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Work Together to Save Lives

We need to operate as a team so we can send our guys home safe

Reynolds  Mike

For the last few years, the Metal Building Contractors & Erectors Association (MBCEA) has been promoting our signature program, Accreditation for Metal Building Assemblers (AC478). We believe programs such as this will elevate our trade and emphasize our commitment to safety and training. We know that AC478 is a key element for the long-term integrity of our buildings and our trade. We are also heavily invested in producing long overdue and much need training materials for temporary bracing. Later this year we will have a guidebook for office use and a training video for field use.

But no matter how much we do, is it enough? I am angry as I write this; angry that accidents still happen. Angry that buildings still collapse. In early May, a metal frame collapsed and a crane fell at a California construction site. OSHA is still investigating. Fortunately, no one was injured.

MBCEA focuses on initiatives like AC478 and the Temporary Bracing Guidebook and Training Video because every time a building collapses we (meaning all metal building contractors and erectors) get sucker punched. There is a cost to these failures that goes well beyond the loss of life and equipment. These failures are a black mark on our good reputation and a potential threat to our very livelihoods.

I am not making excuses, and I know where the buck stops, but I also want to get something off my chest: manufacturers, architects, designers, engineers, etc., are not perfect. There are good ones and bad ones. They are human and everyone makes a mistake now and then. Field personnel—hell, everyone involved in a building— have a responsibility to speak up and question things that do not look right. We have made significant advances in our capabilities and in our commitment to safety and training. We are not just a bunch of dumb construction workers; we are highly trained, skilled craftsmen.

I am currently working on a project that my crew had well in hand. I was not scheduled to be on-site, but for some reason showed up and saw something that did not look right. I questioned the stability of a line. My foreman agreed it looked wrong but pointed out they were assembling as per the drawings. To make a long story short, the drawings were wrong. Somewhere along the way from design to permits to final construction drawings, someone had mistakenly copied an endwall connection down the line, altering the original modular columns. The engineering team all assumed everything was still nicely connected and didn’t notice the change. The project manager overlooked the change, assuming it was done for a reason.

Fortunately, all’s well that ends well but what if we hadn’t questioned it? I am not talking liability. That’s a different subject. But what if the line had failed? My guys’ lives are on the line, and so is my reputation. I urge all my fellow contractors and erectors to trust your gut, speak up and question, and have pride in your carefully honed knowledge and experience.

Because still, too often, it is the erector that gets blamed. Maybe because it is easy to throw shade at the poorly trained rascals in the pickup truck, but it is not always our fault.

I want to remind everyone reading this publication that the erectors are not the bad guys. We are not the enemy. And guess what? We are all on the same team. Contractors and erectors often catch mistakes, correct errors, suggest improvements. We are invested in the success of our buildings as much as you are.

MBCEA is investing in programs like AC478 and the Temporary Bracing Guide because it’s the right thing to do. Because we care. But we can’t be expected to carry all the water. We rely on manufacturers for product training and for the integrity of the designs. We count on the engineering and design team to welcome our feedback and encourage our participation in the design processes. We are in this together, and are better as a result of our collaborations.

Mike Reynolds, president of the Metal Building Contractors and Erectors Association, is the president and principle owner of Systems Contractor Inc., Thornton, Colo. He also serves on the board of directors of the Metal Building Institute and is a member of the Steel Erectors Safety Association of Colorado. Recognized for his extensive knowledge and expertise in both structural steel and metal building systems, he also serves on the erection and safety advisory panels for several building system manufacturers. To learn more about the MBCEA, visit