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.

Download the recording form here.

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 for the Changing Seasons

Originally published 11/08/2017

As the weather gets colder and winter draws near, it’s time to start thinking about taking extra safety precautions when outdoors – whether driving or working on the job site.

Prepare for driving in cold weather.

  • You may find frost and ice on roadways and bridges in the morning. Give yourself some extra time for that drive to work. Keep in mind that bridges and overpasses freeze first.
  • Drive defensively. Watch out for other drivers who may be driving too fast for conditions or have lost control of their vehicles.
  • Make sure your vehicle’s antifreeze is adequate for the temperature.
  • Keep an ice scraper; a shovel; jumper cables; some sand, kitty litter or traction mats and a blanket in your vehicle.
  • Check the tread on your tires. If it’s less than 1/8 of an inch, consider replacing the tires.
  • Check the air tanks on your truck and make sure liquid isn’t building up. Over the winter, air brake lines can freeze if the air tanks aren’t drained.

Dress for working in cold weather.

  • Wear layers of clothing. Many layers of thin garments trap heat better than a few thick ones. You can always discard a layer if it gets warmer.
  • Consider wearing a liner in your hard hat.
  • Consider wearing headbands or hooded jackets to protect your ears.
  • Keep clothes clean and dry.
  • Wear water-resistant boots.
  • Wear windproof outer layers.
  • Wear cotton close to the body.
  • Wear gloves with liners if possible.
  • Consider wearing an extra pair of socks for added warmth.
  • Make sure your safety vest is clean and in good repair. As the days get shorter, early, low-light conditions make it very difficult for passing drivers, equipment operators and other co-workers to see you.

Take additional precautions against cold weather.

  • When possible, take breaks in warm areas.
  • When possible, use approved warming devices. Be cautious of carbon monoxide build up when indoors.
  • Use the buddy system and check on each other regularly.
  • Be cautious of ice buildup on the jobsite. Slip and fall injuries can occur suddenly.
  • When possible, schedule work to avoid being exposed to high-wind conditions.
  • When possible, consider working with your back to the wind.

The best time to prepare for the cold is before you are exposed. Think ahead and be prepared for conditions.

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.