Defensive Driving

Originally published 09/13/2017

The National Safety Council cites motor vehicle collisions as the leading cause of death and injury in the workplace, including construction. One way to help reduce motor vehicle collisions is to drive defensively.

The standard Safe Practices for Motor Vehicle Operations, ANSI/ASSE Z15.1 defines defensive driving skills as “driving to save lives, time and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others.”

Getting behind the wheel of a car or truck may seem commonplace, but it is likely the most dangerous thing you will do all day. Although you can’t control the actions of other motorists, you have great deal of control over how you operate your own vehicle. Here are a few tips to help you drive safely and defensively.

  1. Focus on the task at hand. Texting, phone conversations, eating, drinking, adjusting the heat or air conditioning, and engaging in discussions can distract you as you drive and lead to accidents.
  2. Expect other drivers to make mistakes and anticipate them.
  3. Slow down. The faster you travel, the longer it takes to stop, and the bigger the impact when you crash.
  4. Always use your seat belt appropriately. Position the lap belt across the upper thighs and the diagonal belt across the chest.
  5. When in doubt, yield. If you aren’t certain who has the right of way, yield. Even if you know you have the right of way, if another driver seems to disagree, give in.
  6. Stop on red. The leading cause of intersection collisions is running the red light.
  7. Use your blinkers. Make your lane changes and turns predictable and smooth, and always signal in advance.
  8. Don’t tailgate. Leave adequate space between you and the car in front of you to ensure your safety if you both have to stop quickly. The two second rule is the idea that your car should pass a fixed object two seconds after the car ahead of you when the driving conditions are good. Leave more space in inclement weather.
  9. Don’t drive after or while consuming alcohol or using drugs.
  10. Adjust for inclement weather. Wet, slick pavement increases your brake time. Do not use cruise control on wet or icy roads. Add extra space between your car and the one in front of you.
  11. Make sure your tires are in good shape and inflated properly.
  12. Use your mirrors.
  13. Stay alert and take breaks when needed. According to the National Sleep Foundation, driving while drowsy can be as dangerous as driving while drunk. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drowsy drivers are involved in an estimated 21% of fatal crashes.
  14. Keep calm and enjoy the journey.

Your life, and the lives of others, depends on your ability to drive safely and defensively.

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Tire Safety

Originally published 08/30/2019

A commonly-overlooked object on any piece of equipment is the tires. In construction, we work with, and around, rubber-wheeled equipment all the time. Properly maintained tires improve vehicle handling, fuel economy, the load-carrying capability of your vehicle or equipment and increase the life of your tires.

Studies of tire safety show that the most important things you can do to avoid tire failure are maintain proper tire pressure, observe tire and vehicle load limits, avoid road hazards, and inspect tires for cuts, slashes or other irregularities. Doing this can help you avoid tire failure, such as tread separation, blowouts and flat tires. Here are some safety tips for proper tire inspection:

  • Inspect tires daily for uneven wear patterns, cracks, cuts, slashes, foreign objects or other signs of wear or trauma. Remove bits of glass and other foreign objects wedged in the tread.
  • Use a tire pressure gauge to check the tire pressure at least once a month. Do this when the tire is cold (meaning the tire has been still for at least three hours). You can find the manufacturer-recommended tire pressure information on the vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door or in the vehicle owner’s manual. Improper tire pressure can lead to uneven wear, making the tire less effective when stopping or turning, which may cause collisions, sliding and/or stability problems.
  • Check the tire tread depth at the same time you check the tire pressure. In general, tires are not safe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to one-eighth of an inch.
  • Make sure the tires are properly balanced. This adjustment maximizes the life of your tires and prevents your vehicle from veering to the right or left when driving on a straight, level road.
  • Do not overload your vehicle. Check the tire information placard or owner’s manual for the maximum recommended load for your vehicle.
  • If you are towing a trailer, remember that some of the weight of the loaded trailer is transferred to the towing vehicle.
  • Slow down if you have to go over a pothole or other object in the road.
  • Do not run over curbs, and try not to strike the curb when parking.

Remember to do your part: be tire smart.

