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Job Safety

Safety Vectors

You will find a variety of specialized vehicles and equipment on most job sites. A fair amount of workers tend to treat large tools or vehicles with cautious respect, because they recognize the dangers associated with them. However, it is really easy to ignore more prevalent hazards on most job sites. Even things as simple as ordinary work trucks are responsible for a substantial number of workplace injuries annually. That includes everything from delivery trucks, to pick-up and utility trucks that populate almost every job site. Safe operation around trucks and heavy machinery is every bit as important as all other safety measures in place to protect workers.

Developing and enforcing standard operating procedures for equipment on your site is an important starting point. In most cases, you will not be able to design the worksite to provide the highest level of safety, so you’ll need to focus on ways to address specific hazards as they become known.

 

Loading and Unloading Trucks

A U.S. Sailor uses a forklift to unload bottled water from a truck Sept. 1, 2012, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans after Hurricane Isaac struck the area. Isaac developed as a tropical storm over the Western Atlantic Ocean Aug. 21, 2012, affecting Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba before making landfall as a hurricane on the Gulf Coast of the United States. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josue L. Escobosa/Released)

The hazards created by loading and unloading operations warrant their own set of procedures. One of the most important steps is restricting the personnel on foot who are in and around the loading area. Everyone working within the loading area should be made aware of the hazards, as well as the steps to ensure visibility and communication with others on the site.

It’s important to engineer hazards out of the site. That includes everything from covering or calling attention to gaps and drop-offs on loading docks and similar areas, to using restraints and parking brakes to ensure that a truck will not move unexpectedly. Loads must be secured so that they cannot break loose or shift. When forklifts or similar equipment are being used to unload, personnel on foot should remain a safe distance away from the operations. Anyone on foot in the immediate area should wear a high-visibility vest (and that includes truck drivers who briefly step out of the vehicle).

In addition, there should be clearly defined procedures to ensure safe operations. For example, before any vehicle is moved, there should be a procedure to ensure that all personnel on foot are clear of its path. If workers are on a truck bed or in a trailer, there should be some kind of visual warning to ensure that drivers know not to start the engine. One simple approach is to require keys to be removed from the ignition and hung on a board or in a cabinet in the office.

[The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation specific to loading dock safety is found in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.176 material handling. The majority of all regulations for loading docks are actually a part of OSHA rules for the operation and design of forklifts used on loading docks. Forklift safety regulations are referenced in the general industry standard, 29 CFR 1910.178 and construction standards 29 CFR 1926.600, 1926.602 and the American National Standards Institute/Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation (ANSI/ITSDF) B56.1-2012 Safety Standard for Low-Lift and High-Lift Trucks.]

Welding Safety

General hazards of welding include impact, penetration, harmful dust, smoke, fumes, heat and light radiation. Welding “smoke” is a mixture of very fine particles (fumes) and gases. Many of the substances in the smoke can be extremely toxic. The intense heat of welding and sparks can cause burns. Eye injuries have resulted from contact with hot slag and metal chips. The intense light associated with welding can cause eye damage. Ultraviolet light from an arc can cause “welder’s flash” and also skin burns. There is also a danger of electric shock. If combustible or flammable materials are nearby, the heat and sparks produced by welding can cause fires or explosions. The use of compressed gas cylinders poses some unique hazards to the welder.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stress its three lines of defense philosophy to help eliminate or reduce potential exposures to hazards. The first line of defense is to utilize engineering controls to eliminate the hazard. Adding ventilation to reduce air contaminants from a welding operation is an example of an engineering control. Administrative controls are the second line of defense. Scheduling the work to limit a welder’s exposure to a hazard is an example of an administrative control. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense. Wearing a respirator to limit a welder’s exposure to welding fumes is an example of a PPE control. When properly selected and maintained, PPE can help protect employees from welding hazards.

Proper eye and face protection for welding safety varies depending on the particular task being performed. Helmet, handshield, goggles and safety glasses or combination of these are acceptable protection in various applications. All filter lenses and plates must meet the test for transmission of radiant energy prescribed in ANSI/ISEA Z87.1-2015, American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices. According to OSHA 29 CFR 1910.252 (b)(2)(ii)(B), “Helmets and hand shields shall be arranged to protect the face, neck and ears from direct radiant heat from the arc.”

Welding helmets with filter plates are intended to help protect users from arc rays and from weld sparks and spatters that strike directly against the helmet. They are not intended to protect against slag chips, grinding fragments, wire wheel bristles and similar hazards that can ricochet under the helmet. Spectacles, goggles or other appropriate eye protection must also be worn to protect against these impact hazards. When arc cutting and arc welding with an open arc, OSHA requires operators to use helmets or hand shields with filter lenses and cover plates. Nearby personnel viewing the arc must also be protected. Safety glasses with a shade 2 lens are recommended for general-purpose protection for viewers.

According to ANSI Z49.1, Welding and Cutting (4.3), Appropriate protective clothing for any welding or cutting operation will vary with the size, nature and location of the work to be performed. Clothing shall provide sufficient coverage and be made of suitable materials to minimize skin burns caused by sparks, spatter or radiation. Covering all parts of the body is recommended to protect against ultraviolet and infrared ray flash burn. Dark clothing works best to reduce reflection under a faceshield. Heavier materials, such as wool clothing, heavy cotton or leather, are preferred as they resist deterioration.

