Category: Equipment Safety

Improper Fall Protection May Cost West Virginia Contractor $109k

It looks like 2015 is a big year for negligent construction companies, as yet another large OSHA fine has surfaced. K&F Construction, a construction company working out of West Virginia, has been penalized for several violations of OSHA standards. The inspection of the Morgantown work site was conducted September last year, with the violations coming to a head earlier this month.

Among the violations were improper fall protection, improper eye protection during operation of a nail gun, and (the most serious and costly violation) using a forklift to support scaffolding.  No news has surfaced yet as to the company’s plan to accept or fight the findings, but the $109k fine looms regardless.

It’s quite obvious that equipment (i.e. the forklift) should never, ever be used for anything besides its intended purpose; some of the other violations may seem innocuous in comparison. When we take the time to isolate these instances, however, it becomes clear that each individual violation is just as serious as the last, and all pose a threat to the safety and health of those workers involved:

– Protecting your eyes is just as important as protecting the rest of your body, especially when using tools like nail guns and saws. Tools that are used to cut and pierce may cause fragmentation of materials or can injure workers directly; protecting your eyes from wood and metal shrapnel can be the difference between going home and going to the hospital.

– Fall protection is something OSHA pushes a lot, and that’s because falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Workers exposed to heights without proper protection like railings, stable structures, and well-placed ladders can be seriously or fatally injured. Overlooking protection techniques, no matter how small they might seem, could lead to fatalities in the workplace. Employees put their safety on the line to work on projects, and keeping them as safe as possible is our most important responsibility.

– The reckless use of the forklift is the biggest culprit in the K&F fine, and illustrates something that many companies do all too frequently. When the right tool for the job isn’t available, or there isn’t time to fix something due to deadlines, companies often go the route of “ingenuity,” trading safety for convenience and efficiency in the process. They might stuff something under the leg of a ladder if the foot is broken or use boxes to hold up platforms. Though these things may seem like good substitutes, equipment poses an immediate threat when it’s being used for something outside of its main function. When it comes to safety, don’t think exclusively about customer deadlines. Get the right tools for the job and do right by your employees. Doing a job safely is more important than doing it quickly.

Effective safety practices are vital for the successful safety management of your business. Of course it’s nice to avoid a $100k fine that could put your business in the red, but your first duty is assuring that everything is in place for proper inspections and your employees end their workday injury-free.

Learn more about how you can keep your workplace injury (and violation) free at Field iD’s website.

How to avoid safety violations in the retail industry

To shoppers, retail stores seem like safe, innocuous places. You stroll up and down the aisles and probably never think of what it takes to pack all that merchandise safely in a store that hundreds or maybe thousands of people pass through each day.

But if you’ve ever worked in a retail setting, you probably have a better idea of what it takes to create the well-oiled machine that is a busy store. There are countless moving parts and safety can be easily overlooked. Some companies are better than others when it comes to worker and shopper safety in the retail space, but there are common problems seen in many

These problems are the sort of thing that can cost a company dearly when it comes to OSHA violations and potential worker injuries. Let’s run down a few highly noted infractions:

  • Not having functional or up-to-date first aid kits and fire extinguishers.
  • Blocked walkways and/or unsafe storage of boxes.
  • Improperly placed merchandisers that could lead to a possible accident between consumers or employees.
  • Unsecured gas tanks for balloons.
  • Blocked electrical outlets or exits.

The larger and busier the retailer, the more emphasis is required to be placed on workplace safety by management. Take discount retailer Dollar Tree for example.  Dollar Tree had racked up $866,000 in fines for safety violations in the past year. Many of them can be avoided with the right technology in your corner.

With Field iD, users can create custom checklists so that these safety violations outlined above can be avoided. For example, imagine you’re inspecting the aisles within a store. Field iD users can create a step-by-step process to make sure everything is compliant. Safety managers can check off things like “Are there boxes on the floor?,” or “Do the aisles have a five-foot wide clearance for customers to pass?”

