UTILITY KNIFE SAFETY

Hand lacerations are the most common hand injury in the workplace (63%). They are the Number 2 leading cause of work-related injury and are the most preventable. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports:

  • There are 110,000 lost-time hand injuries annually.
  • Hand injuries send more than one million workers to the emergency room each year.
  • 70% of workers who experienced hand injuries were not wearing gloves.

COMMON CAUSES OF HAND LACERATIONS WHEN USING A UTILITY KNIFE

  • Pulling the knife towards you instead of away from your body.
  • Using a dull blade. Dull blades require more pressure, increasing the potential for injury.
  • Cutting more than the knife can handle.
  • Incorrectly storing the knife with the blade extended.
  • Not wearing hand protection.
  • Not inspecting the knife before use.

CORRECT USE

  • Wear a cut-resistant glove for hand protection.
  • Draw the knife away from your body.
  • Ensure the knife is the correct tool for the task.
  • Inspect the blade to make sure it’s not damaged or dull.
  • Properly store and retract the blade.
  • Make your cut on a solid surface. Never hold an object in your lap or against any part of your body.

Some hand lacerations can be minor and only need first aid. Other hand lacerations can be severe, requiring medical attention and potentially causing nerve damage that limits hand dexterity for life

Download a printable PDF and recording form here.

Members can download the audio version of this toolbox talk here.

FIRE EXTINGUISHERS

A fire on a construction site can result in serious injuries and loss of materials, equipment and even lives. All employees need to be familiar with the jobsite’s fire protection program – who to contact, what to do, the various types of fire extinguishers and their locations throughout the jobsite. Employees should be trained in the use and limitations of fire extinguishers to ensure they are used effectively when needed.

Fire extinguishers are meant to handle only small fires. If a fire becomes too large or the environment becomes too dangerous, employees should evacuate the area.

  • The fire is too large.
  • The air is unsafe to breathe.
  • The environment is too hot or the smoke limits visibility.
  • Evacuation paths are impaired.

Keep the fire in front of you. Never place yourself where the fire obstructs your escape.

Classes of Fires and Fire Extinguishers

  • A Wood, paper, ordinary trash.
  • B Flammable liquids (gasoline, oil, grease, solvents, paints, etc.).
  • C Energized electrical equipment.
  • D Combustible metals.
  • K Kitchen fires.

Use the P.A.S.S. Method for correctly using a fire extinguisher.

  • Pull the Pin – Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low – Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly to operate and discharge.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

Fire Extinguisher Inspection

  • Visually inspect portable extinguishers or hoses monthly.
  • Verify the fire extinguisher is properly charge. Indicator must always be in the green zone.
  • Perform an annual maintenance check on portable fire extinguishers and document.
  • Fire extinguisher must be easily accessible.

Download the printable PDF and Recording Form here.

Members can download the audio version of this toolbox talk 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.

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.

Back Injury: Causes and Prevention

Originally published 11/01/2017

Back injuries are among the most common workplace injury, even in construction. Once injured, the back can become a life-long source of recurrent pain and potential re-injury that often surgery and medication cannot fix.

The causes of back injuries include:

  • Reaching while lifting,
  • Poor posture,
  • Staying in one position for too long,
  • Poor physical condition,
  • Repetitive lifting,
  • Twisting or bending while lifting,
  • Heavy lifting,
  • Fatigue,
  • Poor footing and
  • Vibrations, such as in lift trucks or delivery trucks.

Back injury can be prevented if you:

  • Minimize the weight, range of motion and frequency of the activity.
  • Plan ahead. Decide how you are going to pick up a load, carry it and set it down, then check the route for obstructions. Always get assistance if the load is too heavy or too awkward.
  • Get as close to the load as possible before lifting. The further the load is from the center line of your body, the greater the strain imposed on your back.
  • Reduce the size or weight of the object(s) being lifted.
  • If possible, push rather than pull an object.
  • Make sure your material handling equipment has handles that can be easily grasped while in an upright posture.
  • Elevate bins and containers and tilt them if possible, to improve access to the materials inside the containers.
  • Provide lift-assist devices.

Remember, too, that stretching before beginning work helps to warm up muscles and prevent strains and sprains. Strength and fitness training can also benefit workers. Rotating employees, providing short breaks every hour or so or using a two-person lift may be helpful in reducing injury as well.

Reducing repetitive stress and acute back injuries by improving workplace ergonomics and worker training improves health and productivity – a win-win for workers and employers.

Download the recording form here.

Accident Causes and Prevention

Originally published 10/24/2019

Accidents on construction sites generally spur questions like, “What happened?” or “How did it happen?” But accidents don’t just happen. They can almost always be traced back to an unsafe condition, an unsafe act or a combination of both. To eliminate accidents, we must eliminate unsafe conditions and acts.

Unsafe conditions are usually created by:

  • Poor housekeeping;
  • Improper storage;
  • Defective or damaged equipment;
  • Improper maintenance;
  • Removing guards from machinery and, in some rare cases,
  • Unsafe procedures.

Unsafe conditions can be eliminated if crews regularly inspect the worksite and equipment, identify any hazards that exist and correct them.

Although unsafe conditions can lead to accidents, most safety experts agree that the majority of accidents are caused by unsafe acts. These are careless things that people do that are most often the result of poor habits, taking short cuts and even disregarding safety policies and procedures.

Examples of unsafe acts include:

  • Reaching into equipment or machinery while it is running;
  • Backing equipment without looking behind the equipment or using a spotter;
  • Not inspecting tools and equipment before use;
  • Using damaged tools or equipment or
  • Indulging in horseplay on the job.

Remember, because all accidents are caused by an unsafe condition or act, it is possible to prevent them. Do a thorough safety audit on your jobsite. Correct all unsafe conditions and report all unsafe acts.

If an accident does occur, do a safety investigation – not simply to find fault or place blame, but to find out what needs to be corrected so that future accidents can be prevented.

Most companies have safety rules to prevent unsafe acts. Practice them. Eventually, safety will become a habit – a habit that could save a life.

Download the recording form here