Tag Archives: worker safety

Important Safety Measures When Working At Height

Regardless of the frequency of you or your employees working from heights, it’s crucial that you put much importance and attention on safety measures. Why?

All it takes is just one simple mistake in the way routine works from heights are performed for a potentially fatal fall to happen. And whether it’s one fatality or several, a fatality is a very serious matter regardless of the number.

Prevention is always better than cure and it’s no different when it comes to workplace safety when working from heights. The following safety measures can help you minimize or even prevent falling from height accidents in the workplace.

Proper Training

No amount of safety measures, gear, and equipment will ever make up for ignorance or irresponsible behaviors and attitudes. Giving workers proper and regular training will enable them to optimize the safety measures and equipment you’ll provide to minimize fall-from- height accidents. It can also help put them in their place if they’re a bit arrogant or overconfident because, during training, they’ll have the chance to see for themselves – without having to suffer injuries – the potentially fatal or very serious injuries they may suffer from their current attitudes.

Rails

Using rails whenever possible is the easiest way to provide passive protection for your workers who are working from heights. And yes, those workers include those who are careless or arrogant. Because railings surround workers while on platforms, it will take a lot for them to fall off platforms. And by a lot, I mean huge acts of stupidity and arrogance such as intentionally climbing out of railings just for kicks or for bragging rights.

Proper Estimation Of Fall Distance

It can be tempting to dismiss any discussions or thought processes that deal with estimation of fall distances because come on, how difficult can that be? If a work platform is 10 feet high, it follows that the falling distance is 10 feet and therefore, fall protection equipment such as a lanyard must be 10 feet long too.

Wrong! More than just the actual height of the platform, estimating falling distance should take into consideration the worker’s height, the point at which the lanyard is connected to his body, and deployment distance or length if the lanyard has a deceleration device. Why? It’s because all of these will extend the lanyard’s effective length, which can make it effectively longer than the falling height. And if that’s the case, a worker will still hit the ground when he falls despite having safety equipment such as a lanyard attached to him. So when estimating falling distance, you must factor other stuff like what I mentioned above in order to protect workers from falling-related injuries.

Choose The Right Anchor Point

Anchor points for fall protection when working from heights are points from which tie-off equipment such as lifelines and lanyards are connected to in order to keep workers from falling to the ground in case they lose balance and fall of their working platforms. The primary considerations for choosing the right anchor point are stability and strength. In particular, you’ll need to determine the maximum amount of stress or weight an anchor point can bear or carry, which must be about 5,000 pounds per attached person. And most fixtures aren’t that strong to handle such stress or weight.

Choosing the wrong anchor points can render the use of tie-off devices useless because what point is a strong lanyard or lifeline when the anchor point will eventually break off during a fall and let the worker tied to it, plunge to the ground?

Conclusion

Whether or not the risks for falling from height accidents are high, you should never neglect or take for granted key safety measures because the potential impacts in terms of injuries can be very serious to the point that it may cause permanent disability or death to your workers. There’s no such thing as too few or too many debilitating or fatal injuries from falls. Any debilitating or fatal fall is one fall from height accident too many. The only acceptable number for such is zero. And safety measures help you minimize the incidents and impacts of such to your workers and your company.

Importance Of Having A Safety Plan For Your Company

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Safety is everyone’s concern  from the company’s owners all the way down to the lowest ranking employee. Every person has the right to stay safe and healthy in their workplaces, and with such rights, come obligations for the company and its owners to put into place – systems that’ll minimize workplace-related accidents and their potential impacts on both the workers and the enterprise.

Why A Safety Plan?

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin’s above-mentioned quote, if your company fails to plan for safety, then it’s practically planning for danger. Without a safety plan, several things can and will go wrong. With a safety plan, your company will become a much safer one. How?

First, the chances of minimizing injuries and preventing potentially fatal accidents are much higher when systems and facilities that ensure workers’ safety are in place. The best way to solve problems is by nipping them in the bud, i.e., just before they bloom into full-fledged issues or concerns. If I were to use a personal analogy, it’s easier to keep excess weight off than lose it later on.

