The Column - Menard Cares
Dear Menard,

One of your competitors recently agreed to not have a working platform, but Menard always requires them. Why?

Answer: Safety is our first priority!

We are joining industry organizations to advocate for safe, stable, free-draining and well-maintained working platforms on all of our job sites.

Recently, Deep Foundations Institute (DFI), International Association of Foundation Drilling (ADSC-IAFD) and Pile Driving Contractors Association (PDCA) signed a joint position statement about the importance of working platforms and, more importantly, agreed that the responsibility of providing a safe working platform should be acknowledged by the controlling entities, including General Contractors (GCs), Construction Managers (CMs) and Owners, as an integral cost of every project. This is a huge step forward for our industry, and we can only hope that GCs, CMs and Owners will hear and act upon this industry-wide movement.

At Menard Group USA, we, of course, support the need for having a safe, stable, free-draining and well maintained working platform on all of our job sites. There are many reasons why this is in the best interest of all parties involved in a project:

  1. Providing safe working conditions to our team is Menard’s first and foremost goal and responsibility. It is anchored in our culture. We want everyone on our team to go home safe and unhurt every day. Working on a muddy, unsafe bench has many negative impacts on our employees, like the risk of ankle injuries and the risk of stepping into an unmarked hole, but also the psychological impact of slogging through their day stuck in the mud. Our team in the field is already living a hard life on the road and in the elements; we don't want to add a muddy working bench.
  2. We need to ensure that the working platform can safely support our rigs. We operate large, top-heavy drilling equipment that requires a very stable, flat working surface to be able to perform safely. We have had our share of tipped-over rigs over the years, and we cannot tolerate to put both our equipment and operators at risk because of a bad working platform. We are in the ground improvement business, and most times, we have to work on very soft soils that are not capable of supporting the weight of our rigs.
  3. The quality of the work we perform is enhanced when working on a good stable platform. We drill a lot of holes every day at Menard, and having a granular, well-maintained working platform allows us to better keep track of our progress, to easily locate our elements and to maintain the layout throughout the job. When we work directly in the mud, it is almost impossible to ensure the level of quality our clients deserve and look for when hiring our company.
  4. The overall schedule of the project is often impacted by the quality of a working platform. Moving our rigs becomes a major hurdle on muddy projects, jobs are often delayed by rain if a free-draining platform is not provided and redos and rework because of bad quality are more frequent on bad platforms. The follow-on work is also easier and cleaner for the GCs if a good working platform was provided in the first place once we are demobilized from the project.

Unfortunately, providing a stable working platform is sometimes seen as an additional, unplanned cost. A working platform is frequently not incorporated into the design of the project and is more often than not an afterthought or a contingency that has not been budgeted from the inception of the project. This is why as geotechnical specialty subcontractors, and as an industry, we have a duty to educate and inform all the stakeholders in the project about the importance of safe working platforms as early as possible in the process, before the budget of the overall project is vetted and the job is kicked-off. Working platforms are an integral cost of a project.

It is also the duty of our industry to work together as a unified group to request safe working platforms on all our projects. Too often, in a very competitive climate, it is easy to forego the need for a working platform to gain a cost advantage over our competitors.

Unless we all, as an industry, act with a common unified front, we will will continue to take unnecessary risks.

Great Britain has managed to solve this issue through raising the industry awareness of the importance of providing proper platforms. The Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) initiated a drive to improve practices related to the use of drilling equipment and recognized the need for safety initiatives to improve the approach to the provision of working platforms. They have provided a series of guidelines, specifications and calculation tools to ensure that the Principal Contractor (GC) or Owner hires an engineer to design the working platform and that installation is done per industry standards. An FPS Working Platform Certificate must be provided by the GC to the specialty contractor prior to start of work. The Certificate is not meant to transfer the responsibility to the Owner or GC, but as a way to highlight everyone's responsibilities to provide or work on a safe working platform.

We believe that the joint position statement issued by DFI, ASCE and PDCA is a good step in the right direction. In our opinion, to become more widely understood and accepted, the additional involvement of an entity like OSHA would greatly help in providing guidance to Owners and GCs. Having the support of safety entities like OSHA would go a long way towards raising awareness beyond our specialized industry.

As an industry, we have a duty to take the design and installation of working platforms under our responsibility. But it can only work if we all agree to move together in that direction!

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