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Archive for the ‘Construction’ Category

Skylights are Hazards Worth Protecting Against

Did you know that OSHA requires roofers and other construction workers to secure and protect skylights and open roofs? In spite of this construction sites continue to be plagued by fatal drops.

Often workers falsely believe that plastic dome covers offer adequate protection. But these are often not strong enough to carry weight and prevent falling through.

NIOSH (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) offers the following advice for construction situation:

  • Have adequate training in place to ensure workers understand the threats of resting on skylights. Be sure they are also aware of how deadly falls can be, even from heights that are perceived as “safe”.
  • It is important that all roof openings and skylights are clearly delineated with barriers or warnings before work begins. This is especially true for roofing work but applies to any construction activity. These protections should remain in place throughout the project.
  • Workers should be outfitted with safety harnesses to help protect workers from falls.
  • Sometimes guardrails, safety harnesses, and other methods are impractical. In those cases, alternate forms of protection need to be leveraged such as safety netting.
  • Skylights can be particularly dangerous. They should have warning labels affixed that caution against stepping on them.

It may seem silly or a waste of time to some to take these precautions. But, one worker death or serious injury can completely undo a construction project and an ill-prepared company.

Running a construction company can be a rewarding business. But, risk management is critical. Small investments in safety will protect against workers comp cost increases. In turn this helps to ensure maximized profitability.

Be sure to talk with your insurance professional for other risk management ideas that can help to improve the bottom line.

It’s Only Concrete…

As a contractor, concrete is one of those materials that is worked with pretty often. It’s easy to forget that you have to be careful when handling it.

After all, cement is considered one of the safest building materials. It’s found in playgrounds, sidewalks, workplaces, and homes…

But proper precautions have to be observed when working with concrete, otherwise it can be quite dangerous.

Concrete Basics

Portland cement is the most common active ingredient in concrete. Mixed with water, sand, and rock it solidifies into a rock-hard material. Thing is, because it is so abrasive, it is really harsh on the skin.

And even if concrete doesn’t come in contact with the skin directly, it can saturate clothing and still negatively impact the skin.

In fact, fresh concrete that comes in contact with skin can cause chemical burns. It can also cause severe damage to the eyes. How bad can the burns be? According to the Portland Cement Association, it can result in third-degree burns.

That’s the last thing you want your crew to face!

Remember, your Workman’s Comp rate is based on claim experience. Taking appropriate steps to ensure proper concrete handling will help you manage risks associated with handling cement…

  • It’s important that anyone handling Portland cement wear water-proof gloves, shirts and pants that fully cover arms and legs, as well as rubber boots that are high enough to prevent concrete from getting in.
  • It’s also important to wear eye protection to prevent concrete dust from getting into the eyes.
  • Also, concrete is heavy. Workers need to take extra care when handling it. (Be sure they push with a shovel rather than lifting concrete with it.)

Following these simple guidelines will help ensure that your team is protected as they work with concrete. You’ll keep your workers safe and you’ll help control your insurance costs.

Working Safely With Heavy Equipment

Have heavy equipment on a job site? Make it a safe to operate…

Running heavy machinery on a construction site can lead to significant hazards. There are important techniques to bear in mind to keep a job site safe:

  • Make sure that repairs to equipment are not started until the equipment is fully powered down.
  • If refueling, you must be sure that engines are turned off.
  • All vehicles should be checked at the beginning of each shift to verify its operability.
  • If mobile heavy equipment is used on a public road, proper traffic management must be used.
  • If traffic control methods such as barriers are unavailable, it is critical to leverage flaggers. Additionally, they must wear appropriate safety gear to manage traffic.

Construction vehicles on a job site should be equipped with:

  • Fully operable brakes. (This includes having a working parking brake.)
  • Working windshield wipers.
  • Rollover protection.
  • Appropriate seating.
  • Lighting for operating at night.
  • Backup alarms for vehicles where vision is limited when backing up.
  • Exposed points on front-end loaders must be protected.
  • Vehicles that are loaded by loaders, shovels, cranes, or similar equipment should have a cab that offers appropriate protection for operators.
  • Controlling dust is paramount and operators in dusty environments need breathing protection.
  • Loads on vehicles must be balanced and secured.

Green Construction Increases Worker Safety Risks

 

Energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, occupant health—these concerns and more are driving the green building trend and surge in U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified structures. The council predicts total revenue across the eco-friendly construction industry will grow to $245 billion by 2016, and they intend to certify 1 million commercial buildings by 2020.

