General Safety

Vehicle Lift Safety

LaCrossPosted by Jeremiah LaCross

Vehicle lifts are widely used throughout the automotive service industry and are very effective pieces of equipment when proper safety procedures are followed. There are different types of lifts which include two-post surface mounted, four post, in-ground, mobile, etc. Each type of lift has specific safety procedures for safely lifting the vehicles.

Since 2007, OSHA has conducted several automotive lift inspections, 11 of which resulted from fatalities. Click here to read more about one of these fatalities.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a total of 15,000 workers were treated in hospitals for automotive lift, jack or jack stand injuries.

What are the employers responsibilities?

  • Ensure that annual inspections are conducted by a qualified lift service company.
  • Ensure daily inspections and proper operation of arm restraints, locking devices, shut off devices for over travel, lift controls, drive chains, wire rope, hoses, wiring, hydraulic leaks, floor cracks, and anchors.
  • Ensure that all users of the vehicle lifts are properly trained in the safe operation and maintain the training logs.
    • Many lift service companies provide training as an additional value added service.
  • Maintain all vehicle lift maintenance and/or repair logs.
  • Ensure a lockout/tagout program is in place for all vehicle lifts in the facility.

What are the operators responsibilities?

  • Immediately report any unsafe conditions identified during the daily inspection to your Supervisor.
  • Never use a vehicle lift without receiving proper safety training.
  • Always utilize all safety features per the manufacturer’s instruction.
    • Example: ALWAYS lower the lift onto the safety locks before proceeding to work under the vehicle.
  • Become familiar with vehicle lift points, which can be found in the service manuals and/or manufacturer’s instructions.
  • ALWAYS inspect the vehicle prior to lifting. Certain conditions may change the vehicles stability such as snow or ice buildup in a truck bed, a plumbing or mechanical van with excessive weight in the back.  
  • Maintain a clean work area to avoid slip or trip hazards that can cause injury.

What are some common violations that we see?

  • Failure to properly lower the vehicle onto the safety locks. This places the entire load force on the hydraulics, which creates a significant crush-by hazard should the hydraulics fail.
  • Failure to conduct vehicle lift safety training for all operators.
  • Failure to retain the proper documentation of the following:
    • Safety training.
    • Maintenance/repair logs.
    • Lift inspections.

More information regarding vehicle lift safety is available from the Automotive Lift Institute and the Automotive Equipment Technical Institute. 

Please reach out to your MEMIC Loss Control Representative with any questions or for further assistance.  


Office Ergonomics is Music to My Ears

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP®

As a fan of most music genres, especially alternative and classic rock, several song titles come to mind that I believe fit nicely with the topic of office ergonomics.  Unlike the Billboard Top 100, these 12 songs are not ranked in any particular order but rather correspond to sound advice on avoiding repetitive stress or cumulative trauma injuries related to computer use.  And with a one and a two and a three…

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  • Mighty Mouse by Tesla from the album Into the Now released in 2004: While the mouse is a mighty input device, it can be a source of significant stress to the wrist, forearm, elbow, and even the shoulder and lateral side of the neck. Keep the mouse in close proximity to the keyboard within short reach.  Consider using a vertically designed mouse to approximate a more neutral forearm posture.  Navigate into the mouse properties via the control panel to speed up the pointer motion speed from the default halfway setting.  You won’t have to wrestle with the mouse so much to move the cursor arrow across the monitor screen.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Not All Mice Are Created Equal posted in 2014

  • Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie from the album Codes and Keys released in 2011: Use shortcut keys as a quicker and easier method of navigating and executing commands in software programs. Keep the keyboard flat on the work surface to minimize hand/wrist extension.  Consider using an ergonomic keyboard for a less constrained typing posture.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Ten Tips for a Perfect Fit posted in 2008