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Trench and Excavation Safety

Originally published 07/12/2017

Trench collapses can occur without warning, regardless of the depth. The vast majority of trenching fatalities occur in trenches 5 to 15 feet deep. But trench cave-ins don’t have to happen. They are preventable with proper planning and execution of safety precautions.

Here are some practices that will help reduce the risk of on-the-job injuries or fatalities on excavation sites.

  1. Know where the underground utilities are located before digging.
  2. Keep excavated soil (spoils) and other materials at least two feet from trench edges.
  3. Keep heavy equipment away from trench edges.
  4. Identify any equipment or activities that could affect trench stability.
  5. Test for atmospheric hazards such as low oxygen, hazardous fumes, and toxic gases when workers are in trenches more than four feet deep.
  6. Inspect trenches at the start of each shift. This should be done by the competent person. The competent person should be authorized to order immediate corrective action, including restricting entry into the excavation, until any hazards or potential hazards have been eliminated.
  7. Ensure that employees working in trenches four feet deep or more have an adequate and safe means of exit, such as ladders, steps or ramps. These must be within 25 feet of all workers at all times and will need to be relocated as the job progresses.
  8. Inspect trenches following a rainstorm or other water intrusion.
  9. Inspect trenches after any occurrence that could have changed conditions in the trench.
  10. Do not work under suspended or raised loads or materials.
  11. Ensure that workers wear high-visibility or other suitable clothing when exposed to vehicular traffic.
  12. Develop a trench emergency action plan and train workers and supervisors on the proper actions to take in case of an emergency.

Remember: Unlike most accidents, the cave-in of an excavation can usually be predicted if closely watched. So stay alert. Don’t take anything for granted.

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Heavy Equipment Safety

Originally published 07/05/2017

Only trained, highly skilled construction workers should operate heavy equipment such as excavators, loaders, graders, rollers and bulldozers. Ground-based workers should be trained in how to work safely around the equipment or stay clear. Unsafe practices by either the operator or those around the equipment can create very dangerous situations. Some of the reasons for injury to heavy equipment operators and ground-based workers on a construction site include:

  • Repairing and servicing equipment in dangerous positions,
  • Striking individuals or other vehicles with the equipment – particularly the blade,
  • Unexpected tipping of equipment,
  • Uncontrolled traffic within or through the work area,
  • Unexpected shocks or jars to the machine,
  • Sudden movement of a power unit while it is being attached to earth moving equipment,
  • Limbs of trees or overhead obstructions,
  • Leaving equipment running or in dangerous positions while unattended, and
  • Lifting mechanism failure on the equipment.

Here are a few common safety rules for operators and ground-based workers to consider:

  • Inspect and service your equipment regularly. This should be done in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and by qualified personnel. A pre-shift walk around inspection by the operator is highly recommended.
  • Do not wear loose clothing that can get caught in moving parts of the equipment.
  • Keep deck plates or steps on equipment free from grease, oil, ice and mud. Corded soled shoes are recommended.
  • Check the area for ground-based workers before operating the equipment.
  • Ground-based workers should wear high visibility clothing so they can be seen by the operator. They should also wear their personal protective equipment.
  • Establish a danger zone for ground workers. Be aware of the swing radius on certain equipment and, if possible, cordon off the area with barriers or caution tape.
  • Use a spotter and establish a standardized set of hand signals to be used by the operator and spotter. Two-way radios can sometimes be valuable communication tools.
  • The spotter should maintain eye contact with the operator. This will ensure that they are not in the operator’s blind spot.
  • Make sure the back-up alarm on the equipment is in working order and use it when backing.
  • Employees other than the operator should not ride on equipment.
  • Before starting the motor, the operator should make sure that all operating controls are in the neutral position.
  • Heavy equipment should have a rollover protective structure that meets OSHA requirements.
  • Operator should wear a seat belt at all times.
  • If working on slopes, try to avoid moving across the face of the slope. Operating up and down the slope is best.
  • Keep a safe distance from open excavations.
  • Wear hearing protection when required.
  • Never jump onto or off the equipment. Operators should always use the three-point contact rule when climbing on or off equipment. This means having either both feet and one hand, or having one foot and both hands in contact with the ladder access at all times.
  • If possible, drive equipment entirely off the road at night. If any portion of the machine projects into the road, it should be adequately marked with red lights or flares at night. Use red flags in the daytime.

