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Want a Safer Workplace? Get Employees Involved!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Safe + Sound Week is a nationwide event held each year in August that aims to recognize the successes of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe. Last year, more than 5,300 businesses helped to raise awareness about workers’ health and safety!

Safe+Sound 2022 BadgeAs an OSHA VPP Star Worksite, Roco prides itself on our continual quest to achieve excellence in safety. VPP worksites must operate a comprehensive safety and health management system that includes four key elements: worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training, and our focus for this week, management leadership and employee involvement. To be effective, a safety and health program needs meaningful participation from employees in the workplace.

Here are five examples of a way to generate meaningful employee involvement in your organization.

1. Ask workers for their ideas for improvement.

Who knows the job better than those performing the work? Give employees an opportunity and encourage them to suggest improvements to their work practices. In our experience, many of the most innovative ideas come from employees who are actively involved in the workplace. When employees have the ability to create meaningful change in their work environment, they will be more likely to participate in safe work practices. Additionally, workers will enjoy a morale booster when these innovative ideas are implemented in the workplace. This is also an excellent way for an employer to demonstrate that they care about their employees and are committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace. Consider creating a centrally located drop box to deposit safety suggestion cards; alternatively, create a digital means of submissions or email such as safetysuggestions@company.com to allow for ease of submitting ideas. You might be surprised what your employees come up with!

employee involvement12. Involve employees in workplace inspections.

No matter your industry, a safe workplace will always incorporate frequent workplace inspections into its planning and maintenance schedules. Typically, someone from the safety department or the maintenance department will conduct workplace inspections; however, having the same person perform these inspections each month can create a situation where this individual becomes “blind” to obvious hazards. Involving employees in workplace inspections allows for a “fresh” set of eyes and a new perspective as each individual will notice hazards in a different light.  Consider rotating different employees into workplace inspections whenever possible. You can also make this a positive experience for the employee selected by treating them to lunch afterward.

3. Train workers on hazard identification and reporting.

If you are waiting on “the safety guy” to identify the hazards and correct them, then it could be a while. While safety professionals are a great resource to have on staff, they can’t be everywhere at once! The truth is the safest companies train and involve all employees in hazard identification and reporting. When everyone in the company knows how to identify hazards and take steps to mitigate them, you now have an army of safety professionals! One VPP worksite implemented “hazard hunts” into their monthly plan for the facility. This was similar to an easter egg hunt, but for an industrial worksite. Employees spread out throughout the facility to identify hazards in the workplace. At the end of the hunt, the employee with the most legitimate hazards identified as well as the employee with the most serious hazard identified was rewarded with a gift. This is an outstanding idea for bringing fun to the workplace while also taking steps to involve employees and make a safer working environment!

employee involvement24. Allow workers to lead trainings.

Most companies have periodic safety meetings implemented into their routine. These are typically led by someone from the safety department and can be a great way to highlight and emphasize current safety concerns or best practices in the workplace.  As a way to get employees involved, consider selecting someone different in the workplace to develop and lead a safety training. This doesn’t have to be an hour-long production! Something as simple as a 5-minute talk about heat illness prevention can work. Each person will have their own unique style which will help to keep these safety meetings “fresh”. Be sure to have fun with this one; these presentations don’t have to be intense or serious. The key here is to get employees involved in creating and delivering safety presentations. 

5. Reward workers who take the extra effort for safety.

There is a lot of debate and controversy over incentives for safety; in recent years, there have been several flip-flops on the support for these types of programs.  It really comes down to what you are promoting and how you are doing it when you incentive safety. Creating an environment that discourages reporting of accidents in exchange for a company-wide steak dinner is probably not the most ideal way to go about it. Instead, find ways to praise employees who go above and beyond in safety. When an employee submits a great safety suggestion for improvement and it gets implemented, reward the individual who submitted the idea! Perhaps an employee volunteered to perform the monthly facility inspection and take them out to lunch! If an employee identifies a serious hazard and takes action to mitigate it on the spot, reward them with something nice. Another great idea is having a near miss reporting process; consider doing a quarterly drawing for a gift for everyone who submitted a near miss for that quarter. The big takeaway from rewarding workers is to praise them heavily when they take the initiative to work safely, and coach and support them when they fail to meet those expectations.