Unfortunately, the benefits that green construction provides building owners—including reduced operating expenses, higher asset value and a reputation for environmental stewardship—may come at a cost to construction employees. In fact, a study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training suggests that LEED-focused construction projects pose notably higher risks to workers.

Much of this risk comes from exposing workers on green construction projects to tasks and materials that are unfamiliar to them. For example, workers on LEED construction sites may have to work at height while installing solar panels and skylights. They may have to work with vegetated roofing materials and reflective roof membranes. The projects often require them to work with electrical current, near unstable soils and near heavy equipment for a greater period than they would on a traditional project.

Upon examination of the information gathered during the study—from site inspections and project documentation to job-hazard analysis and injury reports—the researchers determined that 14 LEED credentials could contribute to higher risks to construction employees. These included:

  • Sustainable construction waste management – 36 percent increased risk of lacerations, strains and sprains
  • Installation of photo voltaic panels – 24 percent increased risk of falls to a lower level
  • Installation of reflective roof membranes – 19 percent increased risk of eyestrain
  • Installation of green waste water technologies – 14 percent increased risk of exposure to harmful substances

While the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to do so, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), issued specific green-building construction safety guidelines in 2013. They noted that green buildings are often tightly sealed and heavily insulated, increasing worker exposure to dust and dangerous compounds during construction. They also noted that green renovations present their own unique hazards, particularly worker encounters with fiberglass and rock wool insulation fibers.

Green building contractors can do the following to improve safety for their workers:

  • Take the time to conduct a comprehensive hazard analysis before you begin any green construction project.
  • Ensure you’ve trained all workers on the hazards they may encounter due to new materials or installation processes.
  • Whenever possible, use low VOC materials to reduce health-related risks in enclosed environments.
  • Decrease reflectivity by choosing tan or light gray roofing membranes rather than white. Alternatively, require your workers to wear tinted eyewear during installation.
  • Ask designers to place photovoltaic panels closer to the ground or in the center of the roof. Consider higher parapets and designed tie-off points to reduce fall risk further.
  • Enlist a local third-party waste management company to sort and recycle construction materials offsite.

Whether you’re a green construction veteran or considering your first eco-friendly project, make sure your risk management plan addresses the increased worker safety risks of green building. Consult your insurance professional for further insight and a plan review today.

 

 

 

 

Steps to Improve Crane Operation Safety

Is There an Employment Barrier to Female Construction Workers?

The answer to that question is yes, at least according to a new report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). They found that the U.S. construction industry and extraction occupations employ 206,000 women and 7.6 million men. That’s only 2.6 percent compared to 97.4 percent. Why does this disparity in employment persist? The report suggests sexual harassment and hostility, a lack of apprenticeships and mentors, and stereotyped assumptions about women’s capabilities all contribute to the problem. And with 1.8 million fewer construction jobs than before the recession, competition for opportunities in the industry is fiercer than ever.

Sexual Harassment and Hostility

The NWLC’s report mentions a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor in 1999. It found that 88 percent of women construction workers had experienced sexual harassment on the job. It’s likely that an even greater percentage has experienced the hostility that women in the industry regularly report. This may take the form of intimidation, exclusion, and reluctance by supervisors to discipline harassing or hostile male workers.

Stereotypes and Apprenticeships

According to the NLWC report, young women in technical education programs are often encouraged to choose occupations that satisfy traditional gender stereotypes. This means they are rarely welcomed into programs for careers that men have traditionally filled, such as construction. If they do make their way into a construction program, administrators may not tell them about the apprenticeship opportunities that are available. And those that manage to land a construction apprenticeship often drop out. In fact, the NLWC reports that 51 percent of the women in construction apprenticeships between 2006 and 2007 did not complete their programs.

What Should You Do?

Regardless of whether your construction company currently employs women or not, you should develop a written sexual harassment policy. Make sure it provides a clear description of sexual harassment, examples of prohibited actions, disciplinary measures, and the procedures for reporting sexual harassment claims. Experts advise against requiring workers to report claims only to their direct supervisor, as it is sometimes this relationship that is considered a harassing one. Instead, provide a number of reporting options.

Take immediate action on every report of sexual harassment. This means you need to promptly investigate each claim and discipline the harassing party according to your sexual harassment policy. While it is not always necessary that you terminate employment of the harassing party, you do need to ensure that he or she will not harass the victim again. You should also review your sexual harassment policy regularly with all of your workers—both male and female.

