How does $1.5 million in penalties happen when during a planned inspection an inspector observes employees wearing harnesses that were not tied off to the rope grabs and roof anchors?
Ask a construction company in Florida which has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program. It was one of OSHA’s largest aggregate citations. Unfortunately, inspectors found that it was a company-wide problem. The company was also cited for not using ladder fall protection measures and for failing to make sure employees wore eye protection when using nail guns. It made the list of major penalties on OSHA’s top 10.
But…it didn’t have to happen. And neither do Winter Weather-Related Hazards.
Seasonal hazards can occur anywhere yet, there are ways that Construction Managers and supervisors can protect Workers from winter-related ones. The following 6 ways will help protect your workers and avoid costly mistakes. The areas of work that will reveal hazards are environment and equipment.
1) Perform site inspections every morning to check for potential hazards. Some hazards can and should be addressed immediately while others can be done when winter is over, as long as it is safe. Check for icicles that could fall on workers and remove them if possible. If not, then the area should be roped/taped off.
2) Clear construction paths with salt or sand to avoid slipping. Workers should be reminded to go slow—take shorter steps to prevent slips. If snow must be cleared, make sure it is not piled too high, obstructing workers’ vision.
3) Provide a heated break space for workers (trailer or indoor area). Anytime temperatures are 40 degrees or below, there must be a space where workers can warm up and refuel themselves with warm liquids. Caffeinated drinks should be avoided because they speed up the heart rate, making workers feel warmer than their bodies actually are. Proper ventilation for heaters is a must along with carbon monoxide detectors.
4) Watch for any signs of hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot or fatigue. Workers should be trained to know the signs of these hazards and to use a buddy system so they can check on each other. Protection from the sun is as important. Sun screen (SPF 30) should be applied every 2 hours for extended periods in the sun or if sweating profusely. The nose, head and neck are especially vulnerable to melanoma. BE SAFE.
5) Personal protective equipment should include liners in hard hats to trap heat, water-proof gloves; and boots with non-slip soles should be worn at all times with multiple socks, especially with steel-toed boots. Fall arrest systems must be adjusted for bulkier clothing and inspected before using to ensure straps are not frozen.
6) Tools and equipment with metal handlebars should be covered with thermal insulating material and designed to be used with gloves or mittens. Portable heaters are to be placed on fire-resistant surfaces, away from combustible material. Again, ensure adequate ventilation. Propane tanks should be on stable surfaces (no metal on metal contact to prevent sparks).
These tips to avoid winter hazards should be practiced along with consistent safety practices throughout any season. And of course, training, training, and more training to prevent accidents and promote a culture of safety. Build on, be safe, stay safe.