The Dangers Associated With Complacency

Originally published 12/19/2017

Complacency is one of the biggest problems we face when completing day-to-day tasks…even in construction.

Webster’s Dictionary defines complacency as “self-satisfaction, especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” This state of mind can affect many things such as productivity, quality of work and safety. In fact, when it comes to safety, complacency can be a literal “killer” on the job. It’s easy to underestimate the risks of tasks we perform regularly, or fail to notice a change in our environment when we become complacent. When you work in “auto-pilot mode” and stop paying attention to what you are doing, it can lead to taking short cuts and risks.

Think ahead as you approach each task; even if you do the task every day. Each time you approach the task consider:

  • What you are working with,
  • What you will be doing,
  • Where you will be going, and
  • What could go wrong.

The message here is “never let your guard down.”

  • Follow established protocols and procedures.
  • Attend daily safety meetings and discuss changes and potential hazards that could develop on your worksite.
  • Wear the appropriate PPE for the task you are performing.
  • Review a JSA before starting a task.
  • Stop and think about the safety aspect of the task you are about to start.
  • Maintain good housekeeping and organization.
  • Take note of other workers or equipment coming into your area.
  • Report any and all perceived or potential hazards on the worksite.
  • Report all near misses then discuss them. This will help you identify trends, correct current problems and prevent future incidents and injuries.
  • Coach and mentor each other. Watch out for each other.

All of these actions require conscious effort. It’s impossible to be complacent when you’re putting these things into action.

So remember to stay focused. Plan ahead. Follow protocols and procedures and watch out for one another no matter how often you’ve done the same task. Each of us is responsible for the safety of our worksite. Don’t let yourself or your co-workers down.

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Carbon Monoxide Hazards

Originally published 11/3/2016

Small gasoline-powered engines and tools used in construction can produce high concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO). CO is a poisonous gas that can cause illness, permanent neurological damage and death. Because it is tasteless, colorless, odorless and non-irritating, CO can overcome exposed persons without warning. There is often little time before they experience symptoms that inhibit their ability to seek safety.

Common signs of overexposure to CO include headache, nausea, weakness, dizziness, visual disturbances, changes in personality and loss of consciousness. Any of these symptoms can occur within minutes.

Prior use of equipment without incident has sometimes given users a false sense of safety. Recommendations for preventing CO poisoning include:

  • Educate workers about the sources and conditions that could result in CO poisoning, as well as the symptoms and control of CO exposure.
  • Conduct a workplace survey to identify all potential sources of CO exposure.
  • Use personal CO monitors where potential sources of CO exist. These monitors should be equipped with audible alarms to warn workers when CO concentrations are too high.
  • Consider the use of tools powered by electricity or compressed air if they are available and can be used safely.
  • When using gasoline-powered engines or tools outside of a building, never place them near air intakes so that engine exhaust is not drawn indoors.
  • Always place the pump and power unit of high-pressure washers outdoors. Run only the high-pressure wash line inside.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is often misdiagnosed as the flu. If you suspect that a worker has symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning, take the following steps:

  • Open the doors and windows.
  • Turn off combustion appliances and have everyone leave the area immediately.
  • Since CO can cause long-term, and even permanent injury and illness, seek medical attention.

A CO detector can be a viable solution to preventing CO-related mishaps. It is a small, easy-to-install gadget that is available at most hardware stores. CO detectors usually cost less than $100, and some even combine the safety features of a smoke alarm with carbon monoxide detection.

Like other jobsite hazards, CO mishaps are preventable. We must all recognize where the hazards exist and put appropriate controls in place to avoid unintentional injuries.

Download the recording form here.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS)

Originally published 11/28/2017

Most employees on construction sites are already familiar with Safety Data Sheets (SDSs). SDSs are prepared by the chemical manufacturer and are designed to provide workers and emergency responders with proper procedures for handling or working with hazardous chemicals. If an SDS does not arrive with a shipment of chemicals or products, contact the salesperson or manufacturer for a copy before using the product.

SDSs should be available for immediate use in case there is an accident involving a chemical, and every employee working with chemicals or hazardous materials should know where the SDS binder is located on the site. Remember, when an SDS provides limited or vague information about a chemical, do NOT assume the chemical is not hazardous.

Safety Data Sheets have 16 sections, which should appear in the following order:

  • Section 1: Identifies the product and the manufacturer.
  • Section 2: Lists hazard classification, signal word, hazard statements, precautionary statements and pictograms that appear on the container label.
  • Section 3: Composition/information on ingredients.
  • Section 4: First-aid measures.
  • Section 5: Fire-fighting measures.
  • Section 6: Identifies how to handle spills, leaks or accidental release of the chemical, as well as containment and cleanup practices.
  • Section 7: Handling and storage.
  • Section 8: Exposure controls/personal protection.
  • Section 9: Physical and chemical properties of the product.
  • Section 10: Stability and reactivity of the product.
  • Section 11: Explains the health effects, if any, of over-exposure to the chemical.
  • Section 12: Ecological information.
  • Section 13: Disposal considerations.
  • Section 14: Transport information.
  • Section 15: Regulatory information.
  • Section 16: Other information.

Supervisors should regularly gather employees and review the SDSs for commonly-used products. Discuss how to:

  • Fight a fire involving the chemical,
  • Administer first aid if chemical exposure occurs,
  • Notify emergency services,
  • Clean up a spill, and
  • Determine proper PPE

If you work with chemicals and hazardous materials and don’t know where the Safety Data Sheets are on your jobsite, ask a supervisor.

Download the recording form here.

Horseplay Has No Place on the Jobsite

Originally published on 11/08/2017

Although most of us like to have fun, there is no place for horseplay on a construction site. According to the dictionary, horseplay means rough fun. Fooling around means doing foolish, useless things. Both are the opposite of safe, responsible work, and most employers ban them on the construction site.

Horseplay is generally a friendly, physical way to let off steam, but that kind of fooling around can:

  • Break your work concentration,
  • Cause you to be less likely to notice hazards until it’s too late, or
  • Cause an accident.
    • You may not notice spills or items lying on the floor.
    • You might crash into or push someone else into heavy equipment or moving machine parts.
    • You could knock boxes or materials over or onto a person.
    • You could stab someone with a sharp object.
    • Fooling around with PPE can damage it and expose you or another worker to injury or a hazardous substance.
    • Speeding or stunt driving with a forklift can cause it to tip over or hit people or objects.
    • Pushing, teasing, or otherwise distracting people working with machinery could cause pinch points or other injuries.

Horseplay can be costly to both the company and employees in doctor bills, workers comp claims, increased insurance costs and lost work. There can also be added costs to replace machinery or tools and equipment.

Employers should:

  • Make sure all employees know the rules of behavior on the job site.
  • Inform employees of the disciplinary consequences of engaging in horseplay on the site.
  • Emphasize “zero tolerance” for horseplay and practical jokes on the site.

Workers’ responsibilities include the following:

  • Do not encourage or provide an audience for horseplay or practical jokes.
  • Never initiate or participate in horseplay or practical jokes.
  • Use common sense and act professionally.

Ask yourself, “Is a coworker’s safety worth my entertainment?” Horseplay can cause severe injury and even death. Take your safety, and the safety of your coworkers seriously and wait till after you’ve left work to horse around.

Download the recording form here.