 

ChrisMcGlynn headshot McGlynn is the Director of Safety/VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals as well as a Certified Confined Space and Rope Rescue Technician, and a Nationally Registered Paramedic. As Director of Safety, Chris oversees all corporate safety initiatives, ensuring that employees at Roco have the tools and training that they need to do their work safely and effectively. He is also responsible for managing Roco's Safety Services Division, which provides trained safety professionals for turnarounds and other special projects. Finally, Chris serves as the VPP Coordinator for Roco, continuing Roco’s long-standing commitment to excellence in safety and health. Roco has been an OSHA VPP Star Worksite since 2013.

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Roco Incident Log

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

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Workers sent back into partially collapsed trench

OSHA proposes $243K in penalties following fatal, serious injuries

After escaping from a partial trench collapse hours earlier, two workers employed by an Austin (TX) contractor to install a residential wastewater line were not as fortunate later that day. Both were told to return to the unprotected 13-foot-deep trench to finish the job, and soon after, the trench collapsed again. This time, the collapse buried one worker causing fatal injuries and partially buried the second, who suffered serious injuries.

Following its investigation, OSHA cited the company for willful violations for:

“Despite a partial trench collapse earlier in the day, the contractor recklessly sent employees back into the excavation without protective measures to prevent another cave-in,” said OSHA Area Director Casey Perkins in Austin. “The loss of this worker's life was preventable and the employer must be held responsible for ignoring excavation safety rules.”

Investigators also issued citations for serious violations for failing to train employees working in and around an excavation, exposing workers to struck-by hazards and failing to implement protective measures when water was present in the trench, exposing employees to cave-in hazards. OSHA also cited the company for failing to report the hospitalization of an employee to OSHA within 24 hours, as required. 

“The loss of this worker's life was preventable and the employer must be held responsible for ignoring excavation safety rules,” said OSHA Area Director Casey Perkins in Austin.

From 2011-2018, 166 workers died in trench collapses. In 2019, OSHA reports at least 24 workers died while working on trenching and excavation projects, all of them preventable had the required safety measures been taken.

OSHA has a National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least 2 feet from the edge of a trench. Additionally, trenches must be inspected by a knowledgeable person, be free of standing water and atmospheric hazards and have a safe means of entering and exiting before allowing a worker to enter.

The 2022 “Trench Safety Stand-Down” week, June 20-24, is a collaboration with the National Utility Contractors Association and OSHA to educate employers and workers and reduce the number of worker injuries and fatalities related to trench cave-ins.

OSHA's trenching and excavation webpage provides additional information on trenching hazards and solutions

See full article from OSHA. https://www.osha.gov/news/newsreleases/region6/04212022

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Using a Crane in Rescue Operations

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

We’re often asked, “Can I use a crane as part of my rescue plan?” 

If you’re referring to using a crane as part of moving personnel or victims, the answer is “No, except in very rare and unique circumstances.” The justification for using a crane to move personnel, even for the purposes of rescue, is extremely limited. Therefore, it is very important to understand the “do’s and don’ts” for using a heavy piece of equipment in a rescue operation.

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On the practical side, the use of a crane as a “stationary, temporary high-point anchor” can be a tremendous asset to rescuers. It may also be part of a rescue plan for a confined space –  a top entry fan plenum, for example. The use of a stationary high-point pulley can allow rescue systems to be operated from the ground. It can also provide the headroom to clear rescuers and packaged patients from the space or an elevated edge.

Because of the dangers involved in moving personnel with heavy equipment, OSHA strictly limits its use.

