Sometimes all you have to do to see an unsafe work practice is look out the window. A week or so ago, we were looking out the window of our offices, which overlooks a beautiful, scenic Lowe's parking lot. What we saw was pretty surprising, three workers, untethered, conducting some sort of work on the roof. Working in personal injury, as we do, seeing the consequences when unsafe work practices turn into work injuries or worse, such careless safety practices were particularly shocking.
In fairness to Lowe's, the workers were most likely not Lowe's employees. Usually retail stores sub-contract their structural repair and maintenance. It is pretty likely that these men were working for a sub-contractor hired by Lowe's and it was not Lowe's who told these men to go up 20 plus feet into the air and work on an angled roof without a safety harness or any means to prevent a fall. It is perhaps a bit of gallows humor that an OSHA approved safety harness, which these three men did not have, is available for purchase on Lowe's website, for $54.97. I suppose for some people $150 dollars is more valuable than three lives.
While the contractor who was not properly providing proper safety equipment for his employees is certainly the most direct offender, we would like to know, why would Lowe's hire this contractor in the first place? If Lowe's were using it's own employees to do the job, I find it hard to believe that they would not have had proper safety equipment. The subtext of Lowe's decision to hire this subcontractor seems to shout, "They're not our employees, who cares if they get hurt?"
It is especially shocking that a company that is in the business of supplying contractors and "do it yourselfers," while listing almost 300 safety products for sale on its website, would be seemingly indifferent to the unsafe work practices of contractors on its roof. You would think that a company that has a page dedicated to "Focusing on Safety" on their website would take a look out the window. After all, "Lowe's is committed to providing a safe work environment for our employees, customers, contractors and vendors..."
I won't make a blanket statement about the entire company, but in this particular instance, Lowe's is definitely not living up to the company's own standards. We're not picking on Lowe's. Incidents like these, involving sub-contractors who engage in unsafe work practices on behalf of companies that champion safety are all too common. Even in instances when companies escape legal liability by using sub-contractors to perform more dangerous tasks, they certainly do not shed their moral obligation to ensure that everyone who conducts business on their behalf does so in a way that doesn't cost human life.