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August 2017

September 2017

Working Safely Over or Near Water

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

With recent hurricanes Harvey and Irma altering the landscape from sinister storm surges and unforgiving flooding rains, it is clear some form of work will need to be conducted over or near water. Whether that means making repairs to a bridge or mending a breach when the levee breaks, in either case, construction contractors and other employers need to safeguard their employees from the danger of drowning.

OSHA addresses this hazard in its Working over or near water standard, 29 CFR 1926.106, as follows:

  • Employees working over or near water, where the danger of drowning exists, shall be provided with U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket or buoyant work vests. (106 [a])
  • Prior to and after each use, the buoyant work vests or life preservers shall be inspected for defects which would alter their strength or buoyancy. Defective units shall not be used. (106 [b])
  • Ring buoys with at least 90 feet of line shall be provided and readily available for emergency rescue operations. Distance between ring buoys shall not exceed 200 feet. (106 [c])
  • At least one lifesaving skiff shall be immediately available at locations where employees are working over or adjacent to water. (106 [d])

While the standard is brief in its stated requirements, OSHA has published 18 letters of interpretation since 1990 pertaining to questions on its content posed by the regulated community. One particular letter of interpretation answers a question on the need for a life jacket/buoyant work vest for employees working over water less than two feet in depth as well as the requirement for a lifesaving skiff in shallow water.

OSHA’s stance is as follows: Section 1926.106(a) does not specify a minimum depth of water where a danger of drowning would exist. However, several factors are relevant to determining whether a danger of drowning exists. These include the type (i.e., a pool, a river, a canal), depth, presence or absence of a current, height above the water surface, and the use of fall protection.  

Depending on the factors present, there are some circumstances where a drowning hazard could exist where workers are near or over water that is less than two feet in depth. For example, where workers are not using fall protection and are 10 feet above a river, a worker may fall and be knocked unconscious. Without the use of a life jacket or buoyant work vest, a worker in such a scenario could drown.

However, OSHA adds that if the drowning hazard can be completely removed through the use of 100 percent fall protection (without exception), life jackets/vests would not be required. With regard to the need for at least one lifesaving skiff, OSHA answers the question, in the case of shallow water less than two feet deep, by stating:

"This provision does not state a minimum depth of water required before a lifesaving skiff is necessary. Unlike §1926.106(a), this provision does not include the phrase 'where the danger of drowning exists.'"

"As discussed in the previous question, in certain circumstances, such as where the worker is at a height where a fall could cause significant injury or unconsciousness, drowning in shallow water can result. The purpose of §1926.106(d) is to facilitate the rapid rescue of workers who fall into the water. Even in shallow water, a skiff will greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to reach an employee in the water (unless the employee is working in an area very near the water's edge)."

Of course, if the water were so shallow that rescuers could simply run in (and a skiff would foul on the bottom anyway), a skiff would not be required.

With roughly 71 percent of Earth’s surface covered in water, the destructive power of natural disasters will unfortunately continue to cause hardship for many. For employees involved in cleanup and repair, working over or near water does not need to add personal injury to the insult of devastating property damage.  

 


Powered Industrial Truck Pedestrian Safety Lights – What a Bright Idea!

DeRoiaPosted by John DeRoia, OHST, WCP®

According to a report published by OSHA, in 2015 there were approximately 96,785 incidents related to powered industrial trucks.  With approximately 855,900 lifts in the US, roughly 1 in 10 forklifts were involved in an accident.  Since these are common devices used in nearly all industries, any safety improvement would certainly be welcome. 

While walking through a large warehouse recently, I saw this blue light shining on the floor, moving out from an aisle way.  The light was mounted to a forklift and was shining perhaps 15 feet in front of the lift.  I thought to myself “WOW, here is something that I haven’t seen before and what a great warning device for pedestrians or other vehicular traffic in tight areas!” 

After a little research, I discovered these lights have been available in the United States since 2013.  Several manufacturers offer these lights in various colors, configurations, and mounting options for all types of powered industrial trucks.

Here is a photo demonstrating the light in action:

Forklift 1

Forklift 2

They can also be used as a warning light to represent a “do not enter area.”

Many manufacturers and retailers offer these devices and the price has been dropping as product usage increases.  Check out these products available from Forklift Safety Solutions, Forklift Training Systems, and Global Industrial.  Naturally, the cost of these safety improvements is minimal compared to the cost of an injury related to fork lift use.

I thought it would be a good idea to shed some light on this subject!  Clearly there is no substitute for proper forklift operator training, equipment maintenance policies and procedures, and bystander awareness training. 

However, just like standard PPE, warning signs, and other safety equipment, devices like these may improve overall safety awareness and reduce the odds of a catastrophic injury.  

 

 

 


Torque Tool Use

AndersonPosted by Maureen Graves Anderson, M.Sc., CPE

Recently I was asked about safe torque levels when using electrically, pneumatically, or hydraulically powered screwdrivers or wrenches. These tools are often used in assembly jobs in the manufacturing industry. 

IStock-465944934 cropped

Basically, torque is a measure of the turning force on an object. A person holds the tool in place while the tool delivers a specified amount of force, measured in English units, inch-pounds (Newton-meters [nM] in the metric world). As the tool delivers the force, the body braces against the force. When the specified force is reached, the machine stops abruptly. It is this jerking reaction force that causes the problem – over time this repeated force can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). How much force, torque in this case, can a person safely handle? The amount of torque force that a person can tolerate over the course of day varies greatly. Overall, strength, age, sex, posture, grip size and type are all factors that determine tolerance to torque forces. 

For healthy adults, we know the range of the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC), the measure of strength for this type of force. But that tells us only the maximum a person can generate. This is not a good indicator for someone repeatedly doing this type of work. For that, we need to modify the MVC with a percentage. 14% of MVC is used for intermittent static contractions and 8% for continuous static contractions over the course of day. So doing the math, I calculate that for 95% of women, the range is 6.7 inch-pounds to 14.6 inch-pounds, with 10.66 inch-pounds being the average. For 95% of men, the range is 13.6 inch-pounds to 21.3 inch-pounds, with 17.6 inch-pounds being the average.

What do you do if the torque tool generates more force than a person can comfortably handle over the course of the day? There are two approaches: engineering controls and administrative controls. Engineering controls should be the first line of defense. Here are a few options:

  • Reaction arm for conventional tool: When a torque tool reaches its specified force, it abruptly stops. A reaction arm transmits the force to the frame rather than the human body. It is interesting that the industry recommends torque reaction arms for forces greater than 12 pounds; this is a pretty good estimate for males. For women, I recommend using these torque reaction arms for forces greater than 10 inch-pounds. There are many on the market, here is an example:

             Torque Pic 1Source: Penntoolco.com

  • Pulse tools: These tools apply the force by pulsing, and are very quiet and do not require a reaction arm. However, they are more expensive upfront and require more maintenance. In the long run, they may be cost-effective depending upon how they are used. 
  • Remember that posture matters. I advise the working surface should be set so the operator can be in an upright position, with good head posture. 
  • The grip should fit comfortably in the hand, and there should be no awkward angles of wrists and hands. 
  • Lighting should be adequate to do the job. Poor lighting can result in poor posture as people crane their necks to see better. However, overly bright environments can lead to eye fatigue. 
  • Limiting exposure is an administrative control that should be considered. Job rotation is a good strategy for limiting exposure. As an example of job rotation, a person would alternate between torque tool and non-torque tool tasks every two hours.

Torque tools are great in a manufacturing environment. With focus on engineering and administrative controls, they can be safe tools too.  For more information, check out this torque tool resource from EHS Today, and hand tool safety article from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.