There is never too much safety awareness and practice

By Jeff Winke

For asphalt paving contractors, safety is a key concern…some might say it should be a major obsession. At a paving jobsite the ingredients for potential accidents, harm, or disaster are there — people, heavy equipment, and hot material need to be choreographed safely. Contractors clearly need their wits about them to implement milling, pavement laydown, striping, sealcoating, or pavement crack repair work.

Smart, successful contractors have safety programs in place and a designated safety director. Safety programs need to be continually refreshed, repeated, and reemphasized, A certain amount of redundancy will not hurt. People can forget or get too comfortable–probably in the same way you can never go wrong frequently telling the people you love that you love them.

There are tons of valuable resources available from both the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA). According to NAPA, last year, more than 25,000 people were injured in active road construction work zones and more than 700 people were killed. The risks are far too great.

Here is a checklist for general asphalt safety for pavers that Craig Safety Technologies, Inc., North Kansas City, Missouri, created. These critical 22 activities can be formed into a job-site checklist and be a part of a contractor’s ongoing safety awareness program for project managers, foremen and crew.

  1. Only trained and qualified personnel should operate the paver.
  2. Operators should study manufacturer’s manuals before operating the paver.
  3. Operators should know location and function of all controls of the paver.
  5. Pay attention to all DANGER, WARNING, and CAUTION labels on the machine — they are there for good reasons.
  6. Know what Personal Protective Equipment is needed to operate and work around the paver.
  7. Know how to properly wear and maintain Personal Protective Equipment.
  8. Do not wear clothing or jewelry that could be caught in moving parts.
  9. Asphalt materials are very hot and can cause extreme injury. Know where to get assistance in case of an emergency. (Some of the new superpave and matrix mixes require even higher than normal temperatures for placement and compaction.)
  10. Know how to use a fire extinguisher and what type of extinguisher is needed for asphalt fires.
  11. Know where the first aid kit is located.
  12. When raking or shoveling hot asphalt, always wear gloves, long pants, long sleeves, and boots.
  13. Be aware of your surroundings. Know traffic flow direction; location of road cones, barrels, and barricades. Know where the curbs and any manhole covers are located.
  14. When trucks are dumping hot mix into the paver hopper, STAND CLEAR.
  15. Use a knowledgeable signal person to help back loaded trucks.
  16. When backing, truck drivers should stop if they lose sight of the signal person.
  17. Make sure dump trucks are on level, stable ground before raising the dump bed.
  18. Ensure that truck drivers and other workers are aware of any overhead power lines and the height of the lines.
  19. Keep paver deck clean. Good housekeeping can prevent injuries.
  20. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Watch out for other workers. Get them in the shade if they show symptoms of heat exposure.
  21. Constant awareness of the location of equipment is required. Watch out for equipment that is starting into motion.
  22. Pavers are not transportation vehicles. Only those personnel needed to operate the pavers hold be allowed to ride on the paver.

Keeping safety front and center, top of mind, is not an option. Clearly there is much that goes into ensuring workers are safe on the job. The goal is to minimize and manage any risks while insisting on safe practices… so every worker can return home safely after a day’s work!

Jeff Winke is a business and construction writer based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He can be reached through