Equipment Type

Unfiltered Idiocy

It’s time we, as members of the construction equipment community, rethink our approach to social media.
April 06, 2016

Rod Sutton is editorial director of Construction Equipment magazine. He is in charge of editorial strategy and writes a monthly column for the magazine, The Sutton Report. He has more than 30 years in construction journalism, and has been with Construction Equipment since 2001.

Another high-profile construction accident has claimed a worker. Initial reports point to a faulty procedure as a crane was lifting a 45-ton steel bridge beam. Earlier this year, a crawler crane collapsed in Manhattan in high winds, killing a pedestrian. Last year, a crawler crane collapsed during a storm in Mecca, killing over 100. All three of these accidents hit social media before they were reported in the traditional media.

Social media break news faster to more people than Walter Cronkite or Edward R. Murrow ever imagined. But social media also provide outlets for unfiltered idiocy.

As editors, we have the opportunity to operate every kind of machine available to the market. We Field Test equipment regularly, observing professionals operate machines as they evaluate performance and limitations. In both these instances, we are in highly controlled environments. Training, safety and site layout are carefully prepared and monitored to accommodate those near the machines. We’ve seen the best operators handle machines in ways that border on the miraculous.

But we have each had a machine do something unexpected and jar the inexperienced editor-operator in the cab.

Never do we forget what we’re about. Never do we forget the power those machines represent nor underestimate the danger associated with functioning heavy equipment. From what we’ve seen, though, most social media users either don’t understand or willfully ignore that potentially destructive power.

Comedian Michael Jr. says his approach changed when he realized that instead of going for the laugh, he should be providing opportunities to laugh. Think about that subtle difference. His approach went from taking to giving; his comedic aim is to build up his audience.

It’s time we, as members of the construction equipment community, rethink our approach to social media. Do we want to encourage the unfiltered idiocy of foolish and life-threatening behavior with #FAIL videos? “Don’t try this at home,” and “This could have gone horribly wrong” do not absolve us of the responsibility to encourage safety around these machines.

And no equipment manager should even consider it. As the equipment professional in an organization, the manager sets the standard for safe equipment usage. Corporate safety programs do not absolve the equipment professional of that responsibility. These machines are not toys, professional operators possess skills the rest of us can only admire from a distance.

Let’s stop the hypocrisy of thinking examples of irresponsible equipment usage do anything other than encourage the sort of behavior that may result in someone losing their life. Before posting, make sure it improves the equipment industry’s safety stance.

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