The security of the system's attachment to the crane and the ability to “lock-out” any potential movement are a critical part of the planning process. If powered industrial equipment is to be used as a high-point, it must be treated like any other energized equipment with regard to safety. Personnel would need to follow proper Lock-out/Tag-out procedures [Control of Hazardous Energy 1910.147]. Any equipment used in the rescue operation would need to be properly locked out – (i.e., keys removed, power switch disabled, etc.). You would also need to check the manufacturer’s limitations for use to ensure you are not going beyond the approved use of the equipment.

Because of the dangers involved in moving personnel with heavy equipment, OSHA strictly limits its use. In order to utilize a crane, properly rated “personnel platforms or baskets” must be used. Personnel platforms that are suspended from the load line and used in construction are covered by 1926.1431.
There is no specific provision in the General Industry standards, so the applicable standard is 1910.180(h)(3)(v). This provision specifically prohibits hoisting, lowering, swinging, or traveling while anyone is on the load or hook.

OSHA prohibits the hoisting of personnel by crane or derrick except when no safe alternative is possible. The use of a crane for rescue does not provide an exception to these requirements unless very specific criteria are met.

An OSHA Letter of Interpretation (LOI 1993-02-17) states, “OSHA has determined, however, that when the use ofa conventional means of access to an elevated worksite would be impossible or more hazardous, a violation of 1910.180(h)(3)(v) will be treated as de minimis if the employer has complied with the provisions set forth in 1926.550(g)(3) through (g)(8).”

Note: De minimis violations are violations of standards which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Whenever de minimis conditions are found during an inspection, they are documented in the same way as any other violation, but are not included on the citation.

Therefore, the hoisting of personnel is not permitted unless conventional means of transporting employees  is not feasible. Or, unless conventional means present even greater hazards (regardless if the operation is for planned work activities or for rescue). Where conventional means would not be considered safe, personnel hoisting operations meeting the terms of this standard would be authorized. OSHA stresses that employee safety, not practicality or convenience, must be the basis for the employer's choice of this method.

However, it is also important to note that OSHA specifically requires rescue capabilities in certain instances, such as when entering permit-required confined spaces [PRCS 1910.146]; or when an employer authorizes personnel to use personal fall arrest systems [PFAS 1910.140(c)(21) and 1926.502(d)(20)]. In other cases, the general duty to protect an employee from workplace hazards would require rescue capabilities. 

Consequently, being “unprepared for rescue” would not be considered a legitimate basis to claim that moving a victim by crane was the only feasible or safe means of rescue.

This is where the employer must complete written rescue plans for permit spaces and for workers-at-height using personal fall arrest systems – or they must ensure that the designated rescue service has done so. When developing rescue plans, it may be determined that there are no other feasible means to provide rescue without increasing the risk to the rescuer(s) and victim(s) other than using a crane to move the human load. These situations would be very rare and would require very thorough documentation. Such documentation may include written descriptions and photos of the area as part of the justification for using a crane in rescue operations.

Bottom line… simply relying on using a crane to move rescuers and victims without completing a rescue plan and very clear justification would not be in compliance with OSHA regulations. It must be demonstrated that the use of a crane was the only feasible means to complete the rescue while not increasing the risk as compared to other means. Even then, there is the potential for an OSHA compliance officer to determine that there were indeed other feasible and safer means.

crane6_5.22WARNING: Taking it a step further, if some movement of the crane  is required, extreme caution must be taken! Advanced rigging techniques may be required to prevent movement of the crane from putting undue stress on the rescue system and its components. Rescuers must also evaluate if the movement would unintentionally “take-in” or “add” slack to the rescue system, which could place the patient in harm’s way. The movement of a crane can take place on multiple planes – left-right, boom up-down, boom in-out and cable up-down. If movement of the equipment must take place, rescuers must evaluate how it might affect the operation of the rescue system.

