An obsession you can live with
Safety must start with the owner or CEO of your company and be enforced through your entire management team down to every employee and jobsite visitor, as well as after--hour sightseers, vandals and thieves.
Last month we stressed the importance of eliminating that “safety sucks, it can’t happen to me” attitude in your employees (February 2012, “You can fix that ‘safety sucks’ attitude”). Employees must be kept aware of existing hazards every minute of every hour of every day.
You can justify whatever your safety program may cost:
1. Jobsite accident - Death, disability or painful injury causing undue suffering for your employee and the employee’s family.
2. Will this accident involve an OSHA citation and your safety compliance record?
3. Will you incur legal expenses and court costs?
4. Are there liquidated damages for jobsite delays?
5. Could this damage your reputation in this competitive industry?
6. Naturally, you would feel terrible if any of your employees were injured on the job. Consider how you would feel if the accident was due to your negligence!
Our mission with this series of articles is to help you concentrate on what you must do to ensure the safety of all your employees. To begin, appoint a company safety director, establish a safety committee, conduct quarterly company safety meetings, hold weekly toolbox talks on every jobsite, and maintain timely documentation of every meeting and required training course.
Enforcing jobsite safetyI am not an OSHA employee, nor have I memorized every word in its nearly 500-page regulations book. Since construction employees do not have time to interpret every OSHA rule, we have compiled this list of do’s and don’ts for easy jobsite reference and enforcement.
The Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was enacted to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women. Section 5 (a)(1), known as “The General Duty Clause,” is a catchall for citations for unsafe conditions to which a regulation does not exist.
OSHA requires every employee must receive “hazard communication” and be aware of where Material Safety Data Sheets are located on each jobsite. You must have a current OSHA poster and a first-aid kit in your trailer or in the foreman’s vehicle.
Let’s begin with addressing these six jobsite hazards that should be maintained in every foreman’s safety manual for easy reference. This manual can provide quick reference for solutions to safety hazards listed by employees on their weekly Safe Plan of Action.
1. Fall protection. Required for employees working near a leading edge of 6 ft. or more. Four options for approved fall protection are: guard rail and toe board (42 in. plus or minus 3 in. to top rail); warning line and safety monitor; harness and lanyard (minimum tensile strength: 5,000 lb.); and a safety net.
Rigid scaffolding requires railing at 10+ ft. above. Rolling scaffold can be erected only four times the width at base and must have railing above 6 ft.
All employees must have training before using scaffolding. You should never use the mason or carpentry contractors’ scaffold without having a competent person check for compliance.
2. Ladder safety. Employees must have proper training before using ladders. It is mandatory to check the condition of the ladder as well as the proper footing. Do not lean a step ladder against a wall; it must stand on all four feet. A ladder must extend 3 ft. above the deck and be tied off. Stay at least 10 ft. clear of power lines. You should be 1 ft. away from the wall for every 4 ft. of ladder.
Never carry anything in your hands while going up a ladder; use a tool pouch or belt, or a rope and bucket. On a stepladder, the highest step you may stand on to work is two steps down from the top. On an extension ladder, it is five rungs down from the top.
Take down any ladder at the end of your workday to prevent children or vandals from using it. Or tie a plank or piece of plywood on a long ladder to lessen that possibility.
3. Excavation and trench safety. Every year, 100 employees are killed and 5,000 are injured on jobsite excavations. Always call for existing line locations before digging. To minimize hazards, your soils person must inspect any ditch that is 4 ft. or deeper before anyone may enter. You must maintain a 34° angle (1 1/2 to 1) of repose, provide 2 ft. benches at 4 ft. intervals, or use a trench box or proper shoring. The soil must be piled at least 2 ft. back from the edge of the trench.
A ladder is needed less than 25 ft. in each direction for entering and leaving the trench. Do not work in a ditch with water, which may loosen the soil. All employees must wear hard hats and check for harmful gases. Provide barricades and lights to prevent someone falling into your trench. A professional engineer must design your safety compliance procedures before you begin excavating a trench 20 ft. or deeper.
4. Foresight preserves eyesight. We have every kind of eye protective device readily available. It may be inconvenient and unwieldy to use eye protection, but consider having to learn Braille if you don’t. Here are the most common operations where eye protection is a must:
5. Head protection. An object as small as a washer, nut, or bolt can kill you or inflict massive damage to your brain if it strikes your unprotected head. If you are injured without head protection, you will automatically lose 25% of your compensation benefits. Keep in mind, a welding hood is not a hard hat. You need a hard hat with hinges to support your mask.
6. Electrical safety. Electricity is called the powerful silent killer. It is very useful but can be very destructive to both man and material if the following precautions are not taken: