Larger Fines Approved for Violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Act

Preventing injuries, accidents and loss of life should always be the number one priority of companies. Beginning August 1, it will be more costly for companies if it isn’t.

For the first time since 1990, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will increase the civil penalty amounts provided for violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

To continue reading about the changes in OSHA fines, click here

Qualities of a Safe Workplace

Keeping your workplace safe is vital to the health and wellness of your employees and your company’s bottom line. And while you must keep improving safety efforts in order to ensure that you never fall behind, it also is important to recognize a job well done!

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Asian Indonesian construction worker with helmet and safety vest

Train. Protect. Prevent

Want a Safer Job Site? Take a Look at Near Misses

Many people are surprised to learn that reporting near misses, sometimes known as close calls, can help to make a job site safer. Click here to read more.

Summer Brings Peak in Traffic and Construction Projects

With summer comes peak vacationing times and an increase in traffic. The summer is also a time in which road construction becomes more commonplace. Obviously, if proper precautions are not taken, this can be a recipe for tragedy. However, proper safety precautions on the part of drivers and construction workers can help alleviate much of the danger, and, fortunately, these do not differ much—if at all—from season to season.

In the case of drivers, it is only necessary to apply common sense in navigating construction zones. These include not speeding, merging safely, driving only in designated non-construction areas and, overall, maintaining an awareness of one’s surroundings.

When it comes to construction workers, callousness holds consequences far more severe than those confined to cars—construction workers comprise the largest proportion of deaths in construction zones. Keeping this in mind, workers must take thorough measures to guarantee their safety.

Hydration is of paramount importance. True, summer brings with it increased traffic, but it also brings with it higher temperatures. Maintaining a constant flow of liquids (chief among these should be water) will lower the risk of dehydration and heatstroke.

Also, in order to stay safe, one should always don safety equipment. These include hardhats and quality footwear. In addition, one should wear visible clothing, especially if working late into the night. Given the loudness of the equipment on sight, proper ear protection is also valuable.

While cones will almost certainly be employed to help partition work zones from drivable areas, it is in the best interest of workers to also delineate areas where large, powerful, and potentially dangerous equipment may be being used. If there are moving vehicles, it is supremely important to be within their line of sight. Workers should never assume that others see them; rather, they should make sure to stay visible, leaving nothing to chance.

Lastly, be on the same page as coworkers. This will help everyone get up to speed on weather, traffic, and other conditions.

The hike in summer traffic brought about by vacationers can make for a potentially unsafe environment for workers if they are careless. It is vital that workers have safety in mind in all their proceedings. Doing this will prevent both a loss of life and a loss of capital effected by lost labor.

Rain in the Forecast? Plan Construction Projects Accordingly

In spite of all sorts of logistical dilemmas, sometimes the biggest issue hampering construction workers is Mother Nature herself. For example, during the summer months, rain can prove to be a major stumbling block in construction.

One adverse effect of rain is that it can set back construction projects. Most simply, even one day extra of construction can result in missed deadlines, additional expenses, and decrease morale. With all of these factors in mind, such a delay may bring about an urge to rush to get back on track. This brings with it more problems. Sloppiness is one of those problems, setting a project backer further, leading to additional loss of money.

Rain also brings with it the threat of bodily injury. Slippery surfaces are a leading cause of falls, which can lead to anything from a minor injury to death. Of course, even the slightest of injuries can result in lawsuits or, at the very least, a major financial hit.

When concrete or other similar substances are initially laid, the impact of a sudden onset of rain can prove catastrophic. Once again, the schedule is set back, costs pop up, and time that could be spent on different projects is squandered.

A common thread that exists among all of these rain-related problems is monetary loss. Wasting money—even the slightest sum—can prove costly in the long run. With this in mind, it becomes necessary to plan ahead for rain. The best way is to be aware of weather forecasts and plan accordingly. In addition, the ubiquitous threat of rain makes it a necessity for workers to work in as efficient of a manner as possible. Time is money.

Lastly, workers must be cautious when faced with rain. When navigating slippery surfaces, it is important to proceed slowly and surely. Injuries as a result of rain are easy to avoid so long as proper care and awareness are employed.

Rain is a frustrating factor that can interfere with construction projects. Bodily harm and financial hits are common consequences of it. If it rains, it is not the end of the world. Patience and precaution will help lessen rain’s negative effects.

Tips for Avoiding Asbestos Exposure at Construction Sites

The use of asbestos has dropped dramatically in recent decades, yet the danger it presents within the construction industry is greater than ever.