The second way a safety plan makes your company a much safer plan is that, in the rare chances that accidents do happen, your company will be able to immediately contain its negative effects. Let’s take a look at the basic workplace practice of having a good number of fire extinguishers placed in key areas of the workplace or having a sprinkler system installed in case fires do break out as examples. Having such measures in place can quickly contain the fire so that injuries to workers and damages to property can be minimized.

When it comes to systems or practices, another basic but important workplace safety policy is to conduct regular fire or earthquake drills. Doing so ensures that your company’s workers won’t panic in case a fire breaks out or an earthquake happens, and can quickly and safely get out of the building. Without regular drills, your workers won’t be familiar with how to quickly and safely get out of the building during fires or after earthquakes and as such, panic may ensue and exacerbate the situation.

What Should It Cover?

More than just having a safety plan, your company must have one that works, i.e., covers the most important risks. And what are those risks?

One of them is working from heights. Falling from high working places is one of the most common reasons for workplace accidents – some of which are fatal. By having systems and facilities in place to minimize the risk of your workers falling to the ground and minimize the impacts of such when it happens, you can make your company -especially if it’s a construction one – a very safe place to work in.

Another major risk area to cover is working in confined spaces. As with working from heights, this also contributes a lot to the workplace or construction-related injuries and deaths. Because it can be very challenging to enter confined spaces to rescue someone who was accidentally injured, your company must have systems and equipment in place that will minimize confined space risks, and mitigate any damages and injuries that may arise when such risks materialize.

Planning For Safety

Make no mistake about it, having a safety plan for your company isn’t just one of the best investments it can ever make. It’s also a mandatory one. As the saying goes, prevention is always better than cure and if I may add, having a cure in hand always trumps not having one for when accidents happen. That’s why planning for your company’s safety is tantamount to making your company a safe place to work in.

Safety Concerns To Look Out For During Building & Construction

When it comes to fatalities, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the construction industry has a substantially higher rate than most other industries. And when you consider non-fatal or minor accidents, the numbers may even be double or triple those of other industries.

Why is that so? It’s because the construction industry has safety concerns that are more pronounced compared to non-construction industries. And what are those safety concerns? Let’s take a look at the most important safety concerns with building and construction activities.

Slips, Trips, & Falls

Construction work involves a wide variety of work activities on site. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that falls, trips, and slips can happen almost everyday. This is mainly due to the fact that construction and building work sites are a cacophony of structures at different completion stages; there are also ground holes, stored equipment and materials, and scaffoldings to consider. For many construction workers and managers, it seems that normal to have eyes even at the back of their heads in order to keep safe!

Working at Height

In many cases, working on buildings – whether demolitions or constructions – would necessitate people working from relatively high elevation; falls from which usually result in debilitating or fatal injuries. Workers’ risks for falling from heights while doing construction or building work are often heightened by constrictions in mobility and access to such high working spaces.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Many construction workers suffer from a condition called hand-arm vibration syndrome, or HAVS. It’s a condition in which a person suffers from a debilitating and painful condition of the blood vessels, joints, and nerves caused by extended and chronic use of vibrating ground working equipment and power tools. This particular medical condition is one of the most prominent causes or basis for claims filed by former construction workers against their former employers who fail to provide adequate protection for their former and current workers.

Electricity

Electrocution is one of the most common types of work accidents that construction workers get into, year in and year out, especially those who are involved with the refurbishing of buildings. In particular, those who are working very close to overhead power cables and lines are at substantially higher risks for electrocution accidents. One of the reasons for many cases of electrocution involves the assignment of non-qualified personnel to do electrical work.

Noise

One of the major construction-related hazards that are often taken for granted on work sites is noise. When a worker’s subject to loud noises every now and then, the risk for hearing impairment is rather low. It’s a different story however when we talk about excessive, repetitive, and chronic exposure to extremely loud noises. And more than just hearing impairment, excessively loud noises may also be dangerously distracting for construction workers and cause serious accidents on site.

