Now that Spring is arriving, it’s time to talk about excavation and trenching safety. One of the biggest hazards on any construction site is the threat of accidents due to cave-ins. As the ground thaws from a cold Winter, this hazard increases in potential for accidents and fatalities. The National Institute for Safety and Health reported 350 deaths from excavation and trenching cave-ins from 2000-2009 with these startling statistics:
* 68% of the cave-in deaths occurred in companies of less than 50 employees.
* 46% of the cave-in deaths occurred in companies of 10 or less employees.
All of these accidents and deaths could have been avoided with precautions taken by both the contractors and the workers. Here are some tips as an employer:
1. Plan any excavation and trench layout thoroughly before undertaking the job. Safe and unsafe areas should be identified.
2. Have a competent person layout the type of protective system that will be used for the job along with the steps to complete the process.
3. Make sure that all workers that are involved are educated with safety tips and hazards associated with excavation and trenching sites.
4. Make sure a trench emergency action place is in place with steps to be taken and emergence contact information in case accident occurs.
Workers for companies that are involved with excavation and trenching are also responsible for their own well being. Companies are not all liable for accidents, especially when safe practices are spelled out and the worker engages in an unsafe act on their own accord. Tips for workers working in excavation and trenching areas:
1. Never enter an unprotected trench.
2. Inspect the protected trench before entering.
3. If their is evidence of a problem, exit the trench and notify contractor and/or competent safety person.
4. Never assume that there will be a warning sign before a cave-in happens.
It may be the companies money that is loss in event of an accident, but it is your life! Protect yourself and others by being aware of the risks and dangers associated with excavation and trenching.
March is the time of year that most construction companies and manufacturing companies are gearing up for the busy part of their year. With the planning of operations and purchasing of materials and equipment, most companies tend to forget that performing safety inspections at this time of year can identify potential hazards and prepare employees for safe habits around the workplace throughout the year. Why should companies perform workplace inspections? Well the first answer is positive statistics. In 2012, a California workplace study showed that companies that performed workplace safety inspections had an over 9% drop in injury claims and a 26% savings on workers compensation costs. Furthermore, inspected firms saved an estimated $355,000.00 in injury claims and compensation paid for during a four year span from 2008-2012. OSHA recommends the following for what to look for in safety inspections:
1. Look for hazards in any workplace environment. Hazards can include inadequate machine or equipment guards, unsafe conditions, unsafe workplace habits or practices, biological hazards, chemical hazards, ergonomic hazards, and other miscellaneous physical hazards.
2. Diagram all workplace areas.
3. Inventory of all work equipment.
4. Inventory of all chemicals used in conducting work.
5. Preparing checklists to make sure proper people are responsible and in control of area potential hazard in the workplace.
6. Recording all inspections in a report in a timely consistent manner. Reports must also be well written and include recommendations from the people performing the safety inspections.
Failing to conduct safety inspections on a regular basis opens companies up to more work place environment risks, injuries, and fines from a number of government agencies. Conducting safety inspections helps to protect the bottom line, the profitability of any company.
First aid training may seem like a thing of the past. But, it may be one the most important safety skills your construction workers know. In the event of an emergency, paramedics can often be on the scene in 5 minutes. However, a lot can happen in those 5 minutes. In the meantime, practicing some basic first aid can help a situation from getting a lot worse. It may even be the difference between life and death while waiting for medical professionals to arrive. Learn more about what first aid training is best for your construction workers. In order for your company to have a comprehensive safety approach, you must include first aid training.
First aid is defined as emergency care given in response to a sudden illness or injury before medical professionals take over. Those who are trained in first aid deliver the care. OSHA requires that a job site has first-aid providers when there isn’t immediate access to a hospital or clinic. Take these pointers into consideration:
Have the right supplies
A first aid kit can range from gauze pads to automated external defibrillator (AED.) Make sure you have enough first aid kits to go around. These need to be checked regularly to ensure they have enough supplies. As you begin to see patterns of what supplies are used most often, make sure those are readily in stock.
The best supplied first aid kit is useless if the individual doesn’t know how to use the supplies. So, make sure employees are provided regular training. Training ranges from first-aid techniques to CPR and ways to keep employees safe while providing care. Even legal considerations should be part of the safety training.
