General Construction Site Safety
Because of the very nature of the work, construction site workers face a higher risk of accidents and injury than the normal industrial employee. The personal protective safety equipment worn to reduce lead exposures can in turn increase accident potential by:
- Reducing dexterity
- Narrowing the field of vision and clarity
- Reducing communication and hearing capabilities
- Increasing heat stress
What is an accident?
An accident is an undesirable, unplanned event resulting in personal physical harm or damage to property. An accident may be the result of an unsafe act, such as standing up in a small boat or not wearing a respirator properly, or the result of an unsafe condition, such as a leaking boat or dangerous atmosphere. These situations can be related, since an individual's unsafe act can result in an unsafe condition for someone else.
Eliminate Unsafe Conditions
People must be aware of conditions that can contribute to an accident and then work to remove exposure to these conditions. Examples are enclosing live electrical circuits or providing workers with the proper protective equipment. Of course, it is difficult to eliminate all unsafe conditions, and it's even more difficult to predict or anticipate where such conditions may exist or develop on construction jobs involving lead.
Reduce Unsafe Acts
Each worker must make a conscious effort to work safely despite the hazardous conditions that may exist at any site. A high degree of safety awareness and training must be maintained so that the safety factors involved in a job become an actual part of the job. By being conscious of the task you are performing, the environment in which it is being performed, as well as how you are going to actually perform the task, you will be capable of identifying potential hazards that will cause you to act in an unsafe manner.
Safety is the condition of being secure from hurt, injury, or loss. Therefore, to be safe, you act in two ways, Proactively and Reactively. When you act proactively, you anticipate problems before they occur and take steps to make sure accidents don't happen. When you act reactively, you are responding to problems after they occur. Workers are best protected when they act proactively.
The use of wet methods increases the chances for electrical shock when working around electrical panels, conduit, light fixtures, alarm systems, junction boxes, computers, transformers, etc. It is important for workers to be aware of locations of hazards before they begin work.
- De-energize as much equipment as possible. Use portable floodlight systems for lighting.
- Consider using dry removal in areas immediately adjacent to energized electrical equipment, if de-energizing is not feasible.
- Use nonconductive scrapers and vacuum attachments (wood, plastic, rubber).
- Wear heavy insulated rubber boots and gloves when working around energized wiring.
- Put "hot line" covers over energized cables and power lines.
- Make sure all electrical equipment in use has a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) before the job starts. This means checking outlets, wiring, extension cords, and power pickups. Check for the ground-pin on plugs.
- Use care not to damage insulated coverings with scrapers, scaffolding wheels, etc.
- Do not string electrical wiring across floors.
- Do not allow water to accumulate in puddles on work area floors.
- Ensure electrical outlets on site are tightly sealed and taped to avoid water spray.
- Always perform a pre-work walk-through to identify potential sources of electrical hazards to workers, as well as any equipment that may be damaged by wet removal methods.
- Electrical equipment and lines should be considered energized, unless tested and determined otherwise.
Slips, trips, and falls account for many of the injuries and deaths on construction jobs, especially for those working on bridge construction or rehabilitation projects. Whenever work takes place at heights there should be an evaluation of the proper methods of access and protection from falls.
Many accidents occur on bridge projects because workers think that, because they will only be "out on the edge" a few minutes, they don't need to wear any protective equipment. They are wrong. Many accidents happen in that short time the worker is exposed. It is also important to ensure that the work area is free of debris.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Many accidents occur because of all the equipment that is lying around on a work site. Much of this equipment needs to be there, and workers need to learn to be careful. However, many things can be picked up and moved out of the way, which will reduce the number of accidents. For example, when lead and other debris are removed, the accumulations should be bagged and removed from the floor as soon as possible. This simple step, which may require a little more initial effort, will make cleanup easier and the overall job safer.
Safety Harnessing Systems
Personal protective equipment, such as safety harnesses, is important when guard rails and other barriers are not possible. Falls from heights are the leading cause of death in construction. Many, if not almost all, of these accidents would have been prevented if the fall protection standard (OSHA 1926 Subpart M) had been followed. Many of the accidents occur within the first few minutes of being exposed to the hazard. This is simply because too many workers feel that since they are only going to be out there a few minutes or less, why take the time to get the harness and tie off?