Many people think that when it comes to minimizing the risks for hearing impairment in construction sites, using ordinary earplugs can do the trick. Often times, ordinary plugs don’t offer enough protection for workers. As such, employers are often mandated to conduct and document a very extensive assessment of the risks associated with excessively loud noises at construction sites as well as giving their workers the necessary gear for minimizing hearing-impairment risks.

Risk Management Is Risk Minimization

Risk can’t be eliminated but they can be managed. The ability to clearly identify potential risks associated with building and construction, such as those enumerated here, is crucial because you can’t manage what you don’t know. And when it comes to implementing measures for managing identified risks, it’s important to consider how to minimize the chances of such risks actually happening.

Remember, an ounce of prevention is much better than a pound of cure. Risk management is prevention.

How Bizsafe Will Benefit Your Company

“For safety is not a gadget but a state of mind.” – Eleanor Everet, safety expert.

Many accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, happen at the workplace. This is especially so for construction and manufacturing related businesses. When accidents happen, many people are affected. First and foremost are the workers who suffer from the accident, followed by their families. Companies suffer too in terms of production, reputation, and in many cases, legally as well when they get sued or are forced to pay claims for damages, etc.

In Singapore, the primary government body tasked to oversee workers’ safety and health at the workplace is the Workplace Safety and Health Council (WSHC). One of their most important tools for ensuring the safety and health at workplaces is bizSAFE, which is a combination of the words “business” and “safe”.

BizSAFE is a program that is broken down into 5 major steps, which helps Singaporean companies – particularly small and medium scale enterprises – to achieve optimal safety and health conditions in their workplaces.

Enterprise Benefits

Why should businesses enroll for the bizSAFE program? It’s because of the numerous benefits attached to it, foremost of which are those that accrue to the business or enterprise itself. The primary enterprise benefit of enrolling under the program is that the enterprise’s workplace becomes a very safe and healthy one. And when the enterprise achieves such a high level of workplace safety and health, their competitive edge over competitors who aren’t enrolled in the program will become even greater in different ways.

One is in the area of manpower. When industry specialists know that an enterprise takes care of their workers’ health and safety at the workplace so much more than the rest of the pack, they’ll be more inclined to work for that enterprise.

Another area of competitive edge for the enterprise are the customers. In this day and age where consumers are very particular about corporate social responsibility when it comes to choosing which businesses to patronize, having the distinction of having completed all of the program’s 5 steps can set an enterprise apart from the competition in the eyes of their market.

Lastly, government projects can be considered a goldmine for most small and medium scale businesses. When an enterprise is able to complete the program and become bizSAFE certified, it becomes eligible to bid for government-related projects, which can give it a very big financial boost!

Partner Benefits

When enterprises undergo the bizSAFE program and successfully complete it, it’s not just them who benefits. Their business partners do too! How?

Think of it this way. If a business’s workers regularly get into accidents or fall sick while in the workplace, what do you think will happen? That’s right, that company’s production will become inconsistent and may consequently suffer serious contractions in production levels. And when that happens, what do you think will happen to its customers, especially if they’re businesses that provide an end product to end consumers? Their production or ability to meet their own customers’ requirements may suffer too. Frequent workplace accidents and sicknesses can have ripple effects that may extend to an enterprise’s customers and even those customers’ end customers!

Not An Option

For businesses that want to continue enjoying great market share, the ability to get top-notch talent for their workforce, and stay very profitable, going through the bizSAFE program is neither something optional nor should be put off until the time is right. It should be considered mandatory and urgent!

Potential Dangers Of Facade Cleaning

“Danger hides in beauty and beauty in danger.”  – Belva Plain

Buildings are magnificent works of art and a source of great pride for people and companies that own them. It’s one thing to say “my house” and it’s a totally different one to say “my building” or “my company’s building”. There’s just something about having a building that draws in a lot of attention, admiration, and respect.

