Fall Driving Hazards

Originally published 10/25/2016

Most construction companies have a safety goal of “everybody goes home safe” and “come to work safe.” This motto encompasses driving to and from work as well as any driving performed while on the job.

Many people think that the most dangerous season for driving is the winter. However, a 2009 study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Safety Institute in Ann Arbor revealed that the most dangerous season for driving is actually fall. The study discovered that the danger of dying in a car crash is 16 percent greater in October than in March. With the most dangerous driving season up on us, here are some key factors to consider.

  • Leaves – as leaves begin to fall, there are several things to think about.
    • Wet leaves are slippery and can reduce traction.
    • They can cover the yellow and white pavement markings on the road making it difficult to determine shoulder and lane widths.
    • They can get clogged under wiper blades, impeding wiper performance and visibility.
    • Parking too close to a leaf pile can be a fire hazard with catalytic converters.
  • Deer – deer collisions are most common in fall due to mating season, hunting season and the reduced hours of daylight.
    • Pay attention to deer crossing signs. They were put there for a reason. These areas have had high rates of car/deer collisions.
    • If a collision is unavoidable, hit the deer. This is safer than skidding off the road into trees and ditches.
    • Be aware that deer sometimes retrace their steps. They will cross the road, then cross back over in the same spot.
    • If you see one deer, be prepared for others. They usually travel in groups.
  • Farm Machinery – farmers harvesting will be on the roads.
    • Watch for slow-moving vehicles. A slow-moving vehicle sign is a reflective orange triangle with a red border. It warns other drivers that the vehicle displaying the sign is traveling at 25 mph or less.
    • Make sure the drivers of farm vehicles can see you.

Other fall driving hazards include:

  • Frozen bridges – Bridges freeze before the rest of the road because they are exposed to weather on both the top and the bottom. Use caution when transitioning from the pavement to a bridge surface.
  • Black Ice – Use extreme caution when driving on cold mornings where there is evidence of frozen moisture on the roadway.
  • Rain – Early fall storms are worse from a driver’s perspective because highways have a summers worth of oil and rubber buildup on the road and can become extremely slick when suddenly soaked.
  • Hydroplaning – If you feel like you are hydroplaning, steer straight and gently back off the throttle until you feel the tires make contact with the road.
  • Fog – This is statistically the single-most dangerous condition a driver can encounter. In dense fog, turn on your low beam headlamps, slow down to a crawl if necessary, and use extreme caution.

Winter months are synonymous with cautious driving. However, being cautious in every season could save a life.

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Simulation makes puts fall protection training in your hands

Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. In 2014, over 300 construction workers died as a result of a fall at work. These deaths were preventable with the proper use of fall prevention and fall protection.

The Master Builders’ Association worked with Simcoach Games to bring fall protection training to the modern day and created an app to train anyone with a Smartphone or tablet. “Harness Hero” is an innovative approach to saving lives in the construction industry and allows you a safe way to practice setting up fall arrest systems.

Learn more and download the simulation today.

New fall prevention infographics raise awareness

OSHA, the National Institute for Safety and Health and Center for Protection of Workers Rights created a series of infographics to aid the National Campaign to Prevent Construction Falls. These images identify risks, provide steps to prevent falls and link to a ladder safety app that can help your crew make better decisions when working at heights. Download them here.

INSafe offers fall prevention training

May 2-6 is National Safety Stand-down to Prevent Falls in Construction, as coordinated by OSHA. The Indiana Department of Labor’s INSafe division will offer fall prevention training in north, central and south Indiana – free of charge. The events will include a full training session, educational materials and resources for attendees, and participants will also receive certificates of participation following completed training.

Find out more about INSafe’s involvement, registration and additional resources are available on the agency’s website.

How to Prevent Soft Tissue Injury

Soft tissue injury is one of the most common injuries in construction. Soft tissue refers to tissues that connect, support or surround other structures and organs of the body. Here are some of the most common soft tissue injuries reported in construction:

  • Muscle sprains and strains;
  • Injuries to muscles, ligaments, intervertebral dics and other structures in the back;
  • Injuries to nerves, ligaments and tendons in the wrists, arms, shoulders, neck or legs;
  • Abdominal hernias; and
  • Chronic pain.

These injuries can occur suddenly or over a prolonged period of time. Risk factors for soft tissue injuries include awkward postures, repetitive motion, excessive force, static posture, vibration and poorly designed tools. The good news is that soft tissue injuries, and the conditions caused by them, are preventable.

The following precautions can help prevent soft tissue injuries:

  • Stretch before you use your muscles.
  • Avoid bending or twisting the back or neck.
  • Avoid overexertion.
  • Use ladders to reach overhead objects and mechanical equipment to carry and move heavy materials.
  • Use proper lifting techniques. Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Make the most of your break times and stretch muscles that have become tense from continuous sitting and/or exposure to vibration.
  • Use tools properly. When possible, keep tools between your waist and shoulder height, which is considered the “lifting zone.” This gives you the most leverage, and allows the strongest muscles to do the work.
  • Keep your work area clean and free of hazards. Pick up loose objects from the floor, and clean up spills immediately to eliminate tripping and slipping hazards.

Take action today. Decide what you can do right now to help prevent a soft tissue injury, and then do it. You’ll end up with a safer workplace and fewer workplace injuries.

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Struck-By Injuries

Falls, electrocutions, struck-by and caught-between accidents account for the greatest number of fatalities in the construction industry. In fact, over 90 percent of all construction fatalities involve one of these four hazards. Thirty-three percent are attributed to falls, 22 percent to struck-by accidents, 18 percent to caught-between accidents and 17 percent to electrical shock. This has led OSHA in recent years to focus on these four hazards, especially when conducting onsite inspections. These hazards are often referred to in the construction industry as the “Focus Four Hazards” or the “Big Four.”

With this Toolbox Talk, we will single out the “struck-by” accidents and the hazards associated with them. It is important to know and understand how these accidents occur and what safeguards need to be in place. On a construction site, the potential is there to be struck from several angles. One of the more common struck-by hazards is being struck or run over by vehicles or equipment, especially those with obstructed rear views.

In order to prevent struck-by incidents involving vehicular traffic and construction equipment, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health recommends:

  • Implementing policies that require workers on foot to maintain a safe clearance from mobile equipment.
  • Requiring equipment operators to operate equipment only when pedestrians are in plain sight.
  • Instructing workers on foot to approach construction equipment only when the operator recognizes their need to approach and assures them that it is okay to approach.
  • Requiring all workers to wear high-visibility clothing at all times while on the job site.

Construction vehicles and equipment are not the only potential sources of struck-by hazards. There are many occasions when workers are exposed to overhead hazards such as tools, materials and other objects that can be dropped or released and strike a worker. Two practices to put in place that will help to avoid these types of injuries are:

  • Pre-planning routes for suspended loads to ensure that no employee is required to work directly below a load. This is a practice that should always be used. Some have even chosen to hoist materials via crane or derrick before a shift begins to minimize the number of personnel working in the area.
  • Using toeboards and screens to prevent objects from falling on individuals at a lower level.

Safety is recognizing potential hazards, and putting controls in place to avoid injuries. If we follow some basic precautions, we can prevent struck-by injuries from occurring.

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