Below are some general guidelines for storage and maintenance of fall protection systems:
- Always place your system where it cannot get damaged. Don't throw it in the bottom of the tool box or on the ground. Hang it up.
- Inspect each day and remove from service immediately any damaged equipment.
- Never store equipment near excessive heat, chemicals or their fumes, or sunlight.
- Avoid dirt buildup. Clean with a mild, non-abrasive soap and hang dry.
- Never use equipment for anything other than a fall arrest system.
- Once exposed to a fall, immediately remove system from service.
it is recommended that anchorage points be inspected once a week by a competent person to determine whether any of the following conditions exist.
- Excessive wear or deformity that could weaken the anchor point
- Cracks or sharp edges
- Anchor point is approved
Improper Anchorage Points
The following anchor points are unacceptable:
- Standard guardrails and railings
- Scaffolds and ladders
- Light fixtures, conduit, plumbing, or duct work
- Rebar (with the exception of positioning during form-work)
- Another lanyard
- Roof stacks, vents, or fans
Scaffolding and ladders are almost always needed for projects on steel structures and they always present a risk. The following simple steps can be taken to ensure that the equipment you are using is in good condition and the method being used is correct.
The following items should be checked on a regular basis:
- Complete inspections are done periodically.
- Defective ladders are tagged and not used. No improvised repairs.
- Safety feet spreaders and other components of ladders are in good condition.
- Rungs are kept free of grease, oil, and other types of dirt. Keep it clean.
- Ladders are not used for other than their intended purpose. Ladders must not be used as a platform or walk board.
- Extension ladders should be used with a 1-4 lean ratio. Remember, 1 foot (0.3m) out for every 4 feet (1.3m) of elevation.
- The user faces the ladder while going up and down.
- Tops are not used as steps. Get a longer ladder.
- Ladders are secured to prevent displacement during use.
Most bridge, structural steel, and demolition projects involve the use of scaffolding. Proper setup, regular inspection, and basic maintenance is important. Remember, scaffolding can be any elevated working surface, ranging from a plank laid over two saw horses to a manufactured lift.
The following steps must be followed when erecting, dismantling, or working on scaffolds.
- Setup and dismantling of scaffolding must be dome under the supervision of a competent person and follow manufacturer's specifications.
- All employees are expected to report any apparent deficiencies to supervision or the competent person immediately. Management will ultimately be responsible to ensure that the equipment is in good order and properly set up and used.
- Fall protection will be provided either as guard rails or safety harnesses. All personal protective equipment, such as harnesses, will be worn at heights greater than 6 ft (1.8m).
Typical examples of confined spaces include storage tanks, pits, sewers, and trenches. They may have one or all of the following characteristics:
- Limited openings for entry and exit
- Poor natural ventilation
- Not designed for continuous worker occupancy
In confined spaces there often is a lack of natural air movement, which leads to the most commonly found hazard: hazardous atmosphere. Workers should recognize these hazardous atmospheres:
An oxygen-deficient atmosphere has less than 19.5 percent available oxygen. Any atmosphere with less than 19.5 percent oxygen should not be entered without an approved self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) or airline respirator with escape SCBA.
A flammable atmosphere develops when a flammable gas, vapor, or dust is present in the air at concentrations between the Lower Flammable Limit (LFL) and the Upper Flammable Limit (UFL).
Any substances, including the following, should be considered hazardous in a confined space:
- Liquids, residues, or sludge from material previously stored in the tank.
- Materials used in the confined space, for example, cleaning solvents, paints, welding fumes.
Testing the Atmosphere
Properties of a chemical will determine where in a confined space that chemical can be found. Some gases are heavier than air and will settle to the bottom of a confined space. Others are lighter than air and will be found around the top of the confined space. Therefore, it is necessary to test all areas (top, middle, bottom) of a confined space.
Standby and Rescue
A standby person should be assigned to remain on the outside of the confined space and be in constant contact (visual or speech) with the workers inside. The standby person should not have any other duties but to serve as standby and know who should be notified in case of emergency.
More than 50 percent of the workers who die in confined spaces are attempting to rescue other workers. Unplanned rescue, such as when someone instinctively rushes in to help a downed coworker, can easily result in a double or multiple fatality.
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