  • The Big Screen by Travis from the album Where You Stand released in 2013: Monitor technology has come a long way from the days of the 15 inch CRT design. Large 24 inch screens help to spare the eyes from straining to see the display items.  When using two monitors, keep the primary monitor front and center or if both are shared virtually equally, mate them symmetrically with the centerline of the keyboard with roughly a 30 degree angle between the two.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Dealing with Dual Monitors posted in 2012

  • Far Away Eyes by The Rolling Stones from the album Some Girls released in 1978: To avoid a forward head posture (anterior head carriage) with torso flexion, position the monitor(s) within a range of 18 to 24 inches from your eyes. To reduce eyestrain, apply the 20/20/20 rule (for every 20 minutes of fixed gaze on the monitor screen, look at an object about 20 feet away for 20 seconds).

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You posted in 2015

  • Hold Your Head Up by Argent from the album All Together Now released in 1972: Depending on prescription eyewear, adjust the height of the monitor(s) to promote a neutral, upright head posture.  A ream of paper (2 inches thick) or two inserted under the base of the monitor is a frugal way to increase the screen height.  Use a document holder or inline adjustable angle copy stand to minimize downward head tilt.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Heads-up! “Text Neck” on the Rise posted in 2013

  • The Phone Call by The Pretenders from the album Pretenders released in 1980: The phone should be positioned on the side of the keyboard and monitor for the hand favored in grabbing the handset to prevent a crossover reach. Use a phone headset if cradling the handset between the neck and shoulder is a constant and prolonged task when conversing with the party on the other end of the line.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Sherlock Holmes, the Ergonomist posted in 2015

  • Someone Keeps Moving My Chair by They Might Be Giants from the album Flood released in 1990: Ah, the shared chair that someone adjusts to their own liking. Get to know the chair’s adjustment features such as backrest tilt and height, seat pan height, depth, and angle, lumbar support, and armrest movement to restore it back to a comfortable fit.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Ergonomics by the Seat of Your Pants posted in 2016

  • Blinded by the Light by Bruce Springsteen from the album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. released in 1973: Ambient light in the office environment is oftentimes too much, resulting in decreased contrast on the monitor screen. This can lead to the unconscious behavior of squinting and leaning forward straining the eyes, neck, and shoulders.   A small desktop task lamp can provide adequate illumination in a half-light ambience.   

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: See More with Less? Yes! posted in 2011

  • Within Your Reach by The Replacements from the album Hootenanny released in 1983: Applying the neutral zone principle to workstations establishes a boundary of 18 to 24 inches for the placement of most frequently used items such as the keyboard, mouse, phone, and pen & pencil container.  Less frequently used items such as reference books, desk organizers, and electric calculators should be situated within a secondary zone of 24 to 36 inches and slid closer when needed. 

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Enter the Neutral Zone posted in 2013

  • Get Up, Stand Up by The Wailers from the album Burnin’ released in 1973: Prolonged sitting leads to static muscle activity with reduced blood flow to the affected body area. A micro-break every 20-30 minutes in a standing position with stretching can help to reinvigorate fatigued, contracted muscles.   Consider a desk mount sit/stand unit or height adjustable workstation for a more dynamic work routine.   Remember the best posture is the next posture!

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Micro Breaks = Macro Benefit posted in 2010

  • Walk On by U2 from the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind released in 2000: Rather than bending to the side with an awkward extended reach to grab the copy off the adjacent desktop printer, connect to a more remote printer and walk on over to retrieve the document.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Walk On! posted in 2010

  • In the Lap of the Gods by Queen from the album Sheer Heart Attack released in 1974: Laptop use induces a constrained upper body posture with significant downward head tilt. For prolonged use, connect a mouse and keyboard (wireless or corded) and elevate the laptop on a stand or stack of paper reams to view the screen with a neutral head position.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Laptop Ergonomics posted in 2012

For MEMIC policyholders with ergonomic dilemmas, all you need is…to click on this link to the Safety Director landing page to create a personal profile.  With a little help from MEMIC’s ergonomic resources, you’ll find solutions that make working a little better all the time.

