Last month, Cal/OSHA sited two Los Angeles construction companies $352,570 for multiple workplace safety and health violations, including ten serious and three willful category violations, following a fatal incident in a confined space. Neither company followed permit-required confined space procedures and a worker lost his life while attempting to clear mud and debris from a drainage shaft. (https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2017/2017-35.pdf) This is a tragic reminder that confined space work presents a unique set of hazards, and specific procedures must be developed and followed for every entry.
What is a confined space?
A space must meet all of the following criteria to be considered a confined space:
When is a Confined Space Entry Permit Needed?
If any of the hazards listed below are present, a permit is required for entry. Remember that certain work activities in a confined space can also necessitate a permit.
Internal configurations that could entrap or asphyxiate an entrant by inwardly converging walls, or floors that taper to a smaller cross-section, i.e. hoppers, bins and tanks
Where there is a potential for a liquid or solid material to drown, capture or asphyxiate an entrant, i.e. water, grains and soils
Other hazards may include electrical hazards, chemical hazards, extreme temperatures, slippery floors and noise.
Working Safely in Confined Spaces
First, avoid entry into confined spaces whenever possible. If they must be entered, Cal/OSHA has regulations for working safely in confined spaces. Please refer to the specific standard for your industry and operations. For general industries such as manufacturing facilities, T8CCR 5157, “Permit-Required Confined Spaces” requirements apply. For employers and employees in Construction, Agriculture, Marine Terminals, Grain Handling, Telecommunications, Natural Gas and Electric Utilities, and Shipyard Operations, the regulations in T8CCR 5158, “Other Confined Space Operations” and other regulations apply.
In general, confined space regulations require all employers to have:
Sources and further information:
Like most emergency preparedness training, fire extinguisher training is one of those things you hope you never have to use--but if you do, you'll be very grateful you are prepared. In the face of an emergency, you don't have time to stop and read the directions; they must to be second nature. Take time to review the use of fire extinguishers regularly with your team.
First, remember that fire extinguishers are only effective on fire in its earliest stages. If the fire is well established or you're not confident in your ability to effectively handle it, walk to safety and then dial 9-1-1 to dispatch the fire department, or follow your established emergency protocol.
If you do catch the fire just as it's starting, remember to follow the following steps, using the acronym "P.A.S.S":
P: Pull the pin.
The pin in the handle of the fire extinguisher keeps it from discharging during normal handling. You must remove the pin to allow the extinguisher to function. There is usually a plastic tamper seal holding the pin in place. It should break easily when you pull the pin.
A: Aim at the base of the fire.
You must direct the fire extinguisher at the base or source of the fire. Spraying the flames will not work. Aim for the material that is burning.
S: Squeeze the handle.
Standing at least six feet from the flames, squeeze the handle of the extinguisher to discharge. If you are using a carbon dioxide extinguisher, avoid touching the horn-shaped nozzle; this can cause frostbite.
S: Sweep from side to side
As you squeeze the handle and extinguisher discharges, use a side-to-side sweeping motion to completely cover the burning material until the flames die out. Continue to monitor the area as hot spots can cause additional flare ups.
Remember the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone?” Hearing is one of those things. Exposure to loud noise on the job site can cause permanent hearing loss—sometimes instantly, but sometimes so gradually that you may not realize it’s happening. That’s why it’s critical to be aware of noise hazards on the job site and protect yourself from hearing loss.
How do you know if noise levels are hazardous on your job site? OSHA recommends hearing protection when you are exposed to noise levels of 85 decibels (dBA) over an 8-hour period. You can use a sound level meter to measure the decibels produced by your equipment, or a dosimeter to measure the average noise exposure over your workday. In the absence of these instruments, use the “two-to-three-foot” rule: if, when standing two to three feet (arm’s length) away from a coworker, you must raise your voice to be heard, the noise level is probably greater than 85 dBA.
