Page 18 - MS811 2022 issue 4
P. 18

 What is
 Many years ago, I was dealing with medical problems
with my ankle that caused considerable pain when walking. I went to an orthopedist who diagnosed my situation and told me that I had two options. The first was surgery to repair a damaged tendon and four-plus months of recovery wearing
a boot or a cast. The second was that
I could try therapy and avoid surgery altogether. I chose the latter.
The therapist I treated with recommended some exercises to increase range of movement. When I went back for a progress evaluation, I was improved. When asked how I had accomplished that, I told my therapist that I had done what he advised, doing the exercise just as he showed me. He laughed and asked if I would come and talk to all his patients. He confided in me that most of his patients did not
do the exercises as given and thus did not see much improvement. I question to this day why anyone would go to an “expert”, spend the time there and not follow the recommendations. However, expertise and relying on it can be a tricky situation. I believe that much of the expert advice given is never followed and have witnessed this many times in my construction safety career.
First, if you seek and receive advice and then fail to follow it, you risk unnecessary exposure. Once advice
is rendered, I believe there exists an obligation to at least weigh it, to adopt it if it meets all the requirements you
see in the situation. If you seek expert opinion, it is an admission that you yourself do not have expertise. Failing to incorporate recommendations
can result in risk, liability, and fault.
In obtaining underground location markings, for example, I have often seen a response that has been obviously inaccurate or late. Proceeding with the excavation regardless of this would be risky. Getting the necessary markings and checking their accuracy is the only logical course of action.
Second, the seeker of the advice is often simply seeking confirmation of what they already believe and only wants someone to agree with them. I used to ask, when my “expert” advice was requested, were they looking for honest advice or simply agreement.
I would warn the recipient that they may not like my advice. The giveaway is when the person being advised argues the point instead of accepting
or just questioning it (methodology, etc.). As a safety officer, I found
myself in situations where I suspected contaminants in the air (asbestos, silica, etc.) and I advised the construction manager that I was going to monitor the atmosphere in advance of any employee exposure. Although they were sure that nothing was amiss, they did allow me to test. When monitoring showed contamination greater than the permissible exposure levels, I refused
to allow our crews to work until the situation was abated. The construction manager had argued that the
measurements were just a bit over the exposure levels, which was irrelevant.
Third, expert advice is often not expert advice, quite often because it exists
in a vacuum. It does not consider the specifics of the situation in which the information is needed. You may ask someone how they would proceed in each situation but unless you have access to any background materials,
it may be impossible to provide a workable solution. For example,
under OSHA Standard 1926, which deals with Construction, certain
basic requirements are delineated. Under OSHA Standard 1910, which addresses General Industry, there are additional standards, some of which mirror or overlap 1926 and some which are unique. Without recognition of which one governs, expert advice can prove unreliable. It can also lead to false conclusions due to a failure to understand terminology, construction/ industry methods, etc. Protecting a worker from a fall from height versus protecting a worker from a fall into a ditch may have similar solutions but there are elements that differ that need to be considered.
I rely upon expert opinion all the time, even in retirement. Asking for it is the easy part. Putting it in the proper framework, giving the necessary background to the situation and making the expert advice is the difficult portion.
Mr. Igel recently retired as vice president of the George J. Igel & Co., Inc. after working there for more than 35 years.
16 • Mississippi 811 2022, Issue 4
By Joe Igel

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