Safety Involves More than Accident Prevention

Every day, construction workers face the risk of injuries and accidents on the job. Of all worker deaths in 2014, for example, one in five occurred on a construction site.

Often referred to as construction’s “fatal four,” the leading causes of construction fatalities in 2014 were falls, electrocution, being struck by an object, and getting caught in or between an object. Last year, these accidents accounted for almost 60 percent of construction fatalities. Sadly, many employees receive little to no training from their employers on these hazards.  To continue reading please click here!

The Perils of Working Overtime

Working overtime is something many Americans do every day. While emergency responders, surgeons, and some other professionals are prepared for this type of schedule, in general, most people are ill-prepared to deal with the stress associated with extended hours.

Unfortunately, more and more people are working longer hours at their primary job or have taken a second job in order to make ends meet. These extended work hours – many times involving early morning or late night shifts – can lead to fatigue, stress, and loss of concentration. In jobs where it is imperative that a person is well-rested and alert, such as construction workers and machine operators, this can be deadly. Aside from just being tired and worn out, here are some common signs that you are overly fatigued:

  • Irritability
  • Lack of concentration
  • Decreased memory
  • Low motivation
  • Susceptibility to illness
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Changes in eating habits

If you must work extended hours, it is imperative that you take precautions to stay as safe and alert as possible. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has no official stance on working long hours, they do provide some guidelines for helping to make sure individuals working overtime remain as safe as possible.

  1. Take regular breaks through the day.
  2. Eat healthy foods high in protein to keep your energy up.
  3. When possible, perform the most difficult tasks early in a shift.
  4. Change positions when possible, for example, avoid sitting or standing for extended periods of time.

In addition to overtime and holding down more than one job, many companies and organizations have instituted what they call a compressed work week (CWW). Many employees like these arrangements because they allow for more time off. For example, an employee will work three 12-hour days instead of five days. While this is certainly tempting, there are risks associated with such a work schedule and it is important to understand these risks before agreeing to such a schedule. These risks include fatigue and susceptibility to repetitive motion strains.

Depending on the industry, CWW schedules can also lead to overexposure to things like noise and chemicals. Finally, workers that are off for extended periods of time and then return to work may take longer to get back up to speed.

While there are circumstances and professions that require long and/or odd work hours, if an individual is able to work a traditional 40-hour work week, in almost all cases, this is the safest option.

Office Safety Issues

No one can deny that construction workers face danger every day at work. And while chances are you are not going to encounter as many, or as severe, safety issues in an office setting, that doesn’t mean safety isn’t an issue for office workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that approximately 80,000 office workers suffer on-the-job injuries each year. What is especially troubling about this number is that most of these injuries could have been prevented.

So what are the most common injuries that occur in office buildings across the country each day?

1. Slips, trips, and falls are the most common injuries that occur in the office. And while it may come as a surprise, a person is more likely to sustain a fall injury in an office setting than anywhere else.

2. Fire safety is critical in an office environment. Space heaters and worn-out electrical cords can spark fires and blocked fire sprinklers or exit doors can make a situation go from bad to worse in no time.

3. Many injuries occur when an employee is struck by or caught in an object. Open desk or filing-cabinet draws and overloaded shelves are common culprits.

4. Working at a computer all day can cause strains, posture problems, and repetitive movement injuries.

5. Looking at a computer screen for eight hours leads to eyestrain. It also can lead to dry, irritated eyes and trouble focusing.

6. Contagious illnesses are a huge issue in a closed office environment. One sick employee can quickly spread a cold or flu throughout the entire office.

7. Poor air quality, contaminants, and poor ventilation can lead to any number of infections or illnesses. When things like dust, pollen, dirt, or bacteria build up on carpet and other surfaces, workers have a hard time staying healthy.

8. While so-called “normal” stress is a part of almost every job, and can actually serve as motivation to perform at a high level, other types of stress can cause a wide-range of physical ailments. Unhealthy stress occurs when an employee has unrealistic demands and/or unreasonable deadlines placed on him or her.