Noise levels can be controlled by selecting the quietest equipment or tool available for the job; positioning equipment farther away when possible; erecting sound barriers around noisy equipment; or by adding mechanical controls such as mufflers to loud equipment. When noise reduction is not an option, ear protection must be worn.
Whether you choose earmuffs or one of the many varieties of ear plugs available, proper fit and use are key to preventing hearing loss.
Be sure to include noise hazards in your Job Hazard/ Job Safety Analysis and in your daily tailgate talks. For more on hearing protection, see the OSHA pocket guide at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3498noise-in-construction-pocket-guide.pdf.
Over 2000 on-the-job eye injuries occur every day in the United States. The construction industry has one of the highest eye injury rates compared to other lines of work. The good news is that 90% of eye injuries are preventable.
The most common cause of eye injury in construction workers is flying particles: dust, metal, wood, slag drywall, cement—any of these can cause an eye injury. Hammering on metal is particularly risky as it creates metal slivers, or even rebounding nails. Here are a few other examples of potential eye hazards:
No excuse is worth risking your vision. Keep eye safety top of mind and accept no excuses. For more information, visit the NIOSH topic on eye safety. You can also view OSHA’s guidelines for eye safety here.
Ever held a cup while pouring hot coffee into it? Or held a nail for someone else wielding a hammer? In both instances, you’re putting yourself in the line of fire. If something goes wrong, injury could result. We do lots of things in our daily lives that could result in injury, but don’t. So we can become complacent and not think twice about certain tasks. But being in the line of fire, especially in the lab, can add up to trouble. It can hurt, incapacitate or, in severe cases, kill you or your coworkers. Here are some ways to improve safety by removing or controlling dangers on the job.
1. Look for hazards before you start working. At its most basic level, the line of fire is the path of a moving object that could potentially injure you or the potential path of an object that may move. Ask yourself: What can hurt me while I’m doing this task? If you’re unsure, ask a co-worker or supervisor. It’s always good to have a second set of eyes review what you’re planning to do.
2. Eliminate the hazard when possible. Once line-of-fire hazards are identified, take steps to eliminate or control them. The best-case scenario is to remove the hazards completely. An example of this would be pipetting a chemical from one container to another instead of pouring the chemical out of the container.
3. If you can’t eliminate, then control. If it’s not possible to remove the hazards, neutralize them. For example, use a fume hood and proper personal protective equipment to avoid exposure. Consider the following questions: Where is my body located in relation to the hazard? What is the worst-case scenario of my task? How can I protect myself from the hazard?
4. Use best practices for minimizing hazards. There are many easy and effective methods to eliminate and control line-of-fire hazards. For example, organize the lab area to provide unobstructed and easy access to equipment, use signs and stickers for clear labeling, keep pathways clear, eliminate possible pinch points on doors or hand tools, and always use the correct tool for the job.
When planning your work, consider aspects of the job that put you in the line of fire and mitigate risks accordingly. For example:
Reprinted with permission from http://cenblog.org/the-safety-zone/2014/05/protecting-yourself-in-the-line-of-fire
People are injured and killed each year by accidental contact with overhead electrical lines. Most of these accidents occur when cranes, excavators, tipper trucks, crane mounted lorries, mobile extendable machinery, scaffolding, ladders, farm machinery, concrete delivery trucks, etc., come close to or touch live overhead lines. Such accidents are caused by failure to take all practicable precautions to prevent accidental contact with these lines.
What kind of precautions can you take to avoid contact with overhead lines?
Cal/OSHA regulation 2946(b)(4) prohibits the storage of irrigation pipe or any other materials or equipment near high voltage lines if they are long enough to reach the lines. With some exceptions, work done over "live" overhead lines is a violation of California Title 8 regulations. Workers should never allow themselves or any tools or equipment within ten feet of lines carrying between 600 - 50,000 volts.
Do not store tools, machinery, or equipment near live high voltage overhead lines if it is possible for them to come within the minimum clearance distance when they are being moved or used.
