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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Tire Safety

Originally published 08/30/2019

A commonly-overlooked object on any piece of equipment is the tires. 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.

Studies of tire safety show that the most important things you can do to avoid tire failure are maintain proper tire pressure, observe tire and vehicle load limits, avoid road hazards, and inspect tires for cuts, slashes or other irregularities. Doing this can help you avoid tire failure, such as tread separation, blowouts and flat tires. Here are some safety tips for proper tire inspection:

  • 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.

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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.

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