Because of that, it’s normal for building owners and managers to want to keep their buildings looking clean and beautiful. For this, regular facade cleaning is an essential part of maintenance because let’s face it, people do judge by appearances.

But your building’s beauty may come at a price – a dangerous price. Cleaning a multi-story building’s facade can pose substantial risks or dangers for the people doing the job and passing by on the street below.

Facade Cleaning Dangers

When cleaning your building’s facade, potential dangers that may materialize involve working from heights, using access equipment, using powered equipment, and weak or poor quality structures. Let’s take a look at each of them in more detail.

Compared to merely fixing a high ceiling or a rooftop, facade cleaning exposes workers to substantially more dangerous heights. Think of cleaning the windows of a 15-story building from the outside and you’ll see what I mean. Falling from such heights is almost always fatal given the force at which a person can hit the ground after falling from such high platforms.

Another serious potential danger to which your workers may be exposed to is when using access or climbing equipment such as cradles, scissor lifts, and ladders in order to go up and down your building’s facade. The higher the building, the higher the risk will be. That’s why if your company’s workers are the ones cleaning the building’s facade, you must invest in very high-quality access equipment to minimize accidents emanating from faulty or defective equipment.

A related danger is the use of fragile structures that may collapse at any given moment, which can send your workers plunging down to serious injuries or worse, to their deaths. In particular, makeshift scaffoldings are a big no-no, which means it’s mandatory that you buy or rent top quality scaffoldings from reputable suppliers for the sake of your workers and the innocent pedestrians below.

Lastly, using powered equipment for cleaning difficult facade surfaces can also be a source of accident risk for your workers and consequently, the pedestrians below. Such risks involve electrocution, explosion, and accidental drop from high locations. If your workers will be using powered equipment, better make sure that such equipment is securely fastened or tied to the platform or scaffolding to ensure that even in the event your workers accidentally drop them, they won’t fall because those are tied to the platform or scaffolding.

Prevention Always Trumps Cure

Before embarking on a facade cleaning campaign for your building or a building you’re managing, it’s crucial that you identify the major risks your workers and pedestrians below may be exposed to. More importantly, you should come up with practical and implementable risk mitigation measures to address them. It may prove to be quite cumbersome at first but believe me, it’ll be worth it. It’ll cost you more in terms of resources and man-hours an accident happens while your workers are cleaning the facade of your building.

But if you don’t want the hassle of doing all the dirty work and you have the budget, why not outsource it instead? You can hire reputable companies such as Asretec to do the dirty work for you. While it may cost you more compared to doing it yourself, you can in effect transfer all the risks to them while getting the facade of your building cleaned regularly.

Why Getting Trained In Confined Space Entry And Rescue Is Important

“There is no darkness like that of a confined space.” – Lauren De Stefano, Fever

When it comes to occupational safety, working in confined spaces is one of the riskiest activities workers can be involved in. Why? Before going into that, let’s first define what a confined space is.

What Is Confined Space?

It’s easy to think of a confined space as a place that’s merely closed such as a tunnel or a room. They’re not. Confined spaces aren’t about a particular place or space’s physical dimensions, but are determined by the hazards or risks that people working in such places face. As such, we can consider confined spaces as those that present foreseeable risks for:

  • Asphyxiation arising from free-flowing solid materials;
  • Drowning due to flooding;
  • Serious injuries that can arise from an explosion or fire; or
  • Workers losing consciousness due to significant increases in body temperature, or from asphyxiation due to lack of air and presence of vapors, fumes, and gasses.

Such places include but aren’t limited to:

  • Boreholes;
  • Building voids;
  • Culverts;
  • Ducts;
  • Hutches;
  • Inspection pits;
  • Manholes;
  • Sumps;
  • Tanks;
  • Tunnels

The Need For Training

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified work activities conducted in confined spaces as one of the major contributors to work-related deaths in the United States. To be more specific, this is due to most workers’ ignorance of confined spaces’ work-related risks and how to manage and address them when they happen. That’s why in countries like the United States, employers are compelled to give their employees adequate safety and risk management training to ensure their safety, especially when working in confined spaces.