The situation needs to be assessed
One of the first steps to first aid training is helping employees know how to assess a situation. Not only does this help the responder know what action to take, but it helps the responder know if he or she would be in danger by providing care. There are times when the responder will decide first aid care, and trip to the doctor’s office is all that’s needed and other times the responder will decide to call 9-1-1. It’s important to be able to differentiate these circumstances.
ABC’s are what counts
The ABC’s stand for airway, breathing and circulation. And, workers should be trained on how to assess each of these three for when the victim is conscious and unconscious.
Steps for when the medical professionals arrive
You’ll train your crew to stay with the victim until medical professionals arrive. And, the responder should know what information to give to the professionals too.
The effectiveness of your entire safety program is at risk without training your construction crew in basic first aid. A lot can happen in the time it takes medical professionals to arrive on the scene. And, in a life-threatening injury or illness seconds count. Make sure first aid training is part of your company’s overall safety program!
Trenching operations are common to many types of construction and maintenance projects and are inherently dangerous. Due to the great exposure, numerous accidents in connection with trenching occur every year. A few simple precautions, if observed, can serve to take most of the risk out of trench construction. Remember, never attempt to make a self rescue by entering a collapsed trench or excavation! There is a high risk that a secondary cave-in can happen!
SAFE WORK PRACTICES FOR TRENCHING AND EXCAVATIONS
- Ensure that the competent person received specific training in, and is knowledgeable about, soil analysis, use of protective systems, and the requirements of 29 CFR 1926 Subpart P: Excavations and Trenches.
- Ensure that the competent person has classified the soil using one manual and one visual test.
- In soils other than solid rock, shale or cemented sand and gravel, the trench should be shored and/or braced, or terraced if over five feet in depth.
- The trench should be shored and braced, regardless of length of time it will be open.
- Ensure that excavations, adjacent areas and protective systems are inspected by a competent person before the start of work, as needed throughout the shift, and after rainstorms or other occurrences that could increase the hazard.
- Place spoils, materials and equipment a minimum of two feet from the edge of the excavation.
- Prohibit employees from walking or working under suspended loads.
- Ensure that utilities companies are contacted and underground utilities are located as required by local, state and federal law.
- Ensure that workers inside an excavation are within 25 feet of a means of access/egress.
- Workers working in trenches should be separated to avoid being struck by fellow workers’ tools: 12-foot spacing is recommended.
- Ensure that ladders used in excavations are secured and extend at least three feet above the edge of the excavation.
- Ensure that employees are protected from cave-ins when entering or exiting from an excavation.
- Ensure that precautions are taken to protect employees from water accumulation.
- Ensure that the atmosphere inside the excavation is tested when there is reasonable possibility of an oxygen deficient, oxygen-enriched, combustible or toxic atmosphere or any other harmful contaminants.
- Ensure employees are trained to use personal protective equipment and other rescue equipment.
- Require workers to wear hard hats in trenches.
- Ensure that materials and equipment used for protective systems are inspected and in good condition.
OSHA Outreach training is a great program to educate your employees on the hazards they will face. The program started in 1971 and millions of people have benefited from the training since its inception. There are two levels of training within the OSHA Outreach training program. The 10 hour program is designed for entry level workers, and the 30 hour program is intended for experienced workers. Training is intended to cover an overview of hazards that the workers will face in the workplace and benefits include:
- Training helps build your Safety Culture!
- Training helps your employees avoid accidents!
- Training can be tailored to the specific needs of our organization.
- Outreach content includes hazard recognition and avoidance, workers’ rights, employer responsibility, and the value of safety and health to workers.
Here are some tips:
- Plan ahead and give yourself sufficient time.
- When walking on steps, always use the hand railings and plant your feet firmly on each step.
- When walking on an icy or snow-covered walkway, take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction.
- Bending your knees a little and taking slower and shorter steps increases traction and can greatly reduce your chances of falling. It also helps to stop occasionally to break momentum.
- Streets and sidewalks that have been cleared of snow and ice should still be approached with caution. Look out for “black ice.” Dew, fog or water vapor can freeze on cold surfaces and form an extra-thin, nearly invisible layer of ice that can look like a wet spot on the pavement. It often shows up early in the morning or in areas that are shaded from the sun.
- Carrying heavy items can challenge your sense of balance. Try not to carry too much–you need to leave your hands and arms free to better balance yourself.