When an employee is using boom-type lifting or hoisting equipment, the minimum clearance is ten feet from overhead lines carrying between 600 - 50,000 volts. An exception for this requirement exists when the equipment is in transit with the boom lowered and no load attached. When these conditions exist, the minimum clearance must be six feet.
If you don't know whether a line is live, assume that it is until whoever owns or operates the line verifies that the power is not on. If you are working near a dead line, make sue that it is clearly grounded at the work site.
Before work begins, be sure that:
In the thick of the holiday season, with distractions on every side, it's more important than ever to stay focused on the job and be mindful of safety. That's where the "four seconds to safety" rule comes into play: pause for four seconds to look around, identify potential hazards, and focus on the task at hand. It's a mental reset, a mindfulness practice that can help to ensure a safe season, both at work and at home.
When you catch yourself working away, but your thoughts are on last-minute gifts to grab and upcoming party plans, STOP, take those four seconds and come back to the present moment. Look for a hazard in the middle of your activity. Are you standing safely on that ladder? Is your work area free of clutter that could be a tripping hazard?
Injuries happen at home around the holidays, too: falls during decorating, burns or cuts in the kitchen and traffic accidents as we rush to and from holiday gatherings. How often could we spare ourselves the pain and hassle of being injured at the holidays if we just slowed down and took four seconds to refocus on safety?
Think of those four seconds as a gift to yourself and your loved ones. Slow down and stay safe this holiday season.
No safety program would be complete without addressing transportation safety. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation incidents accounted for 40 percent of fatal workplace injuries in 2014. Regardless of what you do, driving to and from work is probably the riskiest part of your day. In addition to seat belt safety, vehicle maintenance, watching your speed, and obeying traffic laws, defensive driving is critical to your personal safety and the safety of your team.
The National Safety Council defines defensive driving as "driving to save lives, time, and money, in spite of the conditions around you and the actions of others." (ANSI/ASSE Z15.1)
You probably learned defensive driving techniques back in driver’s ed…but when was the last time you really practiced them? Refresh yourself on these basic practices next time you’re behind the wheel:
For more defensive driving, visit these helpful sites:
OSHA defines "barricade" as "an obstruction to deter the passage of persons of vehicles." Exposed wires, moving machinery and open excavations are just a few of the potential hazards requiring barricades.
Barricade tapes allow us to demarcate and restrict access to job site hazards, but did you know that OSHA and ANSI regulations specify color coding of barricade tapes?
The graphic below shows OSHA-specified tape colors.
OSHA does not specify requirements for the size or weight of the tape, nor does it dictate the wording on the tape.
ANSI specifies colors and usage of barricade tapes as follows:
1. Yellow/Black Barricade Tape serves as CAUTION and POTENTIAL HAZARD from:
Sleep--or lack of it-- is an important safety topic that is easy to overlook. We've all heard people talking about how tired they are as if it were something to be proud of--we're working hard, so naturally, we're tired! But fatigue can be a killer on a jobsite. If we are truly committed to safety, we must guard against fatigue in ourselves and our teams. While we cannot regulate how much sleep our employees get, we must consider fatigue and sleep deprivation in our training topics, fit-for-duty screening, and as a priority in our safety culture.
According to a recent study published by the National Sleep Foundation, 56% of Americans report that they do not get as much sleep as they need on work days. A sleep deficit can impair performance by affecting judgment, concentration, motor skills, response times and more. In fact, a significant lack of sleep can affect mental and physical performance the same way alcohol will, and to the same degree.
Spread the word about fatigue and the importance of adequate sleep. Here are some pointers for improving the quality and quantity of sleep:
Remember that caffeine is not a substitute for sleep. If you are too tired to do your job effectively, coffee will not fix it. The only cure for sleep deprivation is sleep.
For more on fatigue and sleep deprivation on the job, check out this article from Industrial Safety and Hygiene News.