Of course, one of the most important considerations in using any type of mechanical device is its strength and ability (or inability) to “feel the load.” If the load becomes  entangled while movement is underway, serious injury to the victim or an overpowering of system components can happen almost instantly. No matter how much experience a crane operator has, there is no way he can “feel” if the load becomes entangled. And, most likely, he will not be able to stop before injury or damage occurs. Think of it this way, just as rescuers limit the number of haul team members so they can feel the load, that ability is completely lost when energized devices are used to do the work.

For rescuers, a crane is just another tool in the toolbox – one that can serve as a temporary, stationary high-point making the rescue operation an easier task. However, using a crane that will require some movement while the rescue load is suspended should be a last resort! There are simply too many potential downfalls in using cranes. This also applies to fire department aerial ladders. Rescuers must consider the manufacturer’s recommendations for use. What does the manufacturer say about hoisting human loads? And, what about the attachment of human loads to different parts of the crane or aerial?

However, there may be cases in which a crane is the only option. For example, if outside municipal responders have not had the opportunity to complete a rescue plan ahead of time, they will have to do a “real-time” size-up once on scene. Due to difficult access, victim condition, and/or available equipment and personnel resources, it may be determined that using a crane to move rescuers and victims is the best course of action. 

Think of it this way, just as rescuers limit the number of haul team members so they can feel the load, that ability is completely lost when energized devices are used to do the work.

Using a crane as part of a rescue plan must have rock-solid, written justification as a demonstration that it is the safest and most feasible means to provide rescue capability. Planning before the emergency will go a long way in providing options that may provide fewer risks to all involved.

So, to answer the question“Can I include the use of a crane as part of my written rescue plan?” 

Well, yes and no. Yes, as a high-point anchor. And, no, the use of any powered load movement will most likely be an OSHA violation without rock-solid justification. The question is, will it be considered a de minimis violation if used during a rescue? Most likely it will depend on the specifics of the incident. However, you can be sure that OSHA will be looking for justification as to why using a crane in motion was considered to be the least hazardous choice.

NOTE: Revised 5/2022. Originally published 10/2014.

 

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5 Tips for Working Safely at Heights

Sunday, May 1, 2022

This week, May 2-6, is OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction. The reason for this emphasis is the continuing injuries and deaths resulting from workplace falls – especially in construction work. Fall protection was the #1 cited standard by Federal OSHA in 2021, and falls continue to make OSHA’s “Fatal Four” list year after year.

The statistics don’t lie. In 2019, there were 1,102 fatal injuries in the construction industry; according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 38 percent of these fatalities were fall-related. In 2020, employers spent over 16.5 billion dollars combined indirect costs as a result of falls according to Liberty Mutual’s Workplace Safety Index for the construction industry.

In doing our part for National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls, we’ve created a list of Top 5 safety tips to consider before starting work.

1) Implement the Hierarchy of Fall ControlsHierarchy of FallPro Poster

The most effective method to protect workers against falls is to eliminate the hazards! All too often we see employers and workers simply accepting a hazard without fully attempting to eliminate it first. Admittedly, elimination is not always possible or feasible. In this case, we should make every attempt to use passive fall protection — such as physical barriers, guardrails, or hole covers to prevent falls.  Even this may not always be a practical application in the real world. If we are unable to implement these two methods of control, then (and only then) should it be acceptable to move on to personal protective equipment (PPE) and active measures of control.

2) Develop Effective Training

If there are remaining hazards in the workplace, you must provide workers with the knowledge and skills to be aware of the hazard and their potential effects. Workers should be able to identify when they are at risk for falls and take appropriate and effective measures to protect themselves. Be sure to incorporate hands-on skills into your training with knowledge and competency assessments before allowing workers to work at height. There is no replacement for direct, hands-on learning for this type of skill set. Some examples of this may include appropriate set-up of ladders, harness inspection, maintaining 100% tie-off, and lifeline anchor selection.

