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.

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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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Backing Safety

Originally published 10/10/2017

One of the highest causes of injury or even fatality in construction is backing accidents. Every time a machine is put into reverse, the potential for danger exists.

Here are some tips that can help make backing up a safe operation:

  • First and foremost, avoid backing equipment and vehicles when at all possible. Plan ahead and set up your site in a way that prevents the need for backing in most instances. Try to position your vehicle so that you can easily pull forward out of a parking spot.
  • Make sure your back-up alarm is working.
  • You might want to invest in back-up cameras for your equipment or vehicles.
  • Mark fixed objects on your jobsite so they are more visible to those operating the equipment or vehicle.
  • Place protective barricades to protect people and critical or expensive equipment from struck-by incidents.
  • If you must back up, know your blind spots and check them before moving your vehicle. Do a complete walk-around of your vehicle.
  • Require everyone near the area where the backing up will take place to wear high visibility apparel and head protection.
  • Limit pedestrian and vehicle crossings in areas where backing will occur.
  • Utilize spotters to control and direct traffic in high-congestion, high-activity areas. The driver and spotter should agree on a stop signal before the driver begins to move the vehicle.
  • Activate warning lights if your vehicle is equipped with them, and sound your horn before backing up.
  • Use your mirrors.
  • Back up slowly and keep your spotter in view. If you lose sight of your spotter, stop.

Remember, backing accidents are almost always preventable if employees are properly trained and exercises caution. Operators and pedestrians alike must recognize the hazards involved when backing machinery or vehicles, and know what to do to avoid accidents.

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Chain Use

Originally published 07/22/2015

Chains are common on every construction site, and you should be aware of the best chain to use for a particular purpose.

There are different chain grades, and each one has a different use or application. These can be separated into three main categories:

  • Overhead lifting chains – only use grades 80, 100 or 120 for overhead lifting.
  • Transport hauling chains – grade 70 is excellent for load securement and tie-down applications when hauling loads.
  • Other welded industrial chains – choose 30 and 43 grade chains for pulling, agricultural and load securement applications.

Select a chain designed for the job you are doing. For instance, if you are planning to pull a vehicle out of the mud with another vehicle, you should use a chain that has a grade of 80 or above. A chain of lesser grade might break, and the snapback could injure or kill someone. While stronger chains typically won’t snap, the pulling force may cause the pulled vehicle’s hooks, bumpers and frames to bend or break.

Inspect chains on a regular basis. Wear points indicate that the chain is weaker than its original grade level. Look for wear at the points of contact between each chain link and for stretched, twisted or deformed links. Make sure that the chain flexes easily, and there is no heat exposure damage like discoloration and weld splatter.

Lifting chains should have metal tags showing the grade and load rating. If the tag is missing, do not use the chain. Never assume that an unmarked chain is strong enough for lifting.

While chains are rugged and useful tools, they will break when we exceed their limits. Use common sense with chains. Never stand directly under a load, and never modify or improperly use a chain.

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