 


Be sure the “calm after the storm” is safe!

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®  

As we mark the five year anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, the northeast now has an estimated 1,000,000 homes and businesses without power. The passing of the latest storm is a big relief for the northeast U.S., but now the cleanup begins and that can present some of the most hazardous conditions encountered during the entire storm. The excerpt below is taken from an earlier Safety Net post written by Peter Koch, MEMIC Safety Management Consultant entitled The Cleanup: Don't let Irene do more damage. Take this advice seriously as you attempt to clean up downed trees, restore services, and open businesses.

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene here in the Northeast, property cleanup is at the top of everyone's to-do list. Make sure to take the time to conduct a job hazard analysis for the cleanup tasks and determine if you have the internal resources and skills to complete the cleanup safely.

Storm cleanup is one of the most dangerous tasks that can be performed with a chainsaw, placing the operator and fellow workers in challenging and unpredictable environments. Unstable elements in the canopy (including widow makers and spring poles), not to mention uneven ground and exposed root systems are all real hazards for the chainsaw operator. Experience and highly developed skills are the last lines of defense for the chainsaw operator.

Mechanical logging reduces the exposure to many hazards that the manual logger has limited ability to control. If your chainsaw operators are occasional users with limited experience and training, or your internal resources are unable to meet the demands of extensive storm cleanup, sub-contracting with a reputable logging company or certified arborist will transfer the risk and protect your most valuable resource, your employees.

If some level of cleanup at your operation is to be done with a chainsaw, you should complete a job hazard analysis which will help your operators review hazards and controls. For a sample job hazard analysis form, go to the MEMIC Safety Director. The Safety Director also contains a three part webinar covering chainsaw operation. Additional chainsaw safety resources are available in the Safety Academy, or check out this OSHA fact sheet

As you drive on the roads this week keep an eye out for downed trees and power lines. Some secondary roads may be blocked for significant time as utility workers scramble to restore power to rural communities. Many traffic lights are inoperative, so caution is the word of the day. Stay in place if you’re able. If you must travel in areas that are heavily wooded and/or lightly trafficked take your time. Never touch any downed power lines, no matter how safe you think they are. Leave that work to the trained professionals. 

 


Exercise Your Brain!

   CatlettPosted by Larry Catlett, MD, OMC WellnessWorks

About the Safety Net Guest Contributor:

Dr. Larry Catlett is the founder of Occupational Medical Consulting, LLC, a Maine business that for over 20 years, partners with companies nationwide to create a sustainable healthy workforce culture and reduce employee health risks.

Is it really true that you can prevent memory loss? 

Dr. Catlett’s Answer: In most cases, absolutely! And guess what? The same healthy lifestyle you are working toward–plus a little brain exercise–is just what the doctor ordered! Read on for some tips to help you prevent memory loss.

Stop smoking. I know, here we go again with the stop smoking stuff, but it’s important to understand that smokers have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Get a handle on stress. Don’t tell me your stress doesn’t affect you. It does and sometimes for the worse regarding your brain. Learn appropriate stress management techniques (consider a health coach) and begin the process of turning down the heat!

Exercise 30 minutes a day, most days each week. Not only does it keep your brain healthy, but it is the best stress reducer you can try.

Eat right. A healthy diet full of fruits and veggies contains antioxidants that not only protect your brain from injury but help prevent many cancers as well.  It is better to get your antioxidant supply from healthy foods rather than supplements.

Work your mind. Learn a new language. Do crossword puzzles. Learn to play something like the guitar. Volunteer. Read. Garden. Get up off the couch and start a new hobby.

We lose brain cells, or at least they shrink, as we age but that does not necessarily have to result in inevitable dulling of our wits as we age. Just like muscles and lung function, you must “use it or lose it”. So what’s the hold up? Take control! Think how rewarding it might be to actually read the menu at a real Italian restaurant! And think about this: just as so many other health problems we have discussed in this blog can influence your ability to work safely, memory loss and impaired cognitive function can set the stage for your own or a coworker’s preventable injury.