To ensure your sexual harassment policy complies with any Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations, ask your legal advisor to review it. You may also want to engage the assistance of your risk management advisor to help you analyze your company’s risk of a discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuit and adjust your jobsite policies accordingly.

 

Safety “Must Haves” for Every Construction Company

You try to keep your jobsite safe, but even one construction accident can have serious financial consequences. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), they’re not limited to workers’ compensation claims or subsequent increases in workers’ compensation insurance premiums; there are indirect costs as well. These range from costs to train replacement workers and repair damaged property to scheduling delays, reduced morale and damaged client relationships.

You can use OSHA’s “$afety Pays” calculator to estimate the amount of construction revenue necessary to cover the direct and indirect costs of a workplace accident or injury. After a few quick keystrokes, it will be easy to see why you need to invest in the following safety “must haves.”

The Support of Management

Everyone in a position of authority—from the company owner to the jobsite supervisor—needs to put safety first and the project second. While most construction projects take place under tight deadlines, accidents are more likely to occur when workers are hurrying through their jobs, cutting safety corners along the way. The human and financial costs associated with the inevitable accident are significantly more expensive than the investment of time to follow protocol. Management must ensure that all workers understand this and perform their jobs accordingly.

Employee Education

Regardless of past experience, all new construction employees should be provided with appropriate training—from safety procedures to the equipment they will be using—before they’re turned loose on the jobsite. Supervisors should spend additional time supervising new employees as well. Seasoned workers can be valuable mentoring and teaching resources; use them wisely.

Tools and Equipment

Every tool and piece of equipment used on your jobsite should be in good condition, working properly and frequently checked for damages. Perform repairs immediately, and retire old equipment and tools when necessary. These rules apply to personal protective equipment (such as hardhats, harnesses, gloves, safety glasses and respirators) as well.

Work Zone Barriers

Whether your jobsite is in the middle of a city or the outskirts of the suburbs, utilize safety fencing or other barriers to keep unauthorized people out of the construction area. Additionally, use safety fencing to alert your construction workers to particularly dangerous areas within the jobsite (such as excavations and openings or locations where they may encounter falling objects).

Easy Access to Safety Materials

You can have the most elaborate jobsite safety plan in the world, the best-stocked first-aid kit, and oodles of equipment manuals and other documentation, but they won’t prevent even a single

Does an Aging Workforce Impact Construction Safety?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American workforce will include 31.9 million individuals over the age of 55 by 2015. This statistic should be of particular interest to construction employers who want to maintain safety on their jobsites. Aging not only causes decreases in strength, mobility, vision, hearing and cognition—all factors that can contribute to workplace injuries—it also increases the chances for co-morbidities (for example, a back injury combined with disc degeneration) that lengthen the time necessary for recovery before an employee can return to work.

Consider the following age-related dangers and ways to minimize their effects on your construction workforce’s safety:

Loss of Strength – As we age, our muscle mass tends to decrease. This leads to reduced strength and faster fatigue. Heavy lifting and lowering, tasks requiring grip force, and even simple repetitive movements all become more difficult as strength and endurance declines. Fortunately, you can assist your older workers by reducing the time they spend completing these tasks and providing them with mechanized equipment and tools to compensate. You should also try to keep their work in a neutral zone, eliminating the need to perform while bent over or with a twisted torso.

Diminished Vision – As we age, our eyes begin to lose their ability to adapt to light level changes. Studies have shown that a 60-year-old requires two to three times the amount of light as a 20-year-old. We also become extremely sensitive to glare, and our field of vision and depth perception can suffer as well. This can easily lead to trips, falls and other injuries caused by visual misinterpretation. Improve the safety of the workplace for your older workers by increasing the light available. Utilize task-specific lighting as well as indirect lighting whenever possible.

Reduced Cognitive Ability – As we age, our mental processing and reaction times slow. We may be just as intelligent as ever, but it takes us longer to perform mental tasks. Our motor function also decreases as a result, leading to a reduction in dexterity and coordination. While the degree of decline is generally small, and is unlikely to interfere with a construction worker’s day-to-day performance, it can make learning new tasks challenging. Fortunately, you can assist your older workers by providing them with adequate time to practice.  Hands-on learning opportunities are essential, as is accommodating for any vision or hearing loss within your aging workforce.

Did you consider the demographics of your workforce when creating your jobsite safety and risk management plans? If you’d like further assistance, contact your safety and risk management advisor.

