Safety and Your Jobsite Circus

Let's build something!


Hanging drywall can be a dangerous endeavor. Humping 48 square feet of gypsum around tight corners, tool boxes, & electric cords is unwieldy at best. It’s heavy just to move from place to place, let alone lift above your head and screw to the ceiling, ideally after the glue has been applied, but before it’s had a chance to plasticize like 5-day old lemon meringue pie.


Elephants, Stilts, & Clowns.... Your jobsite has it all.


But guys perform these acts everyday on our jobsites… on stilts. Construction sites often resemble a circus, so it only makes sense we have The Amazing Stiltwalkers! as part of the act. Amazing in the sense that we mutter, “Wow… that’s amazing. Seems dangerous as hell – I’d never do that….


It is dangerous. There is no graceful way to fall from 3.5’ with your legs tethered to metal vertices. Broken arms, busted faces, and crooked fingers inevitably follow when a stiltwalker goes down.


Surely a dangerous activity like this mandates strict Safety procedures, right? It’s gotta be a constant topic of conversación, right? What? Insulators use these vertical risk amplifiers also? Oh boy… These stilts must be talked about all the time….


Just thinking about it makes me want to double-check my Mod (aka EMR aka Experience Modification Rate… a fantastic euphemism. It’s a calculation of a company’s cost of injuries and future chances of risk. If it was called your “DAIRDeath and Injury Rate, a lot more people would know exactly where it stood. Rant over. Proceed.)


This stilt risk isn’t talked about nearly enough. Since the vast majority of the individuals doing this work are Hispanic, the language barrier adds to the disconnect between the risk involved and the frequency with which Safety Precautions are discussed.


We are here to help. Let’s take baby steps…. Here is a simple 3-Step language-barrier-busting formula to acknowledge the risk at hand. This won’t satisfy OSHA standards for Safety communication, but it will let the stiltwalkers know you want them to return home to their families in the same condition in which they arrived that morning.


STEP UNO :: OYE (OY-yay)

Say this instead of “Hey!” It means the same thing, but it’ll get their attention faster. It’ll also show you are making an effort to communicate in their language of preference.



I’m an informal kind of guy. It’s a construction site, not an IMF delegation on Greek debt. We can take our jobs seriously without taking ourselves too seriously.

Joining Oye, Step Dos has us saying, “Hey – Mister Stilts!” Let’s be honest here – the odds of you knowing his (or her – I’ve never seen it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen….) name is slim-to-none. You’ve probably been ignoring these guys for years. Let’s use some humor to get over it and move forward.

To remember Zancos, lock in this image of the stiltwalker standing on top of a Sanka® Coffee can. The Z in Zanco is pronounced as an S, so Sanka® is only one letter off from the correct pronunciation of stilt.


(SAHN-kohs) = Stilts





Cuidado = Careful.


“Oye – Sr. Zancos! Cuidado….”

“Hey – Mr. Stilts… Careful.”


If you get a smile from Sr. Zancos at this point and you’re feeling goosey, throw in the classic two-fingered Focker “I’m watching you” move. That stunt cuts through all language barriers.

Jack talk Thai? Oh yeah... Jack talk Thai very well....


Make it a safe day.




Bradley Hartmann is founder and el presidente at Red Angle (, a Spanish language training firm focused on the construction industry. He’s enjoys Sanka, Meet the Parents (sequels… not so much) and helping construction firms reduce their Mod. Buy new book, Spanish Twins, today.

Available at, Amazon Kindle & Apple's iBookstore.

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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