Evolution of the Cabicle

 WoodPosted by Andy Wood, CLP

Gone are the days of loggers toiling in the great outdoors enduring the elements and demands of strenuous physical labor. As the industry has become more mechanized, those who work in the logging sector are more likely to be driving a truck or operating heavy equipment. In fact, in 20 short years the logging profession has transformed from one of the most physically demanding jobs a body can withstand to one of the most static workplaces a body can survive. While traumatic and fatal injuries have substantially reduced, the rate of “soft tissue” or “repetitive motion” injuries is on the rise.

Like traditional office workers, skilled machine operators’ workdays are long, inactive, and highly repetitious, and are done from small cubicle-like spaces.  However, the logger’s cabicle is exposed to dangers beyond those an office worker is exposed to. Whole body vibration, constant jarring, temperature extremes, poor air quality, elevated noise levels, and a production pace being driven by other team members combine to increase the hazards of machine operation. Extended workdays (often 12 hours) exacerbate all issues by increasing exposure and decreasing recovery time. Traditional equipment cabs were not intended for these extended shifts. 

Enter the modern logging machine cabicle. These things are awesome, equipped with all the features of your favorite ManCave. The newest equipment offers amenities designed to accommodate operators of all sizes and make their workday as productive and pain free as possible: adjustable seating and controls, climate control with hepa filtration and aromatherapy (okay, we might not be quite ready for that one), heated/cooled air-ride seats, lunch box heater and cooler, XM radio and Bluetooth, and noise reducing features. With an environment like that who would want to leave? But having all of these amenities comes at an ergonomic cost. On a good day, when nothing breaks down, an operator may exit the cab only a few times in a 12-14 hour shift resulting in increased seat time further limiting physical activity.

But let’s return to reality for just a minute. Not all machines are delivered with all the high end options and the majority of our rolling stock is older equipment not equipped with the latest features and will continue to be in service for many years. So, here’s what you can do, regardless of how new or old your cabicle is, to minimize your exposure to ergonomic risk factors:

  • Use the full range of adjustment options to create a workspace that allows your body to stay as close to neutral posture as possible.
  • Exit the cab for whole-body stretching–especially for the back. A brief walk will increase circulation bringing necessary nutrients to tissue and remove harmful toxins which concentrate when circulation slows.
  • Stay hydrated. All functions of your body perform best when fully hydrated–even your brain. Dehydration has been shown to adversely affect decision making ability and cognitive performance, which may impact job productivity and safety. In the summer, air conditioners remove much needed moisture from the air. In the winter, cold dry air lacks adequate moisture for respiration and must be hydrated by the moisture in your lungs.
  • Find ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine–both at work and at home.

While the transition to a more mechanized industry has reduced the most life-threatening injuries, the impact of long term logging equipment operations on chronic adverse health conditions has yet to be fully understood. With the term “sitting is the new smoking” being echoed by researchers again and again, incorporating these recommendations will be a much needed improvement to your overall health and wellbeing.

 


Being Proactive is Key for Workplace Safety

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

“I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster.”

Captain Edward Smith in 1907

You might recognize this as a quote from the captain of the RMS Titanic. Although spoken several years prior to the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, it certainly holds a powerful safety message. Since we should probably learn from history rather than repeat it, consider how we can benefit from Captain Smith’s misfortune. Being prepared for the worst can help prevent accidents and injuries from happening.

Safety must be an active part of everyone’s job, and everyone should be engaged in activities that will reduce the likelihood of injuries taking place. Workplace safety is often overlooked or simply taken for granted. No worker wants to be injured, and no employer wants to be responsible for an employee injury. So it’s just “common sense” right? If it were only that simple. A worker who says “I’ve never been hurt” isn’t necessarily being proactive to prevent injuries, he’s simply recounting how lucky he’s been. Similar to the stock market where past performance is not an indicator of future returns, a good safety record is not a guarantee of employee safety. Complacency is the biggest threat to workplace safety.

