So often, I receive OSHA notices of violations and news articles that speak directly to the issues of workplace safety. Unfortunately, these reports or articles often include personal injury or death, as well as the destruction of expensive equipment and private or public property.
Workplace safety is something that all of us should take very seriously. PDCA believes it is incumbent upon us, as an industry association, to continually remind our membership and PileDriver magazine readers of the importance in providing a safe workplace for our employees, whether we're working outside where we typically find our pile drivers or in an office environment.
A workplace death or serious injury has a devastating impact on the lives of so many, including family, coworkers, friends and community. One cannot measure the grief experienced by the loss of a loved one. No one ever wants that knock on the door to tell you that your husband, wife, child or friend will never return home again or is in the hospital with a serious or potentially fatal injury.
It is the responsibility of the employer to take whatever measures are practical to ensure that each and every one of us who arrive for work can be confident that every precaution is being taken to safeguard us from job hazards, so we can return home from work in the same good health as we arrived.
Implementation and adherence to a safety program starts at the top. Management must create the culture within their company that supports a safe workplace. Management cannot just create the safe work program without providing measureable keys to evaluate the program's success; senior leaders must also be active participants.
OSHA has a multitude of resources and helpful outlines that help employers establish and maintain workplace safety programs. To learn more, go to www.osha.gov and search "employer responsibilities" as a start.
However, workplace safety is not just the responsibility of upper-level management or the project manager or superintendent. Employees have equal and similar responsibilities in not only adhering to workplace safety policies and procedures, but also identifying risks and hazards on the jobsite and immediately reporting them to the proper personnel for corrective action. Employees must not only learn to protect themselves by recognizing potential hazards, but also to protect fellow coworkers when they are seen working in an unsafe manner. Safety is everyone's responsibility.
Workplace hazard: Heat
As we begin to enter warmer weather and the summer months when temperatures rise into the high double and even triple figures, heat-related issues will become unavoidable. Everyone must be able to recognize heat-related issues and take immediate action, since personnel affected by heat can quickly spiral downward to the point of becoming critical.
Four forms of heat-related issues that are the most common among personnel working outdoors in hot weather are: heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The following information appears on OSHA's website in regards to heat-related hazards:
Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, is skin irritation caused by sweat that does not evaporate from the skin. Heat rash is the most common problem in hot work environments. The physical appearance of heat rash are clusters of red bumps on the skin, often appearing on the neck, upper chest and folds of skin. The first aid for heat rash is to move to a cooler, less humid place, keep the affected area dry, hydrate and rest.
Heat cramps are caused by the loss of body salts and fluids during sweating. Low salt levels in the muscles cause painful cramps. Tired muscles those used for performing work are usually the ones most affected by cramps. Keep in mind that heat cramps may occur during or after work periods. The physical appearance of heat cramps are muscle spasms, muscle pain that occurs typically in the abdomen, arms or legs. The first aid for heat cramps is rest in a shady area, hydrate, give cramps time to go away and seek medical attention if cramps do not go away.
Heat exhaustion is the body's response to loss of water and salt from heavy sweating. Individuals suffering from heat exhaustion will demonstrate the following symptoms: cool, moist skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, light-headedness, weakness, thirst, irritability and a fast heart rate. First aid for heat exhaustion is to have the worker sit or lie down in a shaded area, provide plenty of water or cool liquid, cool the worker with a cold compress or ice packs and seek medical attention for evaluation if symptoms do not improve within 60 minutes. Personnel affected by heat exhaustion should not return to work for the remainder of the day.
Heat stroke is by far the most serious heat-related issue. Heat stroke occurs when the body becomes unable to regulate its core temperature. Sweating stops and the body can no longer rid itself of excessive heat. Signs of heat stroke include confusion, fainting, seizures, excessive sweating or red, dry, hot skin and a very high body temperature. Since heat stroke can be fatal, the first thing to do is call 911. While waiting for an EMT, seek a shady, cool area for the employee, loosen and remove outer clothing, fan air on the worker and use cold packs placed in the armpits, wet the worker with cool water, apply additional ice packs, cool compresses or ice if available. Provide plenty of water or other fluids as soon as possible, and stay with the worker until help arrives.
Again, heat-related illnesses, while significant and require immediate attention, are not the only hazards we encounter on the job. Always be aware of your surroundings. Pile drivers face a lot of hazards that are typical to our industry hammers, piles, lifting, swinging, terrain, etc. but you must also be aware of other potential hazards associated with your work, such as UV rays, lightning, stinging insects such as bees, venomous snakes and spiders, poisonous plants such as oak, ivy, sumac and mosquitos and ticks, to mention a few.
The PDCA Safety and Environmental Committee has produced several documents to help create a safe working environment. These documents include the new and updated Tool Box Safety Reviews and the Pile Driving Safety and Environmental Best Management Practices. Both are available through PDCA or on the PDCA website, www.piledrivers.org.
The committee is also working on a PDCA Lift Plan document and a Pre-Task Plan. These documents only require one more review by the committee before they will be ready for release.
Additionally, PDCA is working with our partner organizations to develop a "Consensus Deep Foundation Industry Position on Working Platforms for Foundation Construction and Related Equipment in the United States of America." The ultimate goal is to support effective adoption of working platform policies through a program of internal education and external communications with appropriate industry groups.
Please ensure your workers are protected to the great-est extent possible through a complete and comprehensive safety program. t