Workplace Safety & The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California is a sight to behold. The size and beauty of this man made structure is something that pictures cannot do justice.

Built in the 1930’s, the bridge stretches from San Francisco to the Marin County of California and has a total length of almost 9,000 ft. With its signature Orange color, this bridge is a must visit location for anyone in the area.

But many do not realize how the construction of the bridge changed the world of Workplace Safety.

The idea of Workplace Safety was not as common of an idea back in 1933, when construction began. The Bridge Construction Industry had come to expect one death for every million dollars spent on a project. The idea that such a statistic was not only known but also accepted is shocking in today’s world. To put this into perspective, the construction of the bridge cost an estimated $35,000,000, which means they were expecting to loose around 35 workers during construction.

While the use of safety harnesses, safety lines, hard helmets and other safety equipment had been around for a little while by that point, it wasn’t until the Golden Gate Bridges construction that Chief Project Engineer Joseph Strauss would enforce the use of safety equipment with the threat of dismissal if the rules were not followed.

However, even with the threat of dismissal, many men lost not only their jobs, but also sadly their lives for not following Strauss’s orders.

According to the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, Joseph Strauss stepped in and commissioned a rope/mesh net to be installed underneath the bridge. While this was costly to Strauss, the inclusion of the net not only saved the lives of 19 men who fell from the bridge. The Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District then dubbed these men members of the “Halfway-to Hell-Club”. Not only did the net and other safety measures save lives, but it was also a morale booster to the workers who knew that their employer cared about their lives.

Due to the lack of slow downs due to deaths and workers being extra careful, the lines of the bridge were constructed at a rate of 4 times faster then what was previously thought possible.

Looking back over 80 years later, the bridge stands as a monument to what can be done when worker safety is put ahead of money or speed.

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