Organizational culture will make or break any safety program. Success comes with commitment to safety from every level. It starts with solid hiring practices that ensure the right people are brought into the workplace. It includes an orientation process that covers all safety rules, proper equipment use, emergency procedures, and how to make safety related suggestions or report unsafe conditions.  Continual training and process improvement are also necessary to keep employees focused on personal safety and organizational safety success.

A strong safety culture also includes proper leadership from the front line supervisors all the way up through the executive team. All organizational levels must understand the importance of safety and integrate it into their business goals. Employees must be held accountable for safe behaviors and management cannot let production push aside safe operations. It is truly a team effort from the top down. Breakdowns in communication or shortcuts taken to save time will only result in a sporadic and unpredictable injury cycle. Safety is manageable just like every other aspect of business. 

Be ready for emergencies and expect the unexpected. Captain Smith thought he was sailing an unsinkable ship. He was steaming too fast in an area where icebergs were common, had an inexperienced and overconfident crew, and didn’t have enough lifeboats for everyone aboard. This moment in history is important to consider as we apply workplace safety to our organizations. Make sure you are doing all you can to prevent injuries, that you have a well trained staff and that safety is a priority for everyone.

By taking these proactive steps, the likelihood of injuries decreases and production will increase. Safety should not be an additional duty or seen as an expense item. Safety is a smart investment and it should be an integral part of everyone’s job! 

MEMIC policyholders can access additional information on safety culture through our resources available in the Safety Director

 

 


Employee Safety and Wellness Run Hand-in-Hand

Rob-Sylvester1 Posted by Rob Sylvester, CSPHA, CEHT, WCP®

When we think of employee safety, we generally think of occupational and industrial safety programs that control hazards and exposures. That is a critical component, but let’s take it a step further and consider a holistic approach. Employers can promote injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being, also known as Total Worker Health (TWH).

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HOW DOES WORK IMPACT EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH?

Data shows that 36 percent of workers suffer from work-related stress that costs U.S. businesses $30 billion a year in lost workdays.1 Nearly half (44 percent) of working adults say that their current job impacts their overall health, but only 28 percent of those believe it is a positive impact. People with disabilities, in hazardous or low-paying jobs, and those in retail are most likely to say their jobs have a negative impact on their stress levels (43 percent), eating habits (28 percent), sleeping patterns (27 percent), and weight (22 percent). 1

Ann Reskin from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states how stress can adversely affect employees and the bottom line:
“Stress increases the risk of illness, injury, and job burn-out and unlike other occupational hazards, nearly the entire working population can be affected. The latest research tells us that job stress plays a major role in many chronic health problems, and the evidence is growing. Now more than ever, it’s time to learn what can be done to relieve a workforce under stress.”

WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO?

Talk to employees about the specific conditions that drive stress in a particular job. Often there is feedback about a harmful or unsafe workplace, understaffing, variable hours, overwork, or expanded responsibilities. Downsizing, inadequate or failing equipment or materials, and a lack of regular and clear supervisor feedback can also be contributors. Engage your employees at all levels so they can be part of the positive changes.

TWH maintains a focus on employee workplace safety and emphasizes the benefits of providing additional opportunities to workers to advance their health and well-being. This ranges from leadership to compensation and benefits to community support and much more. This NIOSH graphic is a great tool for your team to start planning discussions on TWH. 

GET STARTED: A FEW WORKPLACE WELLNESS SOLUTIONS

  • To prevent risk of musculoskeletal disorders, consider:

◦Reorganizing or redesigning how individuals do their work;

◦Providing ergonomic consultations; and

◦Providing arthritis management strategies.

  •  To reduce work-related stress, consider:

◦Implementing organizational and management policies that give workers more flexibility and control over their schedules;

◦Providing supervisor training on approaches to reducing stressful working conditions; and

◦Providing skill-building stress reduction interventions for all workers.

