Friday, November 7, 2008

Double Up on Summer Safety Devices

(from the June/July Editor's Note of AsphaltPro Magazine)

An online article about dangerous jobs prompted this editorial. Those of you who know me know I harp on safety ad nauseum. This magazine includes an Accident Report in every issue where I agonize for hours trying to find a tactful and respectful way to turn some poor family's tragedy and loss into a useful guide to help others avoid similar accidents.

So when a reporter outside our industry listed "construction" as the top dangerous job, I took an interest.

She didn't tell her readers anything we members of the construction industry didn't already know. The article, as most online articles are, was a generic sort of piece with little substance, telling us it's more dangerous, according to numbers the author gleaned from a Bureau of Labor Statistics site, to be a construction worker than a stunt man. Surprise.

For as harsh as I'm being, I did find something in the article that I've not read in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) or in the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommendations or in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that I summarize for you on a regular basis. What she suggested was this: Double up.

She wasn't talking about the buddy system that we often illustrate in our Accident Report—where you have a co-worker responsible for tracking your movements and safety during your shift. She was talking about the availability of your personal protective equipment (PPE).

How many of you take an extra safety vest with you to the work zone? Stop and consider how your vest's effectiveness is reduced if you're sprayed with mud and grime from passing motorists half-way through your shift. The point of the glowing orange or yellow stripes is to catch a driver's eye, and that purpose is negated if your vest is covered with a layer of road camouflage. Take the time to put on a clean vest from the cab of your truck or whatever company vehicle brought you to the site.

When you're working at the plant, have a spare set of gloves nearby. You never know when a loose belt will rip one of yours or when a hot spill will make your current pair "less than comfortable."

How about your safety goggles? An extra pair will keep you safe and everyone working smoothly if a stray piece of aggregate chips the pair you're wearing.

The point is you never want to be without all your PPE in place. So having spare pieces on hand means no downtime in the event of a minor mishap while you go looking for replacement parts. You certainly don't want to continue working without gloves, goggles, a hard hat or a vest (a clean, visible vest), so doubling up on PPE for the summer construction season is a wise and safe suggestion.

One company that we recommend for ordering supplies is Sierra Safety Co., Newcastle, Calif. You can reach them at (916) 663-2026 or visit their Web site at this link. Don't wait to have your safety materials in place. Personal protection is a serious and important aspect of every job. And, as mentioned above, the Accident Report department featured in each issue of AsphaltPro has often referred to NIOSH's recommendation of on-board camera systems to enhance safety. I had the good fortune of meeting up with a representative of ECCO, a Division of ECCO Group, Boise, Idaho, while at CONEXPO, and learned more about that company's monitoring systems. They have an extensive catalog of safety lighting and monitoring devices for construction equipment, and can be contacted at (800) 635-5900 or by visiting their Web site at this link. Also watch the pages of AsphaltPro for examples of their safety products.

Stay Safe,
Sandy Lender

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