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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

Sometimes you know a good idea when you see one. Whether the Model T, the space shuttle, or the iPhone, there are some inventions that make the world expand to such a degree that you can’t ever imagine going back. Human ingenuity is at the core of what makes us so successful as a species. But there’s a dark side as well.

If it Feels Good

We celebrate great achievements because at their heart they make us feel proud, but in that pride is sometimes a hubris that makes us think that we could do it even better. If a little pride feels good, what would more feel like? What if instead of someone else achieving something, it was us?

No matter what tool or idea is out there, we’re sometimes driven by the desire to use the thing we thought of to jump to the front of the line. If done in a measured and responsible way this ambition can be great, and lead us to even bigger and better accomplishments. Unfortunately though, measure and reason aren’t always on the forefront of our minds when there’s a pressing job to do.

One of the things we often fail to think of when using something like the iPhone is all the countless ideas that failed miserably in order to get us to the product we’re actually holding in our hands. And we don’t see them because they were hidden away in a lab somewhere. The good idea just wasn’t that good yet. But imagine if Apple had overreacted to some problem or trend in the market and rushed their product out before it was ready.

Well, you might just get something that looks like our focus for this quarter’s What’s Wrong With This Picture

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Swing and a Miss

Just as easy as it is to recognize a good idea, so too is it easy to recognize a bad one. Clearly, what we see our worker doing here should have been stopped at many points along the way. It may seem like he’s not that high up, but OSHA established the 4’ general industry trigger height for a reason: even falls from relatively small heights can be dangerous.

To recap what we’re seeing, on ground level are two benches. On top of the benches is a table, and on top of the table are two cinderblocks. It is only then that we get to the ladder the worker is actually standing on, which is resting both on the cinderblocks and the electric meter on the side of the house, a configuration that doesn’t allow the ladder to lock into place. If a complete fall protection system is akin to an iPhone, what we see here is a piece of string tied between two tin cans.

As always, however, we want to make the best of our situation and try to offer a solution, the first step here being to immediately stop work, carefully climb back down, and try again. It’s first important to acknowledge that one of the most challenging places to properly employ fall protection is on small residential buildings. Very frequently there’s not a compatible anchor point to tie off to, and even if there is it can be a challenge to assemble a system for which there is adequate fall clearance. Sometimes there simply isn’t a solution within the strict confines of a full-body harness, anchor, and connector.

In his efforts to build a better mousetrap, our worker has actually already identified the best solution, which is to use a ladder. His ladder just happens to be too short, but an extension ladder of sufficient height very simply gets him where he needs to go. We could probably find a way to rig up a fall protection system that will work for him, but given our extremely limited fall clearance a ladder is the easier way to go, and we’ve seen where overcomplicating a solution can get us. There are also plenty of ways to enhance the safety offered by a ladder by stabilizing its base or securing it to the roof, so even in the absence of a standard fall protection system Guardian has you covered.

A Measured Approach

We’ve talked a lot about testing this quarter, and this image is a great supplement to that conversation. Under no circumstances would you want a manufacturer to cut corners and sell a product that wasn’t fully tested (or even worse one that made you stand on a couple of cinderblocks), so why would you impose those conditions on yourself? The testing process is arduous, and while we never start quite as far away from the solution as the worker from our image, it takes time to make a product right. Innovation is at the forefront of Guardian’s mission, but it’s always important to remember that innovation is never done without restraints. Unbridled ingenuity can at times take us to difficult or dangerous places, and may make us wish that just once we held back long enough to listen to the experts. That’s what we’re here for.