Why Seat Belts?

Originally published 10/17/2017

Do you drive a vehicle for your company, or operate a piece of heavy equipment on the construction site? If so, do you wear your seat belt?

  • People give all kinds of reasons for not wearing a seat belt.
  • “They’re uncomfortable.”
  • “I’m a good driver.”
  • “I don’t need to because my vehicle has air bags.”
  • “They wrinkle my clothes.”
  • “I’m afraid of getting stuck in the vehicle after a crash.”
  • And many more.

Seat belts promote safety by keeping you from hitting the windshield, being thrown from a vehicle, or banging around inside the vehicle and hitting the steering wheel or door if you’re in an accident.

In off-road equipment, your seat belt is foremost designed to keep you in your seat in case of a tip-over. Normal human behavior is to try to jump when a piece of equipment starts to tip. The problem is, you can’t get away from the machine fast enough and the machine will most likely end up crushing you at the head, neck, shoulders or chest. So in a tip-over, you want to wear your seat belt, keep your hands and feet in the cab, lean away from the point of impact and ride it out.

Before you get in your vehicle, know your surroundings. Are there steep slopes or unstable ground?

Inspect your seat belts. Look for broken, missing or frayed belts or damaged belt buckles, and report any problems to your supervisor. Do not use the equipment or drive the vehicle until the seat belts are operating properly.

When you put on your seat belt, be sure to wear it properly. Don’t put the strap under your arm or behind your back. Be sure to cinch the belt tight so that it surrounds your torso and fits snugly.

Be sure the equipment is completely turned off, the parking brake is engaged and the equipment is parked on a level, stable surface before you remove your seat belt.

If your company doesn’t have a seat belt policy, talk to a supervisor about setting one. If you make it a point to buckle up every time you get in a vehicle, eventually you won’t even have to think about it. It will be a habit – a habit that could help you avoid serious injury or even death. Remember, it’s up to you to make safe decisions.

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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.

Download a recording form here.

Tire Safety

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.

The most important things you can do to avoid tire failure, such as tread separation, blowouts and flat tires, is to maintain proper tire pressure, observe tire and vehicle load limits, avoid road hazards and inspect your tires.

Use the checklist below to ensure your tires provide their best ride:

  • 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.

Download the recording form here.

Hazardous Energy Control (Lockout/Tagout)

Originally published Aug. 19, 2015

Effective lockout/tagout programs protect employees from serious or fatal injuries that could occur during an unexpected release of energy while servicing machinery or equipment.

Stored energy from many systems (electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, chemical, nuclear, thermal and gravitational) can cause injury.

Let’s discuss what happened when a rock crusher malfunctioned on a worksite, allowing large pieces to pass through the conveyor. A worker stopped the conveyor, climbed onto the catwalk and began pushing the large pieces off the conveyor belt. Another large piece of concrete rolled down the conveyor as the worker reached to remove the first piece, crushing his hand. Other workers reported the conveyor belt back traveled, possibly causing large chunks of debris to dislodge and roll.

This example demonstrates two different forms of energy – gravity and mechanical. Falling or rolling objects and unexpected machine movement can crush or trap you. Machine movement can even pull you into the workings of the machine. The worker in our example should have stopped and locked the machine before dislodging the concrete.

Workers should learn appropriate lockout/tagout procedures and follow them.

  • Look around you. Make sure you understand the different kinds of energy that could harm you. Think about the obvious things, like gravity.
  • Turn off controls.
  • Disconnect machines from their power source.
  • Tell others what you are doing.
  • Dissipate (bleed or neutralize) residual energy.
  • Clear work areas, and warn others before you restart the equipment.

Thousands of injuries occur every year because workers didn’t follow the appropriate lockout/tagout procedures. Don’t be one of the statistics.