- Be prepared to fall and try to avoid using your arms to break your fall. If you fall backward, make a conscious effort to tuck your chin so your head doesn’t strike the ground with a full force.
- When entering a building, remove as much snow and water from your boots as you can. Take notice that floors and stairs may be wet and slippery–walk carefully.
- Use special care when entering and exiting vehicles–use the vehicle for support.
Everyone understands that strong safety programs pay off for contractors and construction companies. Such programs help to prevent injuries and fatal accidents on job sites. They also save money that would be spent paying workers’ compensation claims, as well as defending themselves when lawsuits are filed against them by injured workers or their families.
Studies show that companies that implement effective safety and health programs can expect to see their injury and illness rates reduced by 20 percent or more, and a return of approximately five dollars for every dollar invested in their safety program. These studies also report that employee injuries make up anywhere from six to nine percent of project costs on jobs sites without a safety program, as opposed to less than three percent of project costs when an effective safety program has been implemented.
However, there are other tangible benefits that many companies do not associate with strong safety programs. And contrary to the belief that instituting safety programs is a drain on a construction company’s bottom line, experts report that even small construction companies see a positive effect on their bottom line when safety programs are put in place.
When asked, contractors and construction companies that have implemented comprehensive safety management programs report the following positive findings:
- Almost half say they are able to complete projects faster.
- Thirty-nine percent report their project budget is decreased.
- More than 80 percent say their company’s reputation is improved.
- Sixty-six percent report that they are able to contract additional work.
- Sixty-six percent say the quality of completed projects is increased.
Statistics show that the more substantial and comprehensive the safety program, the more significant the benefits – both in terms of improved profit margins and worker safety – are for companies. These safety programs also allow companies to hire the best workers in the industry. An average of 13 construction workers die on the job every day. This makes contractors and construction companies that offer comprehensive safety programs much more attractive to construction workers. Construction workers want to be safe, and they want to know that their employer cares about them.
What is workplace Violence? Workplace violence has become a major concern for employers and employees nationwide. The definition of workplace violence is violence or threat of violence against workers. It can range from threats or verbal abuse to physical assaults and homicide at or outside the workplace. It is also one the leading causes of job-related deaths.
Who is Vulnerable? Some 2 million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. Workplace violence can strike anywhere, and no one is immune. Some workers, however, are at increased risk. Among them are workers who exchange money with the public; deliver passengers, goods, or services; or work alone or in small groups, during late night or early morning hours, in high-crime areas, or in community settings and homes where they have extensive contact with the public. This group includes health-care and social service workers such as visiting nurses, psychiatric evaluators, and probation officers; community workers such as gas and water utility employees, phone and cable TV installers, and letter carriers; retail workers; and taxi drivers.
What can Employers do to help protect their employees? The best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees. In addition employers can offer additional protections such as:
- Provide safety education for employees.
- Secure the work place
- Equip staff with cell phones or hand held alarm or noise devices.
- Instruct employees not to enter any location where they feel unsafe.
Nothing can guarantee that an employee will not become a victim of workplace violence. These steps can however help reduce the odds.
Well everyone, here we go again. It’s time to put the beach towels away, the convertible in the garage, and start breaking out the snow shovels, and the winter clothes. It’s been a wonderful long, hot summer, but before we know it old man winter will be knocking on our door once again.
Along with the cold temperatures and the snowflakes comes changing the way we drive. Winter driving requires a lot more commute time to and from work, more distance between you and the vehicle in front of you, and ensuring your vehicle is ready for those harsh winter conditions.
Preparing your vehicle for the long upcoming winter months, should include checking to see if your wiper blades are strong enough to scrape off the snow and ice build up on the windshield. Is there enough tread on those tires to give you the traction you will need? When was the last time you had a full coolant system check-up? Everyone should check to make sure their defrosters are functioning properly, and that all of the lights on your vehicle are working. Keep an emergency kit on your vehicle, in case you were to ever get stranded.
This kit should include:
- Enough water for at least 3 days
- Food that will not spoil. Protein bars or trail mix are good examples
- Pair of socks and dry shoes
It is also a smart idea to try to keep enough fuel in your vehicle for two reasons. The first reason is to help prevent fuel line from freezing. The second reason is to ensure you have enough fuel to keep your engine running and the heat on, if you were to get stranded.