Additional ideas to keep jobsites safe.

Every morning you should check your jobsite and ask yourself one critical safety question: “What could happen to us here today?” During my 70 years of on-the-job experience, you can imagine how many hazards we encountered.

Let’s wrap up this series of jobsite safety articles with more solutions to eliminate jobsite hazards:

7. Fire prevention.OSHA requires a fire extinguisher within 100 ft. of construction. Accidental fires may occur with any of our trades, but these are especially dangerous for mechanical, electrical and plumbing work:

  • Cutting torches, soldering, arc welding, acetylene and oxygen tanks;

  • Sparks from electrical shorts, grinders and damaged extension cords;

  • Flammable gasoline in vehicles, generators, power tools and storage cans;

  • Cigarettes, cigars or matches discarded in trash.

    8. Proper tool usage. Hand and power tools are dangerous when improperly used or maintained. A dull tool is dangerous as well as ineffective; take time to clean and sharpen tools regularly. Use proper eye protection when chipping or grinding. And make sure that safe electrical grounding is present on tools and extension cords. Battery-operated tools are much safer.

    9. Personal protective equipment. In addition to providing hazard communication and easy access to Material Safety Data Sheets, you must have this equipment for your employees:

  • First-aid kit, which must be checked weekly;

  • Hard hats when there is overhead danger;

  • Goggles or face masks for eye protection;

  • Ear plugs where there is consistent loud noise;

  • Dust mask or poisonous gas mask for manholes or enclosed areas;

  • Harness and lanyard;

  • Rain gear and boots when needed;

  • Rubber gloves for chemicals, etc.

  • Leather gloves for welding and exposure to hot or abrasive materials.

    10. Safe use of jobsite vehicles and equipment. You should issue written rules and restrictions for employees’ highway use of company vehicles, including: never use alcohol or drugs when driving; ask permission before using company vehicles for personal use; everybody must use seat belts; limit use of cell phones, and no texting; no non-company riders; wash, keep clean and neat and schedule timely maintenance; driver must have active driver’s license and carry copy of company insurance; and report any type of accident or violation.

    Use caution when working on or with jobsite construction equipment. Material extending 4 ft. or more beyond the tailgate must have a warning flag attached.

  • Proper training and a license to operate a fork lift is needed, which must be renewed every three years.

  • Jobsite trucks and equipment must have a back-up alarm or a flagman to warn workmen.

  • Workers can ride only on a built-in seat.

  • Maintain warning flags or ribbons around ditches or open pits.

  • Proper training is needed to operate snorkel lifts, which require body harness and lanyard.

  • The entry gate or chain on a scissor lift must be closed and employee must always stand on the floor.

  • Employees working near a crane or backhoe must wear hard hats.

    11. Demolition. Tearing down existing equipment, piping, electrical controls and building materials presents many hazards and hidden dangers. Make sure you: lock out and tag out any source of electrical power; turn off power before disconnecting any natural gas or liquid flammables; have a qualified person check and remove asbestos; provide dust mask, safety glasses, hard hats, protective gloves and any other personal protective equipment that may be necessary; keep the jobsite clean and safe (remove protruding nails or sharp objects, remove clutter to your dumpster and install warning tape to prevent anyone from entering your area); use extreme caution with any liquid or dry chemical that may exist in pipes or vessels; and have a registered engineer check a recommended solution for equipment operation or structural damage.

    12. Workplace violence. Violence is the third-leading cause of workplace deaths for all workers. For women, workplace violence is the No. 1 cause of work-related deaths. The following information can help you recognize signs that may precede violence and protect your company from violence on your jobs.

    Be aware of employees and others on the jobsite who: make verbal threats about “getting even” for disciplinary action or dismissal; intimidate co-workers; are easily angered or believe that someone is “out to get them”; have illegally used guns, alcohol or drugs; and are jealous over another’s wages or promotion; or an angry or dissatisfied customer.

    The following actions can sometimes prevent a violent situation from occurring:

  • Maintain daily communication - talk, listen and offer help and/or assistance.

  • Report any sign of threat, especially with employees from a different company.

  • Keep a detailed performance file with job description and timely pluses and minuses for fair and accurate wage reviews, layoffs and promotions.

  • When working late, always notify someone.

    Should an attack occur, consider some of these life-saving possibilities:

  • f your attacker is not physically stronger than you, he will probably have a crippling instrument or weapon. You should run, scream and call 911. If unable to do this, hit him in the eyes, throat or kick him in the groin.

  • If you are unable to get away from your attacker and have any of your tools available, you can use one as a weapon. If you have a sharp pocket knife, try to slash his arms or face - seeing their own blood scares many people.

  • File an accurate report of the act and attacker. Include names of any witnesses.

  • Do not clean up or change anything on the premises.

    13. Learn about OSHA. The Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 states:

    “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment free from recognized hazards, and comply with safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

     “Each employee shall comply with all rules, regulations and orders issued in this Act which apply to his own actions and conduct.”

    Section 5 (a)(1) is a catch-all for citations if OSHA identifies unsafe conditions to which a regulation does not exist.

    In addition to learning and teaching applicable OSHA standards to all your employees, you need to:

  • Document all required training and safety meetings.

  • Post necessary OSHA posters.

  • Provide hazard communication and on-site MSDS sheets.

  • Attend a hearing at your local OSHA office if you receive a citation. You should request an OSHA 2202 Construction Industry Digest and include a copy in every foreman’s safety manual.

    These three Plumbing & Mechanical jobsite safety articles gave me the opportunity to share my many years of exposure to combating ever-present hazards. My goal is to create awareness with any proud and productive construction employee for the prevention of injury or job-related illness. 

    I highly recommend that you conduct a Value Engineering University Jobsite Safety meeting to discuss the principles in the articles. Document attendance and feedback from all your employees.

    Murphy’s Law states: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

    Ridilla’s Jobsite Safety Law states: “Anything that can go wrong, we prepare for and prevent it!” The life you save may be for your own!

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