If something fails to pass an inspection, it’s recorded and corrective actions can be taken immediately. And just as important, Field iD will assure that the safety and compliance checks are in fact taking place because the process is time-stamped when you begin. In addition, GPS can be utilized to ensure that checks are happening where they are supposed to.

With Field iD, you can inspect and audit anything and everything. And the big advantage is that all the results are instantly visible to store managers and whoever else needs to see them.

In addition to general inspection and compliance, Field iD also gives store managers a better way to lockout tagout (LOTO) potentially dangerous equipment and machinery. On-the-job injuries related to forklifts are common, and many of those could be avoided through the use of Field iD’s LOTO technology. The same goes for other energy sources in retail settings, such as water valves, gas valves and electrical panels.

While the safety issues that face retailers might not be on the same scale as mining or heavy manufacturing, that doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. By using the latest safety compliance management and inspection technology, retailers can assure their employees are as safe as they can be.

High Voltage: Electrical Control and Safety

From light shocks to burns to fatal injuries, electrical equipment can cause a variety of issues on the work site. Though electrical hazards are usually demarcated clearly and employees are well-trained, electricity is a subject that demands attention to detail and a respect of machinery – that’s why we’re taking the time to cover the basics and some oft-overlooked steps to preventing shock.

            We can’t stress the importance of proper grounding enough. Metal objects, whether electrical boxes, conduits, or machinery, should always be grounded properly and tested often. An improperly grounded box can shock someone trying to gain access by screwdriver, and improperly grounded metal can send dangerous currents through all objects it contacts. That means that grounding can prevent massive networks of currents from forming through any machinery it touches, thus reducing danger all around the worksite.

Electrical Emergencies

Without consistent inspections of electrical equipment, there’s no way to tell how safe the wiring will be. In order to prevent the emergencies in the first place, make sure you have a system and schedule for keeping equipment running smoothly. In the worst-case scenario, wiring has either been installed faulty or eventually become faulty, and that means that extremely hazardous currents will be running in all the wrong places.

In an emergency where someone has been shocked, it’s important to call 911 right away. Depending on the voltage of the electrical hazard, different outcomes may occur. In the higher voltage ranges, people can suffer from severe burns or outright electrocution. In the lower anges, they might just suffer very minor burns or non-fatal shocks.  The fist thing to take note of in cases of shock is whether or not the victim is still in contact with the hazardous surface. Man times, victims can be “locked” into these contact-points via poor positioning or even paralysis by the shock.

If there is an electrical switch nearby that would be easy to deactivate, attempt to turn it off first. Turning off the contact (in most cases) will cut off the current and prevent further shock. If they are still in contact with the surface and the switch is too difficult to reach in a short amount of time, you should use a non-conductive material (like wood) to pull them away from the contact-point. The surface will still be hazardous, so you should never attempt to touch a shock victim with bare hands or other conductive materials. Also make it clear to anyone in the vicinity that the surface is still active and do your best to shut off the electricity as soon as possible.

One of the easiest ways to prevent deadly electrical emergencies is to properly documents dangerous areas and conduct regular inspections. By staying ahead of faulty parts, you can stay ahead of injuries. Lock Out Tag Out procedures are also another way to prevent anyone from activating electrical equipment during maintenance. Most of the time, preventative medicine is the best type when it comes to electrical currents.

Signage and labeling are another important part of the process, and any new worksite should be clearly labeled where any hazards are present. Informed workers are safe workers.

Workplace Hearing Loss and Prevention – Pt. 2

Welcome to part 2 in our hearing loss blog series. If you haven’t read part 1, we recommend doing so now as it has pertinent information regarding OSHA rules.

Sound Prevention and Control

Engineering sits on the highest operating level of sound control. Since this involves direct contact with machinery or a certain degree of control over the area, it’s often the most time-consuming to implement (but frequently the most effective).

The most important and oftentimes simplest form of noise control is proper maintenance. Keeping machinery well-lubricated can make it run smoother and quieter. If machines are properly maintained but still prevent a noise hazard, some might choose to implement a sound barrier. Curtains and walls can be installed at the location of the machinery to prevent noise from bleeding over into other work areas. If it is an option and the machine presents too serious a sound hazard, full enclosure presents the most effective form of sound control.

