Thomas Kramer didn’t grow up wanting to be in fall protection.
That may seem odd now. Kramer is not only a managing principal for LJB but also serves as the president of the International Society for Fall Protection, Director at Large for the American Society of Safety Professionals and as chair of the ANSI Z359 Fall Protection Committee.
Yet, he went to school for engineering and ended up in fall protection almost by happenstance.
“I don’t think a lot of people in grade school or who go to college want to be a fall protection engineer. Most people don’t know about the industry and what’s involved in the industry,” he said. “Where it changed for me was Memorial Day weekend 1998. It was the Friday before the weekend, and I got a call from a contractor we had done some work for designing some fall-protection systems.”
The contractor told him there had been a fall at a water treatment plant in Florida, with a worker falling headfirst from 20 feet who was caught by a horizontal line Kramer designed.
“You talk about making you realize why the Lord put you on the Earth,” he said. “From there, we found one life that day. If we continue to do things, we’ll find another life. If we continue to do things really, really well, there are more lives out there we can find.”
From there, Kramer realized fall protection was right for him.
Yet, even Kramer’s slow progression is more formal than some previous ways of managing safety, Kramer said. Like situations around the house that require working at height, such as hanging holiday lights or cleaning the gutters, most employees learn from watching those who go before them.
“That’s why workers go to the edge thinking everything is fine just as long as I’m being careful, because they learned about it so long ago that it’s just engrained in them,” he said. “We have to overcome that.”
With the right blend of education and technology, Kramer and other industry leaders will keep finding those lives and making working at height safer today than it was yesterday.
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