3) Provide Proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

As mentioned previously, elimination and passive fall protection should always be our primary and secondary goals for reducing fall-related incidents. When we are unable to implement these methods, we must then rely on PPE to protect workers from the remaining hazard. Ensure that your workers ready have access to adequate PPE for the job; remember, PPE is not a “one size fits all” application. Consider providing different styles of PPE so that workers can choose what is most comfortable or convenient for them.  Workers are a lot more likely to use PPE that they like and are comfortable using.  Also, ensure that workers know how to inspect their PPE and how to wear, use, maintain, and store it appropriately. 

4) Select Appropriate Anchor Points

Fall protection equipment is only as good as the anchor point that it’s tied off to. The ideal anchor point will be located directly above the worker. The further away a worker is from the anchor, the greater potential a worker has to swing into objects during a fall. Additionally, anchor points must be able to withstand at least a 5,000 lb. load per worker. On occasion, workers can be found tying off to electrical conduit, small diameter pipes, or other unacceptable anchor points. Ensure that your workers know and understand how to select appropriate anchor points. As a best practice, consider discussing what anchor points will be used for the job prior to starting work.

5) Accurately Calculate Fall Distances

What good is fall protection if you hit the lower level before it engages? Accurately calculating fall distances can be the difference between life and serious injury or death. The formula used for calculating this is as follows:

Required Distance = Lanyard Length + Deceleration Distance + Height of Worker + Safety Factor

Distance Image

Lanyard Length is exactly that, the length of the lanyard being used. Most lanyards are around 6-ft. in length; be sure to reference the manufacturer’s specifications to determine the exact length of the lanyard.

Deceleration Distance refers to the distance from when the worker falls, to when the fall arrest device activates, and to the final stopping point. Most shock-absorbing lanyards deploy to about 3.5-ft. in length when engaged. Remember that any slack between the anchor point and the worker’s dorsal ring must be added to this distance. For instance, if a worker has a 6-ft. lanyard and connects it 3-ft. above their dorsal ring, that will create an additional 3-ft. fall before the system activates. Additionally, a full-body harness will likely stretch an additional foot during a fall – be sure to include these additional distances in your calculations.

Height of Worker is also self-explanatory, the height of the average worker is about 6-ft.

Safety Factor is an additional amount of space added into the calculation to serve as a buffer. The generally accepted safety factor is 3-ft.

 

ChrisMcGlynn headshot McGlynn is the Director of Safety/VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals as well as a Certified Confined Space and Rope Rescue Technician, and a Nationally Registered Paramedic. As Director of Safety, Chris oversees all corporate safety initiatives, ensuring that employees at Roco have the tools and training that they need to do their work safely and effectively. He is also responsible for managing Roco's Safety Services Division, which provides trained safety professionals for turnarounds and other special projects. Finally, Chris serves as the VPP Coordinator for Roco, continuing Roco’s long-standing commitment to excellence in safety and health. Roco has been an OSHA VPP Star Worksite since 2013.

Follow Chris LinkedinIcon

 

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Roco Receives Premier Vendor Award

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

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We are extremely excited to share that Roco Rescue recently received Entergy's Premier Vendor Award in the Safety category.

This award is sponsored by Entergy to recognize and promote extraordinary vendor performance. In seeking and sharing best practices, the award-winning company must have a profound and direct impact on improving the safety and reliability of the utility industry. And, we were in competition with some very large corporations.

To be eligible for the award, service and material providers who have contracted with Entergy during the award year (2021) must have achieved high levels of performance, implemented transferable new practices, or significantly improved processes in the areas of safety, diverse/local spend, sustainability, customer centricity, and continuous improvement.

entergy award1Roco provides Entergy with many highly trained and skilled confined space rescue teams across Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Additionally, Roco’s Safety Services Division now provides Entergy with highly trained and motivated Certified Occupational Safety Specialists to add another level of depth to safety on large-scale outages and turnarounds. Our Safety Specialists have been involved in overall outage planning, safety consulting and observations throughout the outage, and overall support for anything that Entergy needed during their large projects. This year, Roco had the pleasure of providing oversite for two outages, including one major outage in Mississippi.

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