Because building enclosures and walls is not always an option, supervisory or administrative control is the second best method of sound hazard prevention. A well-informed administrator can use shifts and time to keep the workplace running efficiently while reducing sound exposure.

The most obvious course of action for administration would be to set up separate times for the usage of machinery at high levels. If possible, high-decibel machinery should be run in separate shifts with as few exposed workers as possible. The less people expose to these loud sounds, the more flexibility you have in assigning their shifts.

The second method (and a surprisingly effective one) is maintaining worker distance from these noisy machines. By increasing distance between workers and loud machinery, you decrease the effective decibel count of that machinery. If at all possible, administrators should always be keen to areas away from machinery that can be utilized by workers to reduce their exposure.

Just as distance from the machinery plays an important role, a resting room (sound proof or far from operating machinery) can give workers relief from these loud noises and prevent short and long-term hearing issues.

Finally, there are hearing protection devices like earmuffs or plugs. These are the least desirable form of sound control, as they are an isolated tool that can make communication more difficult between workers and keep users from hearing important warnings. They should only be used in special cases where administrative and engineering controls would not be enough to provide a safe environment for workers.

Maintaining a program for hearing protection helps administration stay ahead of possible issues and hazards. Running hearing tests and recording field samples from workers can help you determine who needs protection devices. A proper training program and careful consideration are all that you need to ensure that your workers keep their hearing in tact. With a hearing protection program, you can help run a safer workplace for everyone involved. For more information on hearing conservation programs, visit OSHA’s HCP webpage.

Dress for the Weather: Staying Safe This Winter

It’s autumn already, and winter’s coming around sooner than you think. There’s still work to be done out there, but you should be prepared for the change in weather. There’s so much to consider in the workplace for these changes, but we won’t be going over specific OSHA standards. We’ll just be giving you some tips that can prevent you (or others around the work site) from getting hurt.

 

The most important thing to consider this season is if your shoes or boots are up to scratch. A worn sole is a gamble, and if you’re working on heightened surfaces or roofs, you could be in big trouble during wet winter mornings.  What you want is a strong rubber sole with a ton of grip. The deeper the grooves, the better chances you have of getting traction between you and your work surface. Spend as much as you can on these. A good pair of boots is an investment and insurance.

 

If you’re doing a lot of work outside, don’t neglect your upper body. Having a non-intrusive jacket or coat can keep you from getting hypothermia in cold rains and even prevent some injury if you take a fall or slip. Make sure that the jacket or coat you’re using gives you a full range of motion on the work site. If they’re provided to you by your company, assure that the size is the right fit. You want to be able to move around freely and work just like you would in your normal work clothes.

 

Don’t neglect pedestrians or other passersby this season. If you’re laying walkways near a sidewalk or working along a site progressively, chances are someone might have access to some part of the work site. Make sure that any other workers from a different area know of any slipping hazards and that pedestrians are either warned or prevented access to hazardous or wet areas.

 

Remember that it gets darker at an earlier hour this time of year. Prepare your workplace with any lights prior to beginning work and be prepared at sundown to illuminate the area. It is extremely dangerous to work in wet conditions, especially when you can’t see what areas are slippery. Keeping the entire work site well-lit will help you prevent injury to yourself and your co-workers.

 

Our work environments are constantly changing during this time of year. Days can be sunny and dry or dreary and wet from one to the next. Being prepared with the proper attire and keeping ahead of the weather by dressing appropriately can keep you safe this Autumn and Winter half. If you see someone at your workplace whose soles are looking too smooth or doesn’t look appropriately outfitted for the job, don’t be afraid to let them know. Looking out for your coworkers is a part of keeping your work site safe and you can save a life just by giving them a few tips here and there. We hope you, your families, and your coworkers stay safe this holiday season.

