On June 8th, 2008, just one week after my 29th birthday, my life was saved by a government bureaucrat working for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It was a day that I will remember for absolutely the rest of my life. This article is dedicated to the life and work of the unnamed government agent working for OSHA, without whose intervention my life would have come to an abrupt and unceremonious end just a few days ago.
The day had begun like any other. I had arrived at my roofing company’s shop during the cool and peaceful hours of that early-summer morning in order to pick up my truck and multiethnic coworkers. I drank my usual draught of bitter morning coffee, chewed my early morning quid, and headed off to a worksite that, unbeknownst to me, very nearly became the site of my premature death.
I was blissfully unaware of the pending danger to my life after arriving at the jobsite, and after setting up ladders to continue installing a new gutter system on a 4.5 million dollar mansion in the beautiful mountain community of Evergreen, Colorado. We pulled a 40-foot and a 28-foot ladder off the truck and set them up to install a perilous piece of gutter above an exceptionally sloped piece of ground, and still I was unaware of how close I was to meeting my Maker.
It was at that time, however, that an agent of the Federal government’s Occupational Safety and Heath Administration arrived at the jobsite, like a cherub sent from heaven, in order to save me from falling to my death off those precariously placed ladders. She was a diminutive and portly agent, (she could not have been over five feet tall), and she snuck up on us like a rat from around a shady corner of the house, clasping her government-issue Plexiglas clipboard and pen in her plump little hands.
"Who do you work for?" she shouted at us authoritatively and nasally from the ground.
"X Roofing Company," we replied, expecting from experience to learn that this was the obnoxious member of the nouveau riche who had the audacity to build such a haughty house for herself, and to talk to her employees as if they were Cossacks, and she Stalin.
It was at that point that the stout little bureaucrat intervened in our ordinary lives to save me from almost certain death. After descending my ladder, I approached the woman, (with a certain amount of dread and contempt, I will admit), in order to learn what she wanted from us. Little did I know that she simply wanted to save my life!
"I’m with the Safety Administration," she barked at me. "Be careful with your ladders."
"OK," I replied.
Can you even imagine the relief I felt after this woman informed me that I needed to be careful while working atop a 40-foot ladder while holding over thirty feet of galvanized gutter? With over twelve years of construction experience, the thought had never once occurred to me that it might be dangerous to work over three stories in the breezy mountain air perched atop an aluminum ladder! (The amount of relief I felt after learning that she did not intend to issue a $20,000 fine, as OSHA agents are wont to do, is also scarcely even describable). Needless to say, I realized that the rude little government rat standing before me had been sent by God to keep me from dying that day.
Thanks to her intervention that day, I am no longer one of those manly construction workers who knows very well that OSHA is an obtrusive and predatory government bureau that is the bane of every small businessman’s existence. I no longer think of OSHA as a Janus-faced group of wannabes who use their government-granted power to prey on those of us who actually can do physically demanding work. On the contrary! I now know that OSHA consists of a group of people who run around people’s already hectic lives, without their consent, in order to warn them about dangers that they already know about, or should know about. I now know that the endless sucking of tax monies from men like me to support OSHA was not spent in vain, since it does actually protect experienced working men from themselves. OSHA is, as I found out that day, an agency that no working man could possibly live without.
For those of you who work in dangerous professions, allow me to say this to you in conclusion. As one youthful, strong, rugby-playing, roofing, man to another, you should thank God every day for the existence of this nosy, overbearing, and extortionist group of government bureaucrats. For, without flabby, women OSHA agents, we would scarcely know how to keep ourselves alive. Thank God we do not have a free market in construction!
Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.