them, even if you don't think you can sit and listen for an hour at noon Central, because you will at least get a copy of the recording. Then you can share it, you can utilize it internally as well. We're excited about that.

It's a busy time of year, but this is the time when everybody's really getting ramped back up for the construction season and it's the time to refocus. But it's an exciting week, as I said, where just the whole industry really just comes together. We encourage members to look for ways to highlight this and bring attention to it within their own companies sometime during that week.

Rich Trewyn: Not to mention, it's all free.

Cheryl Ambrose: Yeah, it's all free.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That's what I was going to say, it is all free. You don't have to be an NRCA member, although we always encourage that. But you don't have to be an NRCA member. You can watch these webinars. What a great opportunity to say, "Okay. This first week of May, we are going to put a focus on safety and training." I'm sure most of the contractors listening to this already do that. But to take that extra step and say, "Okay, we're going to take three days and have webinars available. We're going to be doing some special things on self-rescue."

It just is a great opportunity to just shine that light on it during that month. For everyone out there too, when you do go to OSHA and all the resources Cheryl was talking about, they really want your photos. We want your photos. Send your photos to RoofersCoffeeShop.

Cheryl Ambrose: And to NRCA.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: And to NRCA.

Cheryl Ambrose: We'll post them on social media.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: We will, we want to see this commitment to safety because there's nothing more important. Speaking of a commitment, one of the great things the following week is there will be a fall protection trainer two-day course, May 11th through the 12th. Rich, can you tell us a little bit about that training?

Rich Trewyn: Yeah. This is a really intense course and we absolutely love doing it. Cheryl and I are doing it now and absolutely love it. It's two days of intensive fall protection trainings, fall protection specific. It includes our rescue portion, but it includes everything from setting up anchors properly, to setting up guardrails, to inspecting the deck properly prior to even getting out on job sites. It just gives a wealth of information to participants, and so much so that it's giving them a package to go back to their own facilities and train properly.

We absolutely love the program and we're super excited to put it on. We've held two in the past, and the return from our students has been fantastic. We've seen not only students train the right way, but putting video presentations together for their companies on safety and safety talks. All the way up to having a lot of fun and copying some of the things that we do in class, some of the different fun, hands-on exercises that we do just to make people get up. You have to remember, roofing contractors are typically busy people.

They want to be on the rooftop, they want to be outside, and they don't want to be stuck in a classroom. What we've done with this class, is we've really made it interactive where we have people working together all the time, getting them up out of their seats and actually doing, rather than just seeing. We absolutely love it.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: So important. Okay, where's it going to be held?

Rich Trewyn: It's in Elgin, Illinois at the Building Fire Academy in Elgin. They have a wonderful facility there with massive training rooms. I'm again, super excited to do it. We have training rooms, not only for our anchors and for our setup and for our roofing areas, but we also have a wonderful classroom with auditorium seating.

We have a rescue tripod set up across the front of the classroom. We have so much space there and we're so excited about it, that it gets me excited just to talk about going and training, because I love doing this training.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Being from the Pacific Northwest, I'm pretty sure Elgin is not that far from a major airport in Chicago, right?

Cheryl Ambrose: We probably should say it's in Chicago, but it's not in downtown. Rosemont, our office is in Chicago, but it's they do things different.

Everybody's a little different address but super accessible. You can fly into Midway, you can fly into O'Hare and get there fairly easily.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Perfect. Cheryl, [inaudible 00:23:25].

Cheryl Ambrose: You're in the Midwest, you can just drive.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, if you can just drive in. How do they sign up?

Cheryl Ambrose: They simply go to our website, NRCA.net/events. You'll see it posted there, and you can go to that location to locate the webinars and how to sign up for any of the education classes.

We just encourage you to hop on the website, and you can also reach out to myself or Rich and we'll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Rich Trewyn: If I could put something out there as well.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yes.

Rich Trewyn: For those of you that aren't safety directors but have one within your company, let them know about NRCA. Let them know about your membership if you're a member, and let them know that there are resources available. I, myself for years was a member of NRCA but never knew it because my managers never told me. Had I known, I think my life would've gone a lot differently.

It would've been a lot easier because the resources that NRCA has at their fingertips, and the ability for a safety director to call us up and ask us those questions, it's so important. If you're not a safety director, you're a manager within the company, please reach out to your safety director. Let them know they can use these resources. Most of those are free.

Cheryl Ambrose: I will say one other thing just on the class on May 11th and 12th, you don't have to be a safety director to attend that.

This is anybody really that has responsibility for safety, particularly fall protection within the company. They're encouraged to attend.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Foreman, superintendents.

Cheryl Ambrose: Yep. It's that competent person level training. Like I said, we would encourage however it works in that company. You don't have to put a title on. If it's the person that's responsible, we would love to have them in a seat in the class.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. I think it's so important and here is such a great chance. Make that focus in May. We've got plenty of time, put it out there.

You can find all this information on the NRCA directory, on RoofersCoffeeShop, so you can find out where to register that National Safety Stand-Down.

I just have to say thank you both. This is lifesaving information and I can't tell you how much I appreciate you being on Roofing Road Trips and sharing it.

Rich Trewyn: Thank you, Heidi.

Cheryl Ambrose: Yeah. Thank you, Heidi. We always appreciate RoofersCoffeeShop in helping us get the word out. Anywhere we can go to get the word out is great.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it.

Cheryl Ambrose: Again, thank you.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Thank you. For everyone listening to this, whether you're a NRCA member or not, please go to the NRCA.net site, check out all of the resources for safety, you need it. It may just be the exact reason why you become a member, but there is also a lot of free information and webinars as we discussed, so please take the time to do that. You can find all of this, as I said, on the directories on RoofersCoffeeShop, plus lots of articles.

We're going to be having a lunch and learn on this same topic. Lots of great opportunities for you to share this with everyone in your company, make sure everyone goes home safe and sound at night. I want to thank you all for listening and for being a part of this. Please check out all of our podcasts under the read, listen, watch navigation, under podcasts, and then Roofing Road Trips.

Or on your favorite podcast channel, be sure to subscribe and set those notifications so you don't miss a single episode. We'll be seeing you next time on Roofing Road Trips. Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the rooferscoffeeshop.com.



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