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The Risk Factor 2nd Quarter 2005

Friday, April 15, 2005
The Risk Factor 2nd Quarter 2005

Managing Your Business Construction Safety Programs

Written safety programs are the foundation of a comprehensive safety program for employers in the construction industry.

Specialized trade contractors, general trade contractors and construction managers should all have effective safety programs in place to control the many hazards employees face during a construction project.

All companies want to keep their workers safe and prevent accidents and incidents. Many contractors are required to submit a copy of their construction safety program, along with job-specific proposals, before working for municipalities, schools, government agencies or large companies. In some cases, written safety programs are also required by OSHA standards.

What is included in a construction safety program?

A typical construction safety program should be comprehensive, address the hazards workers may encounter during normal activities and identify potential emergencies. Ideally, the program begins with a safety policy statement from a senior executive of the company, clearly stating the expectations of and support for the safety program. The safety program also includes specific modules that address various aspects of the work or specific hazards the workers may encounter. Most companies will have a general safety program for the general types of hazards, and then develop site-specific safety programs to address the anticipated hazards on a specific job site.
 
How do I implement a safety program?

A needs assessment based on potential hazards is the first step in determining what programs must be developed. Next, the safety director or safety consultant should write the programs. Before writing the programs, it is important to obtain input and feedback from the workers who will actually be doing the jobs covered by the program. It is also important to schedule training for workers in the requirements of the program, and to provide reinforcement of those requirements through daily job briefings and weekly safety meetings. In addition, regularly follow up and audit the activities in the workplace to ensure that the programs are being followed and to learn how the programs may be able to be improved.

What are the benefits of a safety program?

There are many benefits of having a written, comprehensive construction safety program. They include

  • Improved safe work performance, with better efficiency and productivity
  • Lower direct and indirect costs associated with injuries
  • Access to more bid opportunities
  • Better control of safety of your subcontractors
  • Improved ability to keep the project on schedule

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

Reduce Your Workers’ Compensation Insurance Cost

For most companies, the cost of workers’ compensation insurance is a major expense. However, there is a way to reduce that expense. Forming a safety committee can provide real savings for your company. A well-designed and administered safety committee can help to reduce the burden of running a safety program and increase the return on the investment.

The benefits to forming an effective safety committee include

  1. Increased employee involvement
  2. Increased productivity
  3. Increased morale
  4. Decreased injuries and illnesses
  5. Decreased waste of materials
  6. Decreased cost of insurance coverage

In reviewing the benefits, let’s begin at the bottom and work our way up. Pennsylvania provides a 5 percent reduction in your workers’ compensation premium if you have an effective safety committee that meets the state’s criteria. Pennsylvania offers this savings in recognition that having an effective safety committee typically reduces workers’ compensation costs by much more than the 5 percent. If an employer has an effective committee, both the employer and the state win. It’s a good return on investment for both parties.

Both material waste and injury and illness rates are reduced. Morale is increased through the improvement in both the ability to be involved in decision-making and improvement in workplace conditions. Productivity is improved as people are working smarter and safer. The burden of running the safety program is reduced as the responsibility for safety is switched from a selected few to all employees served by the safety committee.

The safety committee can serve as the H.E.A.R.T. (Hazard Evaluation Accident Review Team) of your safety and health program. It can help to strengthen the body of the program by detecting conditions that could or have caused harm, and then pumping information into the program to protect it from that harm or to repair the harm that has occurred. Using the heart and body analogy, if one hazard that you have is chemical use and your program to address hazardous chemicals is weak, you need to strengthen that “muscle” by having the H.E.A.R.T. remove the weak parts of the program, and then rebuild it.

How do you establish an effective safety committee?
Why is a committee needed?
Who should be involved?
What should their responsibilities be?
When should they meet?
Where should they meet?
 
For answers to these and other questions, or for assistance in establishing or revitalizing a safety committee, please contact Colin J. Brigham, CIH, CSP, CPE, CPEA, Vice President, at 610.524.5525, ext. 24, or email.

Legionella and Legionnaires’ Disease

What should you do if an employee or occupant at your facility is diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever? How would you respond? Who should be involved? A methodical approach to this situation is crucial. If there is a confirmed case of Legionnaires’ disease, or worse, a death, it is essential to have a plan that addresses all of the issues.

It is best to have a written, well-thought-out plan in advance of any health-related issue; however, with Legionnaires’ disease it is critical. Whenever there is a case of Legionnaires’ disease or Pontiac fever, the essential steps to reduce the potential for additional cases and to respond to the immediate issues include the following:

  • Shut off drinking-water supplies; use bottled water
  • Shutdown outdoor air intakes if there are cooling towers
  • Consult with a physician to assess specific risk factors in other occupants such as the elderly, smokers and immuno-compromised individuals
  • Consult with an industrial hygienist with significant expertise in Legionella assessments
  • Have the industrial hygienist conduct a walk-through survey to identify potential Legionella bacteria reservoirs and pathways for potential exposure
  • Develop a sampling plan and collect water samples for Legionella analysis using PCR and culturable methodologies
  • Address human resource needs and facility-related issues
  • Evaluate hot water temperatures
  • Evaluate the current treatment and maintenance procedures for cooling towers and for water distribution and storage systems
  • Have the industrial hygienist review laboratory data with medical and facilities components
  • Design and implement treatment options based on laboratory results and water sources found to be positive for the Legionella bacteria
  • Conduct follow-up sampling after treatment and following any plumbing modifications
  • Develop a Legionella control plan
  • Conduct annual audits of the plan’s effectiveness

Here are a few facts worth remembering:

  • Legionella bacteria are naturally occurring and can be found in outdoor water sources
  • Legionella bacteria grow best in warm water, typically 95 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Just one colony of Legionella pneumophila bacteria in a drinking water system is a concern
  • There is no validated air sampling method for the Legionella bacteria
  • Treatment of water systems is not always effective due to slime layers, corrosion and sediment.

Remember, Legionella outbreaks can be prevented with the development and implementation of an effective Legionella control plan. For more information, please contact Harry M. Neill, CIH at 610.524.5525, ext. 15, or email.



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