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Thanks for thinking ‘safety first’

POSTED: August 30, 2009 1:00 a.m.

I've never been stuck in an elevator, but I'd rather not. I'd also prefer not to get stranded at the top of one of those double-decker Ferris wheels. Even on one of those chance rides with a pretty girl.

It was 25 years ago that the state of Georgia got into the inspection business of things like boilers, amusement rides, escalators and elevators.

The guy whose name I always saw on elevators was Earl Everett. I didn't know it, but Earl was a Gainesville native and still lived in Hall County. Earl died this week; he was 65. For the past quarter century, he made it his business to see that we were safe through his work for the Georgia Department of Labor.

Earl's name is on the inspection sticker that you see inside most elevator cars. While I didn't know Earl, seeing his name on the elevator made me feel good. The inspectors make sure that the elevators and escalators had been serviced. They make sure all the buttons worked and it stopped where it was supposed to on every floor.

I was in one of the tallest buildings in Atlanta the other day and had to take an express elevator that went about 50 floors before it opened up. I don't know if Earl himself had been there, but there was his name on the inspection sticker.

The other thing inspectors do is inspect amusement rides.

There was a time in my life that I wanted to run off with the fair. I thought carnival operators were exciting people. How cool I thought it would be to have a microphone and convince a guy to win a stuffed animal for his girlfriend.

Between the time I was 10 and maybe 20, the carnies took on a different look. Some of them were downright scary. These were the same people who made sure all the bolts were tightened and the safety measures were in place.

Then, 25 years ago, the state decided it might be a good idea to go behind them. Earl's folks went out and made their inspection before the carnival could open. It didn't matter if it was a big-time amusement park or one of those temporary deals in a shopping center parking lot, Earl's name had to be on the Ferris wheel, just like it was on the elevators.

Earl's squad also inspected boilers to make sure they had the right valves and were safely operating.

Sam Hall, a good friend of mine who is the spokesman for the Georgia Department of Labor, told me Earl was a likeable man with a ready smile. He had been attending an industry meeting when he passed away.

All too often, people who chose a career in government get an undeserved reputation because of a few lazy folks who are watching the clock or waiting on the next coffee break. It is refreshing when we hear the true story of someone who really cared and did their best.

Earl Everett promoted safety in the workplace and taught numerous seminars for business and industry. His program was the model for many other states and we're in a much safer place because of him.

Thanks, Earl.

Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column runs every week in Sunday Life.



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