Injury accidents involving heavy equipment have a high probability of fatality. It is critical that you know and follow your company’s safety rules and procedures when operating or working around heavy equipment.

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Hard Hat Inspection and Maintenance

Originally published 06/27/2017

The hard hat is one of the oldest, most widely used and important pieces of personal protective equipment on the construction site. In order for it to protect you, you must be regularly inspect it, maintain it and wear it properly. The following tips will help you keep your hard hat in optimal condition:

  1. Inspect your hard hat before each use. Begin with the shell, and look for cracks, nicks, dents, gouges and any damage caused by impact, penetration or abrasions. If your hat is made of thermoplastic materials, check the shell for stiffness, brittleness, fading, dullness of color or a chalky appearance. If any of these conditions are present, or if the shell is damaged, replace it immediately.If your work is predominantly in sunlight, consider replacing your hard hat more frequently. Ultraviolet light can cause the hat’s shell to deteriorate over time. Also, replace your hat’s shell if you work in an area with high exposure to temperature extremes or chemicals. You can find the date code on the underside brim of the cap.

    Inspect the suspension in your hard hat. The suspension absorbs the shock of a blow to the top of the hard hat. Look for cracks, tears, frayed or cut straps or lack of pliability. All keys should fit tightly and securely into their respective key slots. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for assembly. Replace your suspension if it shows signs of wear or damage.

  2. Limit the use of stickers. They won’t necessarily interfere with the hat’s performance, but they may interfere with your ability to thoroughly inspect the shell for signs of damage.
  3. Replace a hat that has been struck by a forcible blow. The impact can reduce a hard hat’s effectiveness.
  4. Never modify the shell or suspension. Do not drill ventilation holes in the shell. Never use a suspension that is not intended for use in your particular hard hat shell. Do not carry or wear anything inside of your hard hat between the suspension and the shell.
  5. Don’t wear your hard hat backwards unless the manufacturer certifies that it is safe to do so. You should have written verification from the manufacturer that your hard hat has been tested and that it complies with the requirements of the American National Standards Institute when worn with the bill turned to the rear. The manufacturer may specify that the suspension should be reversed in the helmet to ensure adequate protection. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Inspecting, maintaining and/or replacing your hard hat is well worth the effort and expense. You don’t want to be injured because you are wearing a hard hat that has outlived its usefulness.

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Housekeeping – Stacking and Storage

Originally published 05/02/2017

“A place for everything and everything in its place” applies even in construction. Safe housekeeping requires some extra effort, but the benefits are a safer work environment and less chance of an accident or injury.

OSHA Standards for Stacking and Storing Materials (taken from Standard 1926.250):

  • All materials stored in tiers should be stacked, racked, blocked, interlocked, or otherwise secured to prevent sliding, falling or collapse.
  • Maximum safe load limits of floors within buildings and structures, in pounds per square foot, should be conspicuously posted in all storage areas, except for floor or slab on grade.
  • Aisles and passageways must be kept clear and in good repair to provide for the free and safe movement of material handling equipment or employees.
  • When a difference in road or working levels exist, such as ramps, blocking or grading should be used to ensure the safe movement of vehicles between the two levels.
  • Remove all nails from used lumber before stacking.
  • Stack bags and bundles in interlocking rows to keep them secure.
  • Stack bagged material by stepping back the layers and cross-keying the bags at least every ten layers. (To remove bags from the stack, start from the top row first.)
  • Stack and block poles as well as structural steel, bar stock, and other cylindrical materials to prevent spreading or tilting unless they are in racks.
  • Materials stored inside buildings under construction shall not be placed within six feet of any hoistway or inside floor openings, or within 10 feet of an exterior wall that does not extend above the top of the stored material.
  • Non-compatible materials should be segregated when stored.
  • Do not store materials on scaffolds or runways in excess of supplies needed for immediate operations.
  • Storage areas should be kept free from accumulation of materials that constitute hazards from tripping, fire, explosion or pest harborage. Vegetation control should be exercised when necessary.

Remember, bad housekeeping can lead to accidents. It is important that OSHA standards for stacking and storage be followed at all times. Make this a habit and keep the jobsite safe for everyone.

Download the recording form here.