Construction Craft Laborer is a proud craft, but knowing the trade, perceiving its risks and acquiring the ability to think and act appropriately in the face of on-the-job dangers are qualities that come only with time and proper training.  Sometimes, unfortunately, learning is done “the hard way.”

Too often, a new Laborer believes accidents “won’t happen to me” or if one does, it will not have serious personal consequences. Sometimes, they are trying “to prove” themselves. Sometimes, they take risks because they feel pressure to get the job done. Yet, every safety shortcut is dangerous. Construction accidents usually happen in an instant, with little time for reaction and avoidance, and 75 percent of all serious injuries happen within the first ten days on a jobsite.

“We need better and more effective ways to ensure the full attention of apprentice Laborers when we raise safety issues in the classroom or in toolbox talks,” says LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan, who was a training director at the West Virginia Laborers Training Fund earlier in his career. “We want them to respect safety training, develop strong safety habits and be prepared when they first step onto a worksite.”

Using the first-hand accounts of members who suffered injury or illness on the job and came back to tell about it, Laborers’ True Stories

A DVD released this month by the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America – aptly alerts apprentices to attitudes or outlooks that could hamper their safe performance at work.

“These personal stories should be an excellent learning tool for apprentices,” says O’Sullivan. “They command attention and are bound to stimulate thoughtful consideration in training situations.”

Laborers’ True Stories examines the real life incidents of four men on the job. Phil Ritter suffered a repetitive motion injury from jackhammer use. Mike Cackowski developed skin cancer from sun exposure. Kevin Ramey was injured in a fall. And Vincent Gravely injured his back in a materials handling mishap.

Each story makes the point that, though danger is real and ever-present, it can be avoided through the development of a cautious, careful second nature – a mindset acquired through training, learning from more experienced Laborers and respecting worksite safety rules and procedures.

Safety Habits


  • Training flexibility – don’t be known for just one skill, strive to become well-rounded and versatile.
  • Communication – make it a point to observe experienced workers and always remember there is never a stupid question.
  • Job safety briefings – if they are offered, always attend; if not, suggest or inquire about them.
  • Working environment – if unsafe conditions are observed, it is your right to inform your supervisor and have it corrected; talk to your steward if you need help.


  • Job pressures – do not accept pressure to prove yourself in the face of danger or to take risks.
  • Injuries – do not let macho feelings get in the way of reporting a painful injury; address the issue and avoid permanent damage.
  • Youth – suppress thoughts of doubting danger, being indestructible or this will not happen to me.
  • Communication – lack of it is always a problem.

Laborers’ True Stories drives these points home hard. It should be a valuable tool at all Laborers training centers and could be useful, also, at union meetings and in toolbox talks.

The DVD is about 21 minutes long and is designed so that each of the four segments (a little less than six minutes each) can be shown separately.

For more information and to order this DVD, log onto or call the LHSFNA Occupational Safety and Health Division at 202-628-5465.