Safety Series: SCBAs and Airline Respirators

Welcome to the third and final part in our small series on respiratory protection. Since we’ve covered the basics in part one and tight-fitting masks in part two, we thought we’d end this series with the most effective and powerful atmosphere-protection tools available: SCBAs and Airline Respirators. Though their usage is rarer than the other respirators, they still have a place on work sites with particularly demanding exposure levels.

 

IDLH

IDLH refers to areas in the workplace which are lacking in oxygen or contaminated to a point where health is at an immediate risk.  These atmospheres require specific breathing apparatus, most likely either: an airline respirator or Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

 

Airline Respirators

Like the tight-fitting full-mask PAPR, Airline Respirators tout an APF of 1,000. That protection level is high enough to only let 1/1,000 of the particulates in. The main difference between filtered air from a PAPR and the air from an airline respirator is the tank of compressed air. Unlike PAPRs, airline respirators have their own supply of compressed clean air which is drawn into the user’s mask.

 

SCBAs (Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus)

The most powerful of the work-site respirators, the SCBA boasts an APF of 10,000. The user’s mask is a tight-fitting device that has a direct line to clean compressed air that is (usually) strapped to their back. That means that, unlike the airline respirator, the user doesn’t rely on a large compressor that’s difficult to move with, instead relying on the supply they’re wearing. This respirator would only be used in extreme cases where the IDLH is so extreme that it would present an immediate health risk to anyone not wearing one.

Though these are less common as workplace respirators, they still have a place in more inhospitable exposure levels. IDLH areas are a serious risk to workers and should always be clearly marked as possible immediate hazards.

If workers have any questions about the proper usage of respirators or the necessity to use them, they should always be able to speak to a supervisor before they begin work in dangerous areas. The safety standards may get a bit more complex when considering OSHA’s detailed approach to covering all bases, so if you liked this series, we recommend heading to The OSHA Respiratory Protections Page to learn more directly from the source.

Safety Series: Respirators Safety Tips

If you haven’t read our introduction to respirators, you can read that part 1 here. In this blog, we’re going to cover a few different kinds of tight-fitting respirators and the different contaminants they can protect you from.

 

Different Devices for Different Jobs

Just like choosing the right tool, picking the right respirator for the right job is an absolute must. Since there are different kinds, we’ll go over the most common ones in the workplace and what they’re good for.

Once exposure levels are ascertained for each work site, employers must assign respirators to the job with the appropriate APF (or assigned protection factor). APF is a numerical value set by OSHA that determines the level of protection given by different types of respirator.

 

Tight-Fitting Respirators

These respirators depend on a tight seal being formed between the respirator’s edges and the user’s face. As discussed in the last post, these respirators MUST be fit-tested before use to ensure a strong seal.

  • Filtering Face-piece Respirator

◦    This tight-fitting respirator covers the nose and mouth and serves to rule out large particulates like dust. It is considered an air-purifying filter, thus does not protect the user against harmful vapors and gasses. APF 10

  • Half-mask Elastomeric Respirator

◦   This tight-fitting (rubber or silicone) respirator covers the nose and mouth and uses replaceable filters (or cartridges) that protect the user from different environmental hazards depending on the filters or cartridges being used. APF 10

  • Full-mask Elastomeric Respirator

◦   This tight-fitting (rubber or silicone) respirator is closest to the half-mask respirator, but provides cover to the user’s eyes and face with a clear mask. Like the half-mask, the full-mask uses either cartridges or filters depending on environmental needs. APF 50

  • Tight-fitting full-mask PAPR

◦   A PAPR (Powered Air-Purifying Respirator) uses a powered blower that pulls in air through two filters attached to the user’s body (usually the waist). The filtered air is blown into a mask, creating a clean atmosphere for the user. APF 1,000

As you can see, there are plenty of different choices for the job, and proper usage depends on exposure levels and the type of contaminant on the work site. There are, of course, loose-fitting respirators that have different uses depending on protection needs, but they vary less than the tight-fitting masks, need not be fit-tested, and are usually some form of PAPR or hood.