The threat remains real. Guarding against potential exposure to the toxic substance is critical today.

Many asbestos products have been banned — making new construction much safer now — but asbestos continues to be used legally in new roofing materials and coatings, vinyl floor tiles, cement sheets, pipeline wrap and millboard.

Older construction projects, like a renovation or remodeling job, or even a demolition, can become a health-risk nightmare because of the ubiquitous use of asbestos in commercial and residential structures throughout much of the 20th century.

Once coveted for its ability to strengthen and resist heat, asbestos becomes dangerous as it ages and is disturbed. An unwitting inhalation or ingestion of the microscopic fibers can cause serious respiratory illnesses, including asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma cancer.

The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine recently estimated that at least 1.3 million construction industry workers today are still at risk for occupational asbestos exposure.

Although there are a variety of treatment options for those who find themselves exposed to asbestos, the best medicine is prevention.

Here are some tips to help avoid exposure:

  • Make sure the work area is well ventilated.
  • Isolate the area where asbestos is being disturbed to avoid spreading any toxic fibers.
  • Use a respirator and the proper protective gear if asbestos is present.
  • Encourage prompt cleanup and disposal of asbestos contaminated debris.
  • Leave work clothing at the job site, making sure it is cleaned by a crew trained in asbestos contamination.
  • Wet down or use wetting agents on any asbestos materials being disturbed or disposed.
  • No dry sweeping or shoveling of dust during the cleanup process.
  • Proper asbestos abatement methods should be followed. A licensed abatement company should be used.

Job site standards now are designed to minimize the release of microscopic asbestos fibers. Asbestos dust can be easily spread on a jobsite, exposing those who don’t handle it directly, so caution is important. Worse is the prospect of bringing asbestos home on clothes, tools or hair where it can expose a worker’s family.

It’s easy to ignore the warnings because asbestos-related illnesses can take decades to develop. It’s why companies were so slow to stop using it despite the well-known toxicity.

Hundreds of commercial construction materials once contained asbestos. The EPA still believes that asbestos products remain in the vast majority of commercial structures in America.

Protect yourself.

“Written by the Mesothelioma Center at Asbestos.com.”

Why Perform Safety Inspections?

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.

Winter Slips, Trips, and Falls

This week we’re looking at the number 1 reason for industrial injury  in the United States; Slips, trips and falls. Today let’s look at walking outside when it’s cold and snowy or icy.

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.

Stress and the Construction Worker

Stress is as much a part of life as breathing, eating, and sleeping. A little stress can be a factor in achieving goals, meeting deadlines, and can motivate workers to do a good job. On the other hand, stress can create a prison of overwhelm and dread. Many workers are faced with job-related stress on a daily basis. Construction workers are no exception. Studies show that blue-collar industries, i.e. construction, are more stressful than white-collar industries.

While managing job-related stress is important in all types of employment, it is essential among construction workers because a mistake can fatal. Mental stress can have a domino effect on the construction worker’s life and quality of work. Here are just some of the ways stress can affect construction workers:

  • Lessens the ability to concentrate and focus on the job
  • Reduces the ability to effectively interact with co-workers and management
  • Contributes to worry, which in turn causes insomnia, poor sleep patterns, and eventually sleep deprivation
  • Prolonged periods of poor sleep caused by stress contributes to a weakened physical condition and reduced reaction times
  • Leads to poor dietary habits
  • Causes low morale
  • Leads to headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks.
  • Contributes to health problems, particularly heart attacks and strokes

In order to reduce the stress on construction workers, employers should institute adequate work breaks to lessen fatigue. Employees should make the most of these work breaks in order to “refresh” mentally by relaxing, speaking to co-workers about non-work related topics, or taking a short walk.

Employees also should make the effort to follow an exercise routine. Construction is already a physically demanding job. However, engaging in aerobic exercise or even regular meditation can reduce blood pressure, stress, and anxiety to the point where one is able to improve sleep, and manage stress far more effectively. Adopting a healthy diet that is high in fiber, protein, and low in sugar, and limit or avoid processed foods can also help to reduce stress.

Mental stress can result in injury on the construction job site. A stressful working environment also may interfere with the ability or willingness of construction workers to practice safety practices on the job. In this respect, it is important that employers have construction workers engage in additional safety training.

Stress is a part of life which cannot be wholly avoided. In many ways, it is a needed part of life; however, when it is in a constant state it can prove physically and mentally detrimental to construction workers. The way to combat this problem is by finding adequate ways of handling stress so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and cause physical, emotional, and mental damage.