By Dean Skinner
Construction and Paving contractors throughout North America have been deemed “essential businesses” and must be innovative to find ways to prevent their workforce contracting and spreading COVID – 19. It is only natural that a strong safety emphasis be placed on keeping these employees and jobsite personnel safe from exposure from this unseen danger. Although this is extremely important we do not lose sight of our typical jobsite & work zone hazards. So as we learn more and move forward with this crisis, the warmer months of spring and summer will produce more roadwork projects, meaning more work zones. With the tempered weather, shelter at home restrictions being removed more and more of people will be getting back to normal routines and we must plan for more vehicles using the interstates, highways, roads, and parking lots we call our “work zones”.
According to www.workzonesafety.org in 2017 there were 720 fatal crashes resulting in 809 fatalities in which 132 were work zone workers. Persistent and consistent review of your safety plan, along with self and team accountability will make all the difference in maintaining an accident free work zone. Below are some tips to review in order to help keep safety front and center during these distracted and challenging times.
Safety First – Create a culture within your company that places the upmost priority on safety. In order to develop a sustainable safety culture, that culture must start from top leadership and extend down to the least experienced worker. Every employee needs to understand that safety must be the first focus of their job. Safety responsibility is not the responsibility of the Safety Director, but of each employee doing the work. Safe employees are your best employees!
Start Each Workday with a Safety Huddle – In addition to ensuring that employees have the proper training required it is also a good idea to have a quick safety meeting before the workday begins. In addition to this add a random huddle at varying times of day to address changes in scope of work, inclement weather, address a near miss or any topic that is relevant or important at the time. Since conditions can change greatly from day to day in the work zone; workers should be briefed on the work activity scheduled each day and notified of all potential hazards. This is also a good time to ensure that all workers have and are wearing the proper PPE required for the work being done that day.
Wear Proper Safety Equipment – Proper safety equipment should be worn by ALL inside the work zone. Personal protective equipment including hard hats, steel-toed boots, eye protection, highly visible clothing, gloves and, depending on the noise levels, hearing protection. All PPE should meet or exceed the American National Standards Institute’s developed standards. All highly visible clothing must be bright fluorescent orange or yellow and have reflective material especially if working at night.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings and Avoid Blind Spots – Ensure workers know their job duties and what they entail in the work zone daily, help keep them aware of what’s going on around them. Always have them face traffic while working in a work zone or have a spotter when they must turn your back on traffic. Vehicles and heavy equipment are constantly moving about within the work zone including dump trucks, track loaders, dozers, excavators, pavers, and rollers. When workers are on foot and working near these vehicles and equipment it is key to remember that the driver has a limited line of sight. A good rule to follow is: “if you can’t see them, they can’t see you.” Visual contact of the driver or operator of a vehicle or piece of equipment in the work zone is always the best practice. Operators should ensure that all mirrors, visual aids and sounding devices are attached and in proper operation i.e. horns, backup alarms and lights. Never walk or work behind any vehicle or piece of equipment or walk into the swing radius of heavy equipment.
Be Prepared, Have a Plan, Protect you Assets
Preparedness is essential for every road construction project. Review your plan daily and allow it to develop as the project progresses. The best work zone safety plans must take in consideration not only the workers safety within, but the safety of drivers, passenger and pedestrians moving through the zone. Safely routing traffic around or through the work zone is an ever evolving and an essential part of your safety program. Keeping workers, pedestrians, drivers and passengers safe is priority #1. Implementing, using and reviewing these plans and tips can make all the difference in making sure we all return home safe!
Dean Skinner, National Accounts Manager for LeeBoy and can be contacted at dskinner@LeeBoy.com