National Safety Month – IEA’s Spotlighting Safety Best Practices
THE NATIONAL SAFETY COUNCIL IS AMPLIFYING THEIR SAFETY MESSAGE THIS JUNE AND WE ARE JOINING THEM.
The National Safety Council’s goal for a focused safety month is to create a healthier and safer work environment. They are doing this by raising awareness of the leading cause of preventable injuries and deaths in the workplace to allow employees to live their fullest lives. (https://www.nsc.org/workplace/national-safety-month).
The 2023 National Safety Month is focused on 4 topics:
- Emergency Preparedness
- Slips, Trips, and Falls
- Heat-Related Illness
- Hazard Recognition
To gain more insight into these safety topics, we sat down with IEA’s Construction, Engineering, and Inspection team for their thoughts on the subject.
Emergency preparedness can take many forms depending on your day-to-day work environment.
“If you have the opportunity to help someone in an emergency, you want to be prepared,” said Bobby Ramthun, IEA CE&I Senior Project Manager.
PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is protective clothing or equipment that helps keep people safe. It helps to prevent or at least lessen the severity of injuries if workplace accidents occur.
“PPE includes, among other things, hard hats, high visibility safety clothing, safety glasses, hearing protection, and things like fall protection harnesses,” said Howard Caldwell, IEA Director of CE&I.
A good emergency safety plan accounts for as many possibilities as you can foresee. These plans help you stay prepared and knowledgeable on what to do to mitigate an emergency.
“Preparedness is the key. When accidents or emergencies occur, they happen instantaneously. Hence, preparedness is the key to avoid or deal with the ramifications of unfortunate circumstances that occur,” said Caldwell.
Being unprepared or inattentive can put you in harm’s way. For example, items can fall from above causing an employee injury if they are not paying attention or wearing proper attire, like a hard hat or steel-toed boot.
On job sites, visibility is important. The use of a high-visibility safety vest is key in the event of someone accidentally swinging heavy equipment in your direction or bumping into you. Pay attention to your surroundings as you are moving and walk clearly around trip hazards.
Becoming CPR certified is one of the best ways in which you can contribute to the safety of those around you in the case of an emergency health event.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
In 2020, about 1/3 of deaths in the construction industry were a result of trips, slips, and falls. The second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death is falls. Fatalities caused by falls from elevation has been the leading cause of death for construction workers.
“Awareness is key to protecting yourself from slips, trips, and falls – being observant of your surroundings and using due care whenever you’re moving through any particular area,” said Caldwell.
Adequate lighting is one prevention measure that can be implemented on the job site according to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), an agency that specializes in setting standards for keeping working conditions safe.
“You always have to keep your eyes open for hazards. On the job site, lighting is critical to be able to avoid any issues,” said Ramthun.
Ladders are commonly used in the workplace and on job sites. To prevent any potential hazards or injuries, ensure you have the correct tools and equipment, clear any hazards that may be in the area, ensure the ladder is secure, have and wear the correct materials, and have support when you are on the ladder.
Heat-Related Illnesses include: heat stroke, heat exhaustion, fainting, heat cramps, heat rash, heat syncope, and rhabdomyolysis (muscle breakdown).
Heat Stress is the net heat load workers are exposed to because of environmental factors, heat from physical activity, and their clothing. Heat stress can lead to unrelieved heat strain, which is a risk factor for Heat-Related Illnesses.
If someone suffers from a Heat-Related Illness on the job, you want to move quickly.
“You want to move the worker to somewhere out of the sun, try to cool them off as best you can, call 911 to get them more direct emergency help. Applying a wet towel to their forehead – that’s another way to help cool someone off as well,” said Ramthun.
Watch out for heat stroke. According to OSHA, signs of a heat stroke are confusion, slurred speech, unconsciousness, seizures, rapid heart rate, high body temperature, and heavy sweating or hot, dry skin.
Having a specific individual who checks for safety issues can be important.
“During the construction phase, the contractor employs a dedicated safety manager who travels to the job site all day to ensure no safety issues are present. They make sure workers on site are well hydrated and have water available to them at all times, whenever they need it, and that people are taking breaks when they need to,” said Michael Speicher, IEA Construction Superintendent.
Hazard recognition can be vital to preventing dangerous situations or even saving someone’s life.
“Hazard recognition in the workplace is really critical because you can be severely injured by heavy equipment, falling hazards, and more,” said Ramthun
Active recognition and control of hazards is crucial for minimizing health risks that workers could potentially face.
There are many resources available for the public to access hazard recognition education. OSHA has many resources, including a Hazard Identification Training Tool. The purpose of the tool is to aid in finding hazards in your workplace and to raise awareness about the resources that OSHA has available for workplace hazards. For more information about this tool, visit: https://www.osha.gov/hazfinder/.
“The ultimate goal is to ensure drivers can pass safely through our construction zones and that everyone working on the project, the inspectors, the contractor, and anyone else who sets foot on the project makes it home safely,” said Speicher.