Category: Safety Tips

Implementing a workplace disciplinary program

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One important element of an effective workplace safety and health policy is an Employee Disciplinary Program. Obviously, taking disciplinary actions is not ideal; a disciplinary program is not designed to create a threatening or fearful work environment. It’s important to remember that unsafe behavior doesn’t only affect you, but puts both your coworkers and your company at risk. A disciplinary program gives you access to knowing what’s expected of you and your commitment to safety as a member of your workplace team.

COMPANY LIABILITY

The top priority of any business is to maintain a safe and healthful workplace for its employees. Just under that is the bottom line. The repercussions of a safety violation can have a severe impact on a business’s profitability. Smaller businesses have actually collapsed entirely under the weight of a safety backlash. Costs can include OSHA fines, attorney fees, increased insurance premiums, lost work hours, and decreased productivity among a whole slew of additional side effects. Ensuring employees are aware of expectations and established work rules is a necessary step towards self-preservation, and a disciplinary program helps to enforce that.

BENEFITS OF A DISCIPLINARY PROGRAM

  • First and foremost, to protect you and your coworkers. The goal of an effective disciplinary program is primarily to discourage employees from behaving in a manner that would put themselves or others at risk
  • You have clear guidelines for what it expected of you, and what the consequences are for not adhering to those guidelines
  • A disciplinary program is built with fairness and equality in mind. You are as subject to its policies in exactly the same manner as anyone else working for your company, from entry-level employees to upper management
  • For non-serious infractions, you have the opportunity to modify unsuitable behavior. This can be particularly helpful should you perhaps not have known that what you were doing was an issue
  • A disciplinary program provides the opportunity for improvement. When problem behavior is identified, your employer can give you suggestions and coaching on how to work more safely
  • A safe workplace is a happy workplace. Because you know that everyone is subject to the same expectations, you can rest assured another worker behaving unsafely will be corrected as you would

TRAINING

The best way to avoid disciplinary action is to do things right the first time. Your employer will provide all the training you need in order to perform your job safely and efficiently. Make sure you are attentive during all training sessions and exercises. If you feel as though you didn’t understand the material completely, ask your trainer for clarification. While working, if you discover you are unsure how to proceed safely with a given work task, contact your supervisor for assistance and additional training. You can only do things correctly if you know how, so pay attention.

STEPS OF A DISCIPLINARY PROGRAM

To maximize your chances of success, you are given a number of opportunities to correct problem behaviors once they have been identified. Should you be observed or reported exhibiting unsafe behaviors in the workplace, you will face disciplinary actions in the following order:

  1. Verbal Warning
  2. Written Warning
  3. Suspension
  4. Termination

You should be aware that certain behaviors can lead to immediate termination without regard for any of the previous disciplinary steps. What these behaviors are will be outlined in your company’s disciplinary program, but often include things such as violating the drug-free workplace program, violence, harassment, theft, fraud, or serious safety violations that put others in imminent danger, such as lockout/tagout errors or failure to utilize fall protection measures.

STEPS OF A DISCIPLINARY PROGRAM

Verbal Warning

A verbal warning is meant to be an informal discussion with your employer to point out and make you aware of problem behavior. This warning should be looked upon favorably, as it is your opportunity to take corrective steps to ensure you’re on the right track. During this meeting, you will be informed of what further consequences lie ahead should you fail to adjust properly. You will also have the chance to explain your side of the story.

STEPS OF A DISCIPLINARY PROGRAM

Written Warning

Continued failure to meet safety expectations will result in a written warning. This will usually involve a second member of management to serve as a witness. A written warning is exactly what it sounds like – a formally documented warning describing the nature of the problem or issues, instructions for what you are expected to change, a detail of the verbal warning you had initially, and the consequences for continuing to act unsafely. You will be asked to sign a copy of the warning to indicate you understand what has been discussed; remember the warning is still valid even should you decline to sign.

STEPS OF A DISCIPLINARY PROGRAM

Suspension

At this stage, you will be temporarily suspended from all work activities. This is the final step in the disciplinary program process before termination. At the meeting, you will receive a written letter which describes how long you will be suspended, when you can return to work, what behavior led to the suspension, what changes must be made to correct the behavior, and what the consequences will be should you return to work and fail to make those changes. You may have the opportunity to appeal the suspension based on your company’s individual disciplinary program policies.

Suspension is generally with pay unless your employment contract says otherwise.