Most, if not all, office injuries and safety hazards are easily preventable. The key is to make sure all employees receive safety training on how to stay safe and healthy at work. Employees also need to feel safe bringing their concerns to the attention of their superiors without worrying about facing negative consequences. After all, safe and healthy employees are more productive employees.

How to Keep Construction Equipment Running Smoothly in the Winter Months

You may not want to think about it but winter is coming. That means it is also time to start thinking about how to keep your employees and construction equipment safe during the cold weather months.

When driving construction equipment on the roads it is essential that you do all you can to prevent accidents. This includes keeping your headlights and tail lights clean and making sure you always have enough windshield washer fluid.

Of course the best way to stay safe on the roads is to slow down. Ramps and bridges freeze more quickly than other road surfaces so it is imperative that you take extra care when traveling on these types of roads. You also should increase your following distance, especially when you are traveling behind snow plows.

In order to keep your equipment running well when temperatures drop dramatically, here are some important safety reminders for vehicle maintenance:

  • Dirty air, fuel, and hydraulic filters can lead to power loss so make sure that they are cleaned or replaced on a regular basis.
  • Keep in mind that tire traction decreases on icy or frozen ground. Drive as slow as necessary to maintain control of equipment.
  • Use extreme caution when charging batteries when temperatures drop. A frozen battery is likely to explode.
  • Make sure your heat and defrost systems are in good working order.
  • Warm up your equipment slowly to give hoses and wires to time reach the proper operating temperature.
  • Equipment that sits for long periods of time can freeze to the ground, which can lead to damaged tires or drive train when it is moved. Parking equipment on raised surfaces will help prevent such damage.
  • Always look for snow-covered objects that could damage equipment, especially below the undercarriage. When possible, remove snow on equipment before using it.

There are days when you will be short on time and in a rush but failing to take the time to ensure your equipment is ready to go can lead to disastrous consequences. That includes damaged equipment and even worse, injury or loss of life.

OSHA Inspections Stemming from Employee Complaints

It would impossible for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to inspect every place of business to ensure that safety standards are being met. With 2,200 inspectors responsible for more than 8 million worksites, there simply isn’t the time or manpower.

So how does OSHA determine which worksites to inspect? Today, more and more OSHA inspections are being conducted due to employee complaints. In 2014, 27 percent of inspections were the result of employee complaints, up from 20 to 24 percent in previous years. And that number is expected to rise. OSHA has said that it believes the number of employee complaints is on the rise due to its direct outreach to employees.

Other than employee complaints, most worksite inspections are triggered by one of the following:

  1. Imminent Dangers: Conducted within 24 hours of a safety incident, these investigations are prompted by conditions or practices that are thought to be likely to cause death or serious harm before enforcement action can be taken.
  2. Fatality and Catastrophe Investigations: Work-related accidents that result in a single fatality or hospitalization of three or more employees.
  3. Programmed Inspections: Inspections that are regularly scheduled in high-hazard industries.
  4. Follow-Up Inspections: These inspections are conducted to determine if an employer has corrected previous violations.

So what happens during an inspection? When an OSHA safety compliance officer arrives for an inspection, the business does not have to allow entry without a warrant from a judge. If a business decides not to request a warrant it is voluntarily consenting to inspection. Most inspections occur without any advance notice.

The OSHA inspector completes a walk around tour of the worksite. An employer or employer representative of the company may accompany the inspector. The inspector may also conduct private interviews with employees.

The inspector will have a closing conference with the company and employee representatives at the end of the inspection. OSHA will discuss any clear violations and suggest ways to correct these violations. He or she also will discuss any deadlines and possible fines. In some cases a second closing conference may be necessary.

Citations are only issued to employers, even if violations were committed or caused by an employee. Once a citation is issued a business owner has the option to do one of the following:

  • Contest the citation
  • Correct the violation and pay any penalties.
  • Negotiate with OSHA to have the penalty amended or withdrawn

The purpose of OSHA is to provide safe and healthy workplaces. Inspections are just one of the many ways they are able to fulfill this purpose.