Cleaning reusable respirators (not filtering mask) is an important step in the process and protects users from prolonged exposure to particulates stuck on the device.

  1. Remove the filters or cartridges.
  2. Wash in warm water with a mild detergent (if possible a disinfectant). Use a non-wire scrubbing brush to remove dirt if possible.
  3. If detergent is not a disinfectant, be sure to submerge it in a manufacturer-approved disinfectant for at least two minutes.
  4. Air-dry or hand dry with lint-free towel.

Keeping your respirator clean will prolong its life and keep it protecting you better for longer. Be sure to clean it often to prevent any build-up of dirt.

Check out our final part in the respirator series of blogs and stay tuned for more important work site safety tips and information.

Safety Series: Respirator Crash-Course Intro

Sometimes, the biggest dangers are the ones you can’t see. Gasses and particles on the work site can cause serious respiratory problems that lead to illness and even death. To keep employees safe, it’s important to have a program in place to train employees on the use of – and provide them with – respirators. These safety devices (of which there are different types) prevent particles and vapors from ever reaching employees lungs by usage of fitted air filters.

Here’s a quick introduction to help you get familiar with the why and what of workplace respirators.

When are respirators necessary?

Whenever there are harmful airborne particles, gasses, or a lack of atmospheric oxygen, respirators are a mandatory part of the work place. Unless harmful emissions can be controlled (either by enclosure or exhaustion), respirators must be used to ensure that employees are protected from all airborne contaminants. If work practices or engineering control can’t reduce the exposure levels of these contaminants, it’s imperative that workers use a respirator.

Fit Testing

Prior to actually using respirators on the job, all employees (that will use respirators) must be fit tested. Fit testing is a process by which a respirator is checked for proper seal and fit to each individual’s face and head. It also assures that the usage of a respirator is medically safe for each individual (in some cases employees cannot use respirators of certain kinds).

Fit testing is arguably the most important part of the process, as it assures that each respirator will work at full efficiency and prevent any particles from seeping through. Fit testing should be repeated annually and should include all types of masks needed for different jobs.

Training and Proper Usage

Like many other OSHA standards, it’s important that employees be properly trained in the usage of all different types of respirators. Whether they’re full respirators used to filter out dust, gasses, and vapors or the simplest dust mask, employees should always know which mask is the right one for the job.

This, of course, is in the hands of the employer. Properly training employees on the usage of these masks is imperative in making a safer workplace. Programs should be in place to inspect and enforce these policies in areas where respirators are necessary.  Programs should also ensure that employees have access to the different types of masks necessary for each job.

These are just a few of the must-knows of respirator usage in the work place. Make sure to read part two in this series to learn about the different kinds of respirators, how to properly enforce their usage, and the complexities of care and proper usage.

Tragic Worksite Blast Injures Five: Could it have Been Prevented?

According to Global News, an industrial facility in Sarnia, Ontario has seen a dangerous explosion and fire.  Four workers were injured and one was taken to a hospital in critical condition.  He passed away soon after.

The explosion started a fire which seriously burned several workers.  The explosion itself caused a partial collapse of the roof, which could have resulted in more fatalities had any workers been near the collapse.  In this case, there is no good news.  Whenever workers are injured, their lives are at stake.  Whether it’s from faulty machinery or improper work site procedures, it’s imperative to be cautious around machinery and hazardous materials.

No reports as of yet have found the cause of this accident, though they have ruled out any chemicals or gas explosions.  Though speculation points to faulty machinery being the origin of the explosion, an important question remains: could this tragedy have been prevented?

Innocent lives are lost every year to fatal workplace accidents.  This is just an isolated case out of hundreds reported by OSHA annually.  These tragedies, in this day and age, could be avoided with the proper tools and procedures. That’s exactly why Master Lock introduced Field iD.

