Did construction workers ever sit on metal beams to eat lunch? If so, why?

They also cost money. The contractor probably expected the workers to get up to the top on their own time under their own labor.

Safety rules were sometimes ridiculously lax or nonexistent before OSHA. The risk of getting injured or dying on the was often accepted as part of the cost of making a living.

How many people as a percentage would typically fall to their deaths on a high rise like that? I get a little bit skeeved out looking at those pictures but I bet you get used to it.

They called it the “Halfway to hell” club - typically one of the most dangerous phases of building a suspension bridge was putting together the deck. A lot of workers were lost into “the hole”. By hanging a great big net underneath they increased productivity once the workers trusted it. Worked fine and cut casualties until one day a travelling platform (used to inspect the underside of the bridge deck) broke and fell into the net. The whole net unzipped and fell into the Bay, taking a lot of people with it. There are photos and you can see the little dots that are people, clinging to the net as it all falls down. Something like a dozen people died in that accident.

Called a “spud wrench” IIRC. It looks like a big wrench with the handle end tapered to a point. You get two pieces of steel roughly lined up, jab the point in to bring them to precise alignment, then use the wrench end to tighten bolts to hold everything in place.

Around the time of the GG Bridge (1930s) the general estimate was one death per million dollars of construction cost. The Bay Bridge, which went up about the same time as the GG Bridge (a little bit earlier), had many more deaths than the GG Bridge, in part due to the stringent safety measures used on the latter (the aforementioned safety net, firing workers who were caught without hardhats, etc).

Keep in mind this was during the Depression, people really needed work and if one man fell to his death there were plenty more waiting to fill the job.

I’d like to point out that in this picture (in the collection linked by Duke of Rat), the guy on the right is God knows how high in the air, standing only on two 2x4s that are supported only by the weight of the guy on the left. :eek:

Any of this business would leave me paralyzed in terror and laying down, bearhugging whatever beam was closest.

I’m thinking that the left ends of the 2x4s may be tied down with something, but then again…

I’d like to point out that even with today’s much more stringent safety rules and equipment people still die building tall buildings - just not as often as they used to.

You probably wouldn’t want someone who was truly fearless about heights. This is a case where fear (or, if that’s too potent a word, “caution” or “respect” or whatever euphensim you choose) will help keep you safe by limiting your grandstanding and stunts. Sure, the guys did crazy macho stuff to impress each other. But the Darwinian aspects of high iron construction imposed limits on these activities.

In Chicago barriers are mandated between constructions sites and pedestrians, safety harness and hard hats required, and so forth. And accidents still happen. Window washers, who operate on riduculously skimpy seats (I think they call 'em “bo’sun’s chairs”) and rappel from the top of those skyscrapers that you see in picture postcards, are at similar risk of falling. Periodically you see these guys dangling off a collapsed scaffold or otherwise in need of rescue. In the old days, with less safety rules, these guys would have been killed. Deaths seldom happen these days because Mr-Happy-I’m-Dangling-Over-the-Abyss mugging for the female office workers wears safety equipment. Their tools are also harnessed, so while you may get some sudsy water dropping down to sidewalk and street you don’t have a dropped squeegee taking out the tourists.

Actually, widow-washing a skycraper looks kinda fun - on a nice day.

:eek: It looks like a game of seesaw for the suicidal.

I’m now massively ashamed of having panic attacks for no reason at all. What a horribly scary job, and, yes, even for those Mohawk guys, if, as was suggested, they were shit-scared all along but it wouldn’t be macho to let it show.


No, I understand completely how lunchtime works on a construction site, I’m a construction electrician myself (currently doing fulltime maintenance work). I’m just saying that in most of those pictures where the guys are sitting on a beam…their lunches had to be retrieved first and then the guys went out on the beam(s) to eat and pose for the shot. IOW, the men walked over to where ever their lunches were sitting, grabbed them, then walked back out onto the beam to show-off. They could have easily eaten where the lunches were stored during the morning.

The guy on the right is certainly in a precarious situation, but I don’t think it’s quite as you describe.

There are two 2x4s extending from the building structure but it looks as though only his left foot in planted on a 2x4. His right foot seems like it is planted upon a corner of the iron framework that extends slightly beyond the vertical beam that they are working on. His right foot and my conjectured “corner” are obscured by the foreground 2x4, but looking below the 2x4 it is clear that the structure does indeed extend by about 12 inches. In addition, his right foot doesn’t come close to the background 2x4, he’s clearly got it planted somewhere else.

And, although the 2x4 beneath his left foot is weighted down only by the guy on the left, you can see that he is putting most of his own weight on his right foot (the foot planted upon the corner of iron framework).

Not that this makes it safe! But it’s not quite as scary as Bambi Hassenpfeffer’s description.

About the statue pictured in the OP, can anyone tell me where that statue is displayed? (specifics please- don’t just say “New York”.)
Be the first one to tell me where the statue is and you win a donkey!

I’m not claiming to know how the set-up was, but just to suggest another possibility:

Space enough to accomodate 11 lunch boxes does not neccessarily mean space enough to accomodate 11 construction workers assembled socially and seated.

They may have had to go one by one to retreive their lunches, or perhaps single file with the guy at the front of the line passing the lunch boxes back down the line until every one got his own lunch. Then they could retire to a place where they could all sit and eat (out on the beam).

I understood that they would stash their lunch-boxes near the temporary lift they came up on and that an apprentice would have been sent back to fetch all the boxes for the group of workers he was with when it was nearly lunchtime.

Is it likely, esp. re. the guy with a foot on the 2 by 4, that work would have been ONLY done on days with no wind? I can see that it may not be as precarious as I firist imagined, but all the same, that high upm, and a gust of wind…:eek:

When I was on exchange in Hong Kong, the custom there is to use bamboo for scaffolding instead of steel beams. Construction workers would scramble all over those structures with no safety harness often leaning very far in or very far out to get to particularly hard to reach places.

It became even more disturbing to watch when there was moderate wind around and the entire structure would start bending and swaying. Luckily, none of the projects around our campus suffered from any fatalities but it seemed incredibly cavalier.

I think it’s in lower Manhattan. Does that get me at least a mule?

Sorry. No half-prizes. And I need more than “lower Manhattan”, but thanks for playing.

Fulton Street, in New York City.

I don’t think it’s there - I KNOW it’s there.

Congratulations, CBCD! Your donkey will be in the mail later this week.

Now to plan a trip to Fulton St., I dig that statue. :slight_smile:

Sure, it’s at the viewing platform for Ground Zero (see photo at bottom right of page). It’s by the exit ramp while you are leaving the memorial. More details are here:

Photo here.

A donkey! Man, my cat is going to be so thrilled to have a pet. Yeehaw!

Darn! Pipped at the post. Now I have to break the news to my cat.

Will there ever be a donkey?

Sorry, you gave wonderful details but when the offer is “be the first, win the donkey” sometimes it serves you better to get a non-detailed answer in quick.

Although, since I don’t know the area well enough, perhaps you could clarify this:

From the looks of the area on Mapquest it doesn’t look like Fulton St. extends as far West as Ground Zero.

If you want to dispute CBCD’s emphatic claim that the statue is on Fulton St. it is possible you could steal back the donkey (I haven’t gotten to the Post Office yet).

So does Fulton St. get close enough to Ground Zero for the two claims to reconcile? Or is the Fulton St. claim in conflict with the Ground Zero claim?

If the answers do not conflict then we have to allow that CBCD is still the winner.