When it comes to fatal confined space accidents, the 2 biggest factors are poor risk management and erroneous response to confined space emergencies. Often times, the latter makes things worse because instead of easing the situation, rescuers contribute to injuries or they themselves get into accidents in an attempt to rescue colleagues.

Training programs should emphasize risk management first (i.e. risk identification and mitigation). Prevention is truly better than a cure and in terms of preventing the likelihood of confined space accidents, training programs need to educate workers and management on the major risks involved with working in confined spaces. This is so that they’ll be in the best position to implement measures and install the necessary equipment or fixtures that can significantly reduce the possibility of identified potential accidents from happening.

Since risks can’t be totally eliminated. Training programs must also include “cures” or the ability to manage accidents, contain its effects, address injuries on the spot, and evacuate injured workers from the scene as quickly and safely as possible.

Get Trained!

If you or your company are involved in regular work activities in confined spaces, getting trained for entering and rescuing people in confined spaces is crucial because working in confined spaces is one of the top causes of workplace fatalities. The only way to win the war against confined space accidents and keep yourself and your people as safe as possible is to know your enemy – the risks involved – so that you can employ a 2-punch knockout system of risk minimization and effective risk containment via entry and rescue.

Risks Involved When Working From A Height

“If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on.” – Lance Armstrong

Some jobs are relatively easy and safe to perform such as balancing a company’s books of accounts in an air-conditioned room and on a very comfortable office chair where the only real risk is being berated by the boss for putting an extra “0” on an account that’s only supposed to reflect $1,000.00. Then there are jobs that literally involve high risks, such as working on highly elevated scaffoldings for construction work or cleaning the windows of a high-rise building.

But despite the high risk of accidents from working from heights, such types of jobs still need to get done. To paraphrase Lance Armstrong’s quote, if you’ll always worry about falling off a scaffolding or high platform, you’d never get on it and get the job done. And the best way to get over this fear is by knowing specific risks that are involved when working from heights so that you can do something to either minimize the chances of such risks manifesting and mitigating the impacts of such when they do happen.

Risk Of Working From Heights

Generally speaking, all the risks that arise as a result of working from heights involve people getting injured or worse, dying from an accident. But such injuries can be classified according to the person that may be affected by accidents from working from heights: the workers themselves and others. Let’s take a look at the risks people who work from heights face.

The primary risk workers face from working above the ground is the risk of falling to the ground. And this risk can come several other sub-risks: platform instability, platform overcrowding, platform collapse, and climbing or descending accidents due to substandard climbing structures. Many workers fall from heights simply because the platforms they were standing on weren’t securely established and were wobbly to begin with. When you’re high above ground, there’s very little leeway for shaking because the higher a person is from the ground, the harder his fall will be and the greater the injury.

When the platform is either too small or when the platform is overcrowded, the risk of a worker accidentally stepping off is very high, especially when he’s hyper focused on what he’s doing. Weak platforms can also give way under the weight of the workers and their tools, which can obviously lead to potentially fatal falls. And accidental falls can also happen while a worker is climbing up or down the platform because of weak ladders or other climbing equipment.

When it comes to other people or non-height workers, they also face the risk of getting injured if a heavy piece of equipment or a worker himself falls on him. When that happens, it’s a double whammy as both the worker and non-worker get injured.

Don’t Just Know…. Act!

There’s a saying that knowing is only half the battle. That presupposes the other half is acting on what you know. While knowing the risks both workers and non-workers face due to work performed from height is an excellent way to start managing your company and workers’ risks well, that won’t mean anything unless you implement measures to mitigate such risks and their potential impacts on the company, your workers, and possibly non-workers. That’s why it’s important not to just know your risk – you must act on them!