 

UPCOMING MEMIC WEBINAR THIS MONTH

Looking to learn how wellness and stress reduction can benefit your organization? MEMIC customers are invited to join us for an Employee Safety & Wellness Webinar with Rob Sylvester on Friday, October 20, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. MEMIC clients also have access to the resources contained in the Safety Director along with our video library in our Safety Academy.   

1The High Price of Workplace Stress, http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/07/the-high-price-of-workplace-stress/


Best Practices for Hotel Shuttle Drivers and Guest Baggage

ValorosePosted by Scott Valorose, CPE, CSP

Hospitality employees are at an increased risk of injury compared to several other industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2015 data, the injury and illness rate [1] for hotel employees was 5.1 compared to 3.0 for general industry. 

Additionally, at properties servicing airports, often hotel shuttle drivers are lifting and handling guest baggage throughout their shift as well as spending significant time sitting in vans or mini-buses. The combination of risks, material handling and static sitting posture, increases the likelihood of injury for these workers. Read on for some tips on what to know and what to do to minimize risk and injuries.

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WHAT TO KNOW

Shuttle drivers who handle passenger baggage, often to and from airports, may be exposed to risk factors that increase the risk of injury to the back, shoulders, and arms. Risk factors include forceful exertions, awkward postures, and repetition. In general, risk is increased when forces are greater, bending and reaching are more exaggerated, or physical actions are more frequent.

  • Handling bags at airports that weigh 40 pounds or more has been found to increase the risk of injury for most healthy people. [2] Weight can also be concentrated more at one end of the bag or shift while handling it. Airlines often tag overweight bags as such, thus giving the handler some warning. However, that weight is generally for bags over 50 pounds so is not effective for most “heavy” bags. Most passengers don’t want to pay the overweight bag fee, but again that limit is usually 50 pounds. 
  • The lower back may be more vulnerable to injury due to prolonged sitting while driving. Sitting produces more stress to the lower back, especially if the seat doesn’t provide good support or the driver isn’t aware of proper posture. Stretch breaks that may be helpful are often not possible especially during the busy shifts of the day. 

WHAT TO DO

  • Test the weight of the bag and/or ask the traveler prior to fully lifting the bag. Knowing how much weight to prepare for and adapt practices to can be helpful. [3, 4] Choose to load these bags first to allow for more choice and to help minimize reaching if loading from the outside. As stated above, don’t rely on “overweight” tags or assume a smaller bag isn’t very heavy.
  • When stowing baggage from outside the shuttle, consider positioning bags on the wheeled end or standing them upright. Doing so has been found to help reduce the physical demands on the back and shoulders. [3] From inside the shuttle, stowing bags on the lowest shelf with the wheels down can also make it easier.
  • Pay attention to handle placement. Most bags have at least two handles. Use both handles to better distribute the effort required and to stay close as possible. Keeping the load close to the body’s centerline minimizes the stress to the body. Think “weight x distance = force.”
  • If handling at chest height or above, consider supporting the bag from underneath rather than with a handle. This should help keep the arm closer to the body and protect the shoulder. Quick motions to start a lift should be minimized. Although the use of momentum can have some benefits, more effort is required to start the lift or motion.
  • Lastly, after driving, or during breaks if you’re able, take a few seconds to stretch - place your hands on your hips, slightly bend your knees, and gently lean backward. It is beneficial to get in the habit of taking regular stretch breaks.

OSHA provides a Baggage Handling eTool focused on airline employees such as ticket agents and ramp agents, but some of the guidance may be helpful for any employee engaged in baggage handling. Additional hospitality resources for MEMIC customers can be found in the Safety Director.

[1] BLS , Cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers

[2] NIOSH (2014), EPHB Report No. 010-22a

[3] Dell (1998), Safety Science Monitor

[4] Korkmaz et al (2006), Int’l Journal of Industrial Ergonomics


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.

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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.