Field iD is a customizable application that makes auditing and inspecting easier than ever.  With this invaluable tool, you can keep your workers safer than ever before and prevent the most common workplace risks.  With Field iD, supervisors and workers can manage and stay tuned to all the changes and inspections at the work site and beyond. Here are just a few ways Field iD can help you keep your workers safe and machinery running smoothly:

Scheduling tools: Keep track of your inspection and audit due-dates.  Stay ahead and prepared for your inspections so you can pass on-time with flying colors.

Paperless Audits and Inspections: Field iD will keep your inspections organized with checklists and one-click audits.  The paperless model allows for seamless knowledge at your fingertips so you can always stay ahead of faulty machinery, parts, and assets.  With more detailed and efficient audits and inspections, you can expect a much safer and more informed work place.

Organize your assets: Whether it’s machinery or equipment, stay on top of all of your assets with Field iD.  Assign assets to specific work sites and even workers and keep updated with the check-in/check-out functionality.  Make sure that your workers have the right tools for the job.

Safety Scoring: Go above and beyond pass-fail with safety scoring. Keeping your operation in top shape with our automated sliders and scoring query is as easy as filling out a checklist.  Customize your scoring to your work site needs and keep your jobs running smoothly.

Lockout/Tagout: Our software is an incredible lockout/tagout tool that reinforces safety procedures by giving you the power to author and assign tasks to staff.  Keeping organized can be the biggest issue with lockout/tagout procedures, but our networked software makes it easier and safer.  From assignment to review, our system is built robustly for those who want a safer workplace for their employees.

Remember that the workplace is as dangerous as the procedures are. Preventing risk while you are ahead is the best way to keep your employees safe at work.  To learn more about Field iD from Master Lock, click here.

More Must-Know Fall Protection Requirements & Tips

If you haven’t read the first part of this series and need a refresher on common fall protection standards, visit our Fall Protection for a Safer Workplace article.

            Now that we’ve gone over some of the general rules and regulations for heightened surfaces, we can dive into the more nuanced necessities for keeping employees safe from other falls around the workplace.

Falls from ladders, as you could imagine, account for many workplace injuries. Things like slippery surfaces, improper placement, and (unfortunately) defective equipment have caused serious injuries and death among industrial work sites. Here are some tips and standards for the work site that can prevent the worst cases.

 

Slipping Hazards

 

  • Slipping hazards like oil, grease, and even water can be extremely dangerous when employees are working on ladders. Employees should be aware of any slippery materials on any rung of the ladder and should remove them (and maintain their dryness) by any means.
  • It’s just as important to assure that the floor is free of any slippery materials. Those ladders with slip-resistant feet are always a good bet, but they don’t mitigate the risk completely. If at all possible, the slipping hazard should be removed as completely as possible and ladders should be properly tied or lashed whenever necessary.

 

Proper Usage

 

  • There is a right way and a wrong way to use a ladder, yet it’s so common to see workers improperly working with ladders. It’s no surprise that these improper uses so commonly end in injury. First and foremost, the ladder should always be held by at least one hand. In order to cut time, many workers sometimes carry materials in both hands while trying to remain balanced. Something as simple as making two trips can save lives.
  • When climbing the ladder, it’s imperative that employees face forward. Climbing down ladders like stairs is one of the easiest ways to slip and can cause devastating injuries. Although it’s commonly denoted on the top shelf of a ladder, some workers still use it to get a bit more reach. Anyone who sees this should be quick in acting to get them off. With no support on that top shelf, it’s nearly impossible to prevent a fall once it starts.

 

Specific Requirements

 

  • If an area is only accessible by ladder and 25 or more employees are set to work in that area, double-cleated ladders (or two or more ladders) should be provided for two-way traffic to and from the site.
  • When the ladder in in position, every part (rungs, feet, and steps) must be spaced evenly and inspected to assure sturdiness. Inspection also includes checking surfaces for sharp points that may cause clothing snags or cuts and lacerations.
  • Do not tie ladders together in order to create longer ladders unless the ladders are specifically built for that usage.

 

Though these are just a few examples of safety precautions you can take around ladders, there’s plenty more to digest. If you want a more in-depth primer after our refresher, you can to read up Ladder and Stairway stands standards straight from OSHA.