OSHA Crane Operator Certification Extension Granted

If your construction company employs crane operators, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has decided to give you a break. When they finalized their 2010 rule on Cranes and Derricks in Construction back in September, they extended the certification deadline for crane operators by three full years. Originally, OSHA intended to require crane operators to obtain certification by November 10, 2014. However, these construction workers now have until November 10, 2017 to meet the requirement.

This does not mean you don’t need to train your crane operators properly. OSHA has emphasized that even though they’ve delayed the certification requirement, employers must still provide their workers with training that includes everything covered in certification testing. Construction company managers can find direction to more information on these topics in the final rule. At minimum, according to OSHA standard 1926.1427, training should cover:

  • The controls and operational/performance characteristics of the equipment the employee will be operating.
  • How to use (and how to calculate) load/capacity data for various equipment configurations.
  • How to prevent and respond to power line contact.
  • Identifying and dealing with site hazards.
  • Determining the suitability of the supporting ground and surface to handle expected loads.
  • Locating relevant information in the equipment manual and other reference materials.
  • Recognition of shift inspection items required by OSHA.
  • Operational and maneuvering skills.
  • How to apply load chart information.
  • How to safely shut down and secure equipment.
  • Determining whether boom hoist brakes need to be adjusted on friction equipment.
  • Determining if boom repairs are necessary on equipment that doesn’t include a means of brake adjustment.
  • How to halt unintended equipment movement according to the manufacturer’s emergency procedures.

When obtaining certification, your crane operators will take both written and practical tests on these subjects. They should not only be able to provide correct answers to certification questions but also demonstrate those skills in a real world environment.

Keep in mind, while OSHA has extended the federal certification requirement for crane operators, some states and cities have their own licensing requirements in place. In addition, the site safety requirements of some corporations include crane operator certification by an accredited organization. For many construction companies, it makes sense to proceed with operator certification now rather than wait until 2017. Organizations offering certification testing include the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, the Crane Institute Certification, the National Center for Construction Education and Research and Nationwide Crane Training.

Are you confused about OSHA’s crane operator training requirement s? Do you want to know more about getting your employees certified before the 2017 deadline? We can help. Give us a call today.

Construction and Hazardous Waste

Whether you work in residential or commercial construction, your crew may encounter or generate hazardous wastes. It’s your responsibility to ensure they know how to identify and separate these hazardous materials—from paints and solvents to adhesives and caulks—from the non-hazardous before engaging in proper disposal. Make mistakes and your construction company may incur fines and face property damage lawsuits.

Why is Hazardous Waste a Big Deal?

Hazardous wastes can pollute land, air and water. They can also endanger human and animal health. Improper disposal—for example, with nonhazardous waste—can pose a health threat to workers and cause problems at landfills. It’s also illegal in many areas. Dispose of hazardous construction waste incorrectly and federal or state law may require you to pay for costly cleanup projects.

Regulations related to hazardous waste include the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the Hazardous Material Transportation Act (HMTA), the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Additionally, 40 CFR 260-279 addresses federal regulations for hazardous waste management.

What is a Hazardous Waste Exactly?

Hazardous waste includes construction waste that exhibits one or more of the following characteristics: ignitability, corrosivity, reactivity or toxicity. Ignitable wastes are those with flash points below 140°F. Examples include solvents and mineral spirits. Corrosive wastes are water-based liquids with a pH less than 2.0 or greater than 12.5. Examples of corrosive wastes include battery acid and alkaline cleaning solvents. Reactive wastes, such as hydrogen sulfide and bleach, are unstable and readily undergo violent chemical reactions when they encounter water or other substances. Toxic wastes, which include lead paint and some adhesives, are harmful due to the presence of metals or organic compounds.

Within the construction environment, you or your crew may encounter thermostats containing mercury, lead paint, lead pipes, fluorescent lamps, hazardous varieties of glues and roofing tars, PCB caulking, mercury or lead-based batteries, aerosol and asbestos among other potentially dangerous materials. Common hazardous chemicals include ammonia, fluorine, nitric acid and sulfur dioxide.

You can find more information on hazardous wastes in the in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) catalog of hazardous and solid waste publications.

How Do I Get Rid of It?

If you uncover or generate hazardous waste during construction, contact a reliable hazardous waste management company or a treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facility. Some landfills will accept certain hazardous wastes as well. To mitigate risk to your workers and the environment, construction contractors should always follow EPA, state and municipal laws and stay informed of hazardous waste regulatory changes on all government levels. You should include hazardous waste discovery and disposal in every site plan and address associated risks in your safety plan.