An equally important safety measure that must be taken while welding is ventilation. Ventilation is a means of providing adequate breathing air, and it must be provided for all welding, cutting, brazing and related operations. Proper ventilation can be obtained either naturally or mechanically. Natural ventilation is considered sufficient for welding and brazing operations if the work area has a ceiling height of more than 16 feet, the welding space does not have any barriers or walls obstructing cross-ventilation, and each welder working in the space has at least 10,000 square feet to his or herself.

If your specific operation does not fall within the natural ventilation guidelines, mechanical ventilation will be required. Mechanical ventilation options generally fall into two basic categories. The first is a low-vacuum system, which takes large volumes of air at low velocities. This system consists of hoods positioned at a distance from the work area. The hood and housing may have to be repositioned by the worker to get maximum benefit from this means of ventilation. Hoods generally remove the fumes and contaminated air through ducting and exhaust the contaminants to the outdoors.

The second category of mechanical ventilation is a high-vacuum system. This system consists of a close-range extractor aimed at capturing and extracting fumes as near to the work as possible. Fume extractors often have an immediate area of welding. By removing a small volume of air at a high velocity, the potentially hazardous materials are effectively removed before reaching the welder’s breathing zone. These systems often are equipped with a fan that pulls the contaminants into a filtration system, with a high-efficiency particulate absolute (HEPA) filter or combination of HEPA filter and prefilter and then recirculates the clean air back into the work area.

Construction Sites

construction site

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for the eyes, face, head, extremities, protective clothing, respiratory devices and protective shields and barriers must be provided, used and maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Foot Protection such as steel-toed boots.
  • Electrical Protective Equipment such as rubber insulated mats, covers, or gloves.
  • Head Protection such as hard hats.
  • Hearing Protection if you exceed the limits set by Table D-2 under Permissible Noise Exposures. When selecting hearing protection, be sure to check the noise reduction rating (NRR) in accordance to the noise level of the job site.
  • Eye and Face protection such as goggles or masks.

The OSHA construction standard states that fall protection is required when an employee is working on a walking/working surface (horizontal and vertical surface) with an unprotected side or edge which is six feet or more above a lower level. The general industry standard states that employers must ensure that each employee on a walking-working surface with an unprotected side or edge that is four feet or more above a lower level is protected. According to construction and general industry standards, fall protection options must be: Guard rail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall protection systems such as harnesses or restraints.

Prior to January, 17, 2017, personal fall protection systems and safety net systems were not recognized as a protection option under the general industry standards. This changed when OSHA published the revisions to its Walking-Working Surfaces standard and Personal Protective Equipment standard for general industry.

Although not specifically addressed by the construction standards, hazard assessments should be conducted for all work areas so the proper protective equipment can be selected if needed. When choosing PPE, you should consider such hazards as heat, impact, penetration, compression, chemical, electrical, light radiation, harmful dust and falls.

The new OSHA standard for construction work in confined spaces sets requirements for safe practices and procedures to protect employees. However, the standard does not apply to construction work regulated elsewhere in Part 1926 for excavations, underground construction and diving operations. The standard provides construction employees with protections similar to those general industry employees have had for more than two decades, but with some differences tailored to the construction industry including:

  • More detailed provisions for coordinating activities with other employers at the site
  • Requiring a competent person to evaluate the site and identify confined and permit spaces
  • Requiring continuous atmospheric monitoring when possible
  • Requiring continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards
  • Allowing for the suspension of a permit, instead of cancellation
  • Requiring that employers who direct employees to enter a space without using a complete permit system first eliminate or isolate any physical hazards
  • Requiring that employers who are relying on local entities for emergency services to arrange for those responders to give the employer advance notice if they will be unable to respond for a period of time
  • Requiring employers to provide training in a language and vocabulary that the employee understands

In construction occupations, training is required for each employee using stairways and ladders; “Fixed ladders shall be provided with cages, wells, ladder safety devices, or self-retracting lifelines where the length of climb is less than 24 feet but the top of the ladder is at a distance greater than 24 feet above lower levels. Where the total length of a climb equals or exceeds 24 feet, fixed ladders shall be equipped with one of the following: ladder safety devices, or self-retracting lifelines, and rest platforms at intervals not to exceed 150 feet or a cage or well, and multiple ladder sections not to exceed 50 feet in length.”

It is required that fire extinguishers with at least a 2A rating must be provided every 3000 square feet; additionally, portable fire extinguishers must be provided for employee use, and selected/ distributed based on the classes of anticipated workplace fires, as well as the size and degree of the potential hazard. These, in addition to other Accident-Prevention systems such as signs and tags, should be visible at all times while work is being performed. However, only signs can be removed or covered as soon as the hazard no longer exists.

Lastly, OSHA has strict illumination requirements for areas of operation. Job site areas that require lighting are as follows:

  • First aid stations, infirmaries, and offices.
  • Batch plants, screening plants, mechanical and electrical equipment rooms, carpenter shops, rigging lofts, active store rooms, and bathrooms.
  • Tunnels, shafts, and general underground work areas.
  • Warehouses, corridors, hallways, and exitways.
  • General construction areas, concrete placement, storage areas, excavation and waste areas, accessways, loading platforms, refueling, and field maintenance areas.

Do not assume that workers will already have a full understanding of any of the hazards associated with working around whatever equipment is being used for the task at hand. Your training program should include regular reviews of procedures and safe work practices. Using real-world examples can help workers quickly develop a practical understanding of the hazards.