Employee management is a tricky business. You often get caught in the middle of everything from minor misunderstandings to major power struggles. These workplace disputes are not only dangerous, they can hurt morale and productivity. While you don’t need to earn a PhD in conflict resolution, learning these quick tips will help you ease tensions on the job. Read more
Construction can be a rough job, which is why contractor safety should always be a primary concern. There are hard deadlines to meet and working conditions can be rough. All too often, when faced with a harsh deadline, workers push extra hours and double shifts to get things done on time. Unfortunately, pushing too hard can lead to fatigue which can result in excess liability for contractors as well as accidents, injury and disaster. Here’s a look at the risks associated with fatigue in the workplace.
Construction and Fatigue
Construction work is one of the most dangerous jobs out there. The nature of the work, which involves strenuous and often constant manual labor, can be mentally exhausting. This is ironically compounded by the stress involved with maintaining proper safety procedures and balancing them with the demands of productivity.
Fatigue can affect anyone at any time, but when the work depends on keeping alert and sharp, the need to avoid this condition becomes crucial. In addition, fatigue can create health problems and drastically increases the potential for catastrophic injury as well as reducing productivity.
Foremen and managers should carefully and regularly evaluate the job site for fatigue risks. These include physical and mental job demands, long work hours, too many days on vs. days off, and environmental conditions such as extreme heat, cold or rain. Individual workers’ health and lifestyle also plays a factor.
If these conditions are present, it’s essential for the employer to address the issue. After a disaster happens it’s too late. Take care of your employees. If you see one who shows signs of fatigue, knock them off early or give them a day off. It’s better to lose a day from one employee than to lose days or weeks from an accident on site.
Benefits of Reducing Fatigue
Keep a sharp eye out for signs of fatigue in the workplace and be aware that they can come on suddenly. A worker who seems fine Tuesday may look exhausted on Wednesday. Taking steps to avoid fatigue carries measurable benefits to the work place and overall contractor safety. These include:
- Reduced rate of error, accident and injury
- Increased productivity
- Decreased maintenance costs for equipment
- Reduced human error and equipment damage
- Lessened staff absenteeism
- Reduced turnover
- Decreased contractor’s insurance liability issues
Encourage Healthy Living
A healthy lifestyle and plenty of sleep are the best defenses against fatigue. Employers should always encourage their workers to maintain healthy living and physical fitness to help boost contractor safety. Post educational posters and make literature available. Consider sponsoring fitness activities and offering benefits like gym memberships to your workers. Provide incentives for good eating and encourage employees to get plenty of rest. These simple activities cost far less to an employer than the cost of accidents and injury, and can actually save money on insurance premiums.
Hydrogen sulfide is commonly known as sewer gas or swamp gas. This colorless gas carries with it a thick stench of sulfur, or a smell similar to rotten eggs. It carries with it a number of serious and imminent health and environmental dangers. Knowing about this toxic substance, where it is found and how it is produced can save you from liability and protect both you and your workers. Here is an overview.
Where Is Hydrogen Sulfide Found?
Sewer gas can be found or produced in a number of areas. The oil and gas refining industries produces the substance, as do mining facilities. It is often found in tanning, pulp and paper processing facilities and in rayon manufacturing.
Besides industrial areas, hydrogen sulfide is also found naturally in many places. Sewers and swamps, obviously, are common areas where the gas is produced. It also forms around manure pits, stagnant water, in wells (water, oil and gas) and in volcanoes. Hydrogen sulfide is heavier than air so it collects in manholes, sewers and underground vaults.
The Hazards of Sour Damp
Since it tends to collect in enclosed spaces underground, those workers whose jobs take them in these areas are at the highest risk. It can carry risks ranging from mild headaches and sore eyes to serious respiratory problems, unconsciousness, and even death. As it builds up in confined spaces, the smell becomes less noticeable, which means it’s harder to recognize its presence and thus, easier to overlook the danger.
Sewer gas is a leading cause of workplace death from gas inhalation in the United States. The speed at which workers can succumb to this gas is astounding. In the decade between 2001 and 2010, there were 60 deaths attributed to hydrogen sulfide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A Volatile Mix
Worse, the gas is highly flammable, so even a spark in an area where a great deal of the gas has collected can create an exceptionally volatile mixture. Such conditions can result in tragedy and disaster if the gas ignites or explodes.
