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The Risk Factor 1st Quarter 2005

Saturday, January 15, 2005
The Risk Factor 1st Quarter 2005

Accidental Falls – The Leading Cause of Fatalities in Construction Industry

The leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry is falls. Since 1995, more than 300 fall-related deaths have occurred each year, or approximately one third of all construction deaths. The sad part of the story is that most of these deaths could have been prevented.

How do these accidents occur?

Employees in the construction industry have a high risk of falls because they are exposed to many hazards during building construction. The hazards are compounded when there are many contractors working on a project. One contractor may create a hazard and employees of other contractors on the site may also be exposed to that hazard.

Hazardous conditions that may result in fatal falls include

  • Improperly constructed scaffolds
  • Leading edges of steel deck construction
  • Improperly used fall arrest systems
  • Holes in floors and working surfaces
  • Open edges on floors
  • Roofing operations
  • Open elevator shafts
  • Skylights

How can these hazards be controlled?

There are two primary methods of reducing fall-related injuries: fall prevention and fall arrest systems.

Fall prevention means that the worker is protected from falling by some means that keeps the worker away from the hazardous area. Fall prevention systems must be used to prevent a fall of six feet or more. Examples are guardrails and mid-rails on scaffolds and the open edges of floors, guardrails around skylights, guardrails on scissors lifts, covers over floor openings, and restricted zones in roofing operations. These types of protective devices have specific design requirements per OSHA’s construction standards. For example, guardrails must be between 39 and 45 inches above the walking and working surface, and must be able to withstand a force of more than 200 pounds. The mid-rail must be halfway between the floor and the top rail and be able to withstand a force of 150 pounds. Covers over floor holes must withstand twice the expected weight of the personnel and equipment that may pass over the cover. The hole cover should be marked with the word “HOLE.”

Fall arrest systems are full-body harnesses attached by a lanyard to an anchor point that prevent a worker from free-falling more than six feet, or safety nets that catch a worker after a fall of no more than 30 feet. The fall arrest systems have specific design requirements. The fall arrest system must have a maximum decelerating force of 1,800 pounds, and must bring a worker to a complete stop within 3.5 feet. Anchorage points must be able to withstand a force of 5,000 pounds. Guardrails or scaffold components should not be used as anchorage points.

Training

Training is an important component of an effective fall protection program. Employees must know how to use the systems correctly, how to inspect the equipment, and the limitations of fall prevention and fall arrest systems.

For further discussion of your specific needs and information on program development, please contact Dan Bruun, CIH, Vice President at 610.524.5525, ext. 17, or email.

Can You Hear Me Now?

What you need to know about occupational hearing loss

Unlike the commercial tagline, “Can you hear me now?” while checking cell phone reception, employers need to be asking employees, “Can you hear me now?” to ensure that employees aren’t developing occupational hearing loss. You need to have programs in place to control, anticipate, recognize, and evaluate excessive noise levels. You need to C.A.R.E.!

Why should you C.A.R.E.? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued citations against companies for failing to have effective hearing conservation programs.

Some examples of these citations include

  • An $89,750 penalty to a Franklin, Massachusetts, box manufacturing company, issued in June of 2002
  • A $49,500 penalty issued in April of 2004 to a Wallingford, Connecticut, manufacturer of wire rods
  • A $94,880 penalty to a Bronx, New York, recycling company, which included a violation of the hearing conservation standard, issued in January of 2001

OSHA also is moving forward on expanding the hearing conservation program requirements for construction workers. It has held stakeholder meetings around the country in 2004 and is getting ready to offer new guidelines and requirements.

Why is OSHA concerned? Despite having a hearing conservation standard for over 25 years, occupational hearing loss is not being reduced. One way OSHA can try to reduce hearing loss is by increasing the number of inspections it performs that address noise levels.

As an example of what OSHA is looking for, Brenda Gordon, OSHA area director for southeastern Massachusetts, said this regarding the Franklin, Massachusetts, box manufacturing company, “OSHA’s hearing conservation standard requires employers to take effective steps to protect the hearing of workers who are exposed to high noise levels. These include annual audiograms for exposed workers, notifying these employees if testing reveals deterioration in hearing ability, and referring them for medical evaluation, if needed. These safeguards were not provided for all exposed workers at this plant.”

Why else should you care? Compensation for hearing loss can be very expensive! While compensation rates vary from state to state, payment for total hearing loss in both ears due to occupational exposure in the state of Pennsylvania is currently $167,440. That is for one individual.

Preventing hearing loss in your employees and eliminating the potential for OSHA fines and large workers’ compensation awards is a multi-step process. It begins with evaluating the noise exposure levels of your employees, which is a relatively quick process that documents not only the level of noise, but also the frequency of the noise. It ends with always being able to answer YES to “Can you hear me now?” If you need help with this or any other part of your hearing conservation program development or implementation, please contact Colin J. Brigham, CIH, CSP, CPE, CPEA, Vice President, at 610.524.5525, ext. 24.

Assessing Your Training Needs

Safety and health training is the most critical step you can take to prevent injuries and illnesses. Training not only greatly reduces the potential for harm to an individual, but it also protects the assets of an organization. Yet, most organizations don’t know what training is required, or the frequency, content, documentation needs, or benefits of that training.

The first step is understanding what type of training is needed, which depends on what potential issues exist in your facility. The only way to ensure that all your training needs are identified is to conduct a GAP analysis. The following is a partial list of requirements from OSHA and other groups.

  • Emergency Plans and Fire Prevention Plans
  • Powered Platforms for Building Maintenance
  • Hearing Conservation
  • Fall Protection
  • Flammable and Combustible Liquids
  • Process Safety Management
  • HAZWOPER
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Confined Spaces Permit
  • Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tag out)
  • Medical Services and First Aid
  • Fire Protection and Brigades
  • Fire Extinguishing Systems
  • Powered Industrial Trucks
  • Mechanical Power Presses
  • Welding, Cutting, and Brazing
  • Blood-borne Pathogens
  • Ionizing Radiation
  • Hazard Communication
  • Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories
  • Asbestos
  • Lead, Nickel, Chromium
  • Indoor Air Quality and Mold
  • Safety Committees

The next step is to identify the measurable goals and objectives of the training so that you can assess performance indicators. This will help you make continuous improvements and reduce the potential for injuries and illnesses. Remember, training programs must focus on specific subject matter, meet all the requirements, be specific to the facility, and include a written test at the end to measure effectiveness.

1Source Safety and Health professionals can develop and present training programs that meet your needs and satisfy the requirements of the regulations. We specialize in the presentation of customized programs and workshop activities. Our courses have been well received by both large and small organizations, including hospitals, schools, construction firms, environmental companies, manufacturing companies, and commercial facilities. We appreciate that training time is valuable and can design a program to suit your workplace.

Selected training topics

  • HAZWOPER Initial and Refresher
  • Confined Space Entry
  • Fall Protection
  • Lockout/Tag out
  • Respiratory Protection
  • Safety Committee
  • Incident Investigation
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • DOT Hazardous Material Modules
  • Hazard Communication/Right-to-Know
  • Indoor Air Quality
  • Mold Recognition, Evaluation, and Control
  • Two-hour Asbestos Awareness
  • Ergonomics
  • Hearing Conservation
  • Site-specific Agenda

For more information please contact Colin J. Brigham, CIH, CSP, CPE, CPEA, Vice President, at 610.524.5525, ext. 24.



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