It is vital if you work in an industry where exposure is a possibility, to evaluate and control this danger. Make sure that you are aware of the presence of hydrogen sulfide, and at what levels and saturation the gas sits. If possible, eliminate the gas from the location. Otherwise, develop engineering and administrative controls including proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect your workers against exposure.
Exhaust and ventilation systems are vital to reduce levels and control exposure. Ensure that your workers use no systems which produce sparks. Make sure your equipment is grounded and resistant to corrosion, as well as being separate from other exhaust systems. In general, you want as explosion-proof a system as possible.
This is just a brief overview of the dangers of hydrogen sulfide. OSHA publishes detailed policies and procedures for dealing with this deadly hazard. If you need more information on insurance liability and coverage for this sort of thing, take a look at our services today.
In 122 days, 7 hours, and 45 minutes, the world will have the privilege of watching the ocean’s deadliest predators bite, thrash, and chomp their way to fame on Discovery’s Shark Week. For some, that week represents an event even bigger than the Super Bowl, and for others it’s a week that makes you think twice (at least) about even putting your pinky toe in the ocean, let alone going swimming. According to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File, the chances of being attacked by a shark are just one in 11.5 million (you’re more likely to be killed by lightning). Most people are afraid of things that, in their mind, have the greatest potential to end their existence. They fear spiders, snakes, heights, dogs, and lightning, but very few people are afraid of the air that they breathe.
That may sound like an odd fear to have but for those construction workers who use equipment that releases minute, sand-like particles into the air called “silica,” it speaks to an ever-present threat. In a statement on their website, OSHA states that, “Exposure to silica can be deadly, and limiting that exposure is essential. Every year, many exposed workers not only lose their ability to work, but also to breathe.” The proposed legislation expects to, “prevent thousands of deaths from silicosis – an incurable and progressive disease – as well as lung cancer, other respiratory diseases and kidney disease.”
While the proposal sounds feasible in theory, it may have a difficult time in the real world. The Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) testified that the new legislation lacked pragmatism, as construction sites encounter conditions (such as rain, wind and cold) that would make it impossible to enforce OSHA’s new silica rule. Instead of protecting workers, the proposal could dramatically increase costs that would leave construction firms with less money for workers and projects, resulting in layoffs and fewer job opportunities.
The CISC and OSHA will continue to debate over the positives and negatives of the regulation of airborne silica, but in the meantime, here are a few steps your business can take to protect yourself and your workers. Stay safe!
High above the ground, a man stands, sledgehammer in hand, prepared to bring down the rusted, old bridge whose ancient steel beams reach across the murky stream of water below. He mounts the scaffolding, his arms and legs propel him up the structure at a breakneck pace. The sun warms his rugged features and he slows his pace to have a look around. The ground which had been so close to him earlier now seems miles away. A bolt slips from his belt, and he counts quietly to himself, “one, two… three,” until the bolt collides with the muddy earth below. He shakes his head and grabs the next rung. It moves. His fingers slip. He falls backwards, plummeting towards the ground and just manages to get his legs underneath him. With a dull, THUD, he slams into the mud and collapses next to the river.
About a month ago, a 29-year old construction worker had a similar experience when he fell approximately 25 feet from a structure beneath the Pulaski Skyway Bridge. Miraculously, the man suffered no broken bones, though he was placed under careful observation. Not all construction workers are so lucky. According to Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, “Falls account for more than a third of all deaths in this industry.” The statistic prompted OSHA to launch a Fall Prevention Campaign back in 2012.
The campaign focuses on information distribution, giving employers the necessary lifesaving resources and educational materials so that they may inform their employees. This information includes: how to plan ahead to prevent falls, how to get the right equipment, and training employees to use that equipment. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has partnered with OSHA to expand the campaign.
Dr. John Howard, director of NIOSH, stated, “We are pleased to join again with OSHA and our NORA partners to focus on fall prevention at construction sites. Preventing falls in the construction industry benefits everyone… This safety stand-down serves as an important opportunity for everyone to prevent fall hazards.” The initiative could save both your life and the lives of your employees. If you would like to partner with OSHA for a training seminar please visit http://www.osha.gov/StopFallsStandDown/.