STEPS OF A DISCIPLINARY PROGRAM

Termination

In the end, failing to make the changes necessary to adjust unsafe work behavior will lead to termination. A strength of a disciplinary program is that you are given sufficient opportunity to avoid this stage, so naturally it’s in your best interest to not let it get this far. At this meeting, you will be given a letter of termination with another member of management present, informing you that you are no longer employed with the company along with a description of reasoning.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

A copy of the workplace disciplinary program is given to employees upon hire, and you must verify you have received and understood it as a condition of employment. Of course it would be easy to skim over the program and sign the agreement, but it’s in your best interest to familiarize yourself with all of its elements so you know what to expect. You should speak with a supervisor of human resources if you have any questions about the disciplinary program or its policies.

LESS DAYLIGHT, MORE SAFETY

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As the year goes on, the amount of daylight we have during waking hours is gradually lessened.

Proper lighting is an integral part of workplace security and employee safety. With the sun setting at earlier hours in the day, it’s important to account for the seasonal change by ensuring indoor/outdoor lighting adequately provide employees with a safe working environment.

Indoor work areas can be affected by shorter days. The setting sun can cause glares and cast shadows in areas that may not be as well-lit as they should.

Ensure walkways and stairways receive adequate lighting, and that you use window coverings to prevent glares from the sun that could damage the eyes.

Hazardous outdoor work should be scheduled around sunset. If work must proceed after dark, employers need to provide electrical lighting that properly illuminates all work areas.

Enhance security by making sure outdoor building and parking lot lights are turned on at dusk. Additionally, many employees rely on public transportation. Ensuring that routes to transit stations are well-lighted can help prevent potential injuries.

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME

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Unless you live in Arizona, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, or the Virgin Islands you will probably be changing your clocks this weekend as Daylight Savings Time (DST) begins this Sunday March 8th at 2 A.M.
The larger question these days is “Why do we even have daylight savings time?” DST was started during WW I as a way to conserve energy. The use of daylight savings time was unpopular and was halted after the war. It was re-instituted during WW II. Because there was no U.S. federal law requiring the use of DST following WW II, the states were free to implement DST on their own.

This created interstate commerce and transportation scheduling problems, and resulted in the passage of the Uniform Time Act in 1966. The act mandated time changes in April and October (spring ahead and fall back), but also allowed states to opt out of using DST.

Enforcing DST is the responsibility of the Department of Transportation (DOT)
Although created to conserve energy, recent DOT studies have shown that in today’s world, any potential energy savings is lost to the use of computers, TV’s, and other electronic devices. Not only does DST not save energy it can also negatively affect your health.

Researchers in Stockholm found that the number of heart attacks rose about 5 percent during the first week of daylight saving time. The New England Journal of Medicine suggest that this rise may result from the disruption of sleep patterns and biological rhythms.

Today most of the U.S., Canada, and Europe observe DST, and if you live where it’s observed, here are some tips to help you adjust to it.

  • Start going to bed 15 minutes earlier several days before the start of DST, and move your bedtime up by 15 minutes every couple of nights
  • If you feel sleepy the Sunday after the change to DST, take a short nap (15 to 20 minutes) in the early afternoon. For some, napping can make nighttime sleeping harder, while for others, a short nap can be refreshing without ruining their night’s sleep
  • Avoid sleeping in longer in the morning
  • Try to go to bed and waking up at the same time each day, as this will help regulate your sleep. If possible, get up at the same time on weekends, too, this makes getting up on Monday mornings easier
  • With the change in daylight, try to incorporate a little more exercise and a little more sleep each day

There are currently renewed efforts underway to abolish DST because of the lack of any evidence that it’s beneficial. It may well be that the only positive about the beginning and end of DST is that it serves as a reminder to check and or replace your smoke detector batteries. If you have any questions about topics for safety meetings contact us today.

WINTER WALKING

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This winter has been one of the worst for much of the U.S., with near-record snow, ice, and many other weather hazards. Walking in winter weather can be particularly dangerous.
Snow is bad enough, but ice and icy conditions can present a far greater hazard to your health. Snow is easy to see, remove, and does provide some traction. Ice, on the other hand, can be hard to see and dangerous, especially if you’re on foot.
The last thing you want to do is fight the weather, get to work, park your car, and then injure yourself when you get there. Slipping and falling on parking lot and sidewalk ice injuries in are common, and can cause serious injuries. Broken arms, wrists, and hips are far too common in snowy and icy conditions.

Here are some general tips to help companies and employees stay safe when conditions are icy:

  • Employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces and spread deicer as quickly as possible after a storm.
  • Employees should wear footwear that has good traction and insulation. Avoid wearing boots or shoes with smooth leather or plastic soles and heels. You should always wear shoes or boots made of non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles when walking on snow and ice.
  • Wear a heavy, bulky coat that will cushion you if you should fall.
  • Wear a bright colored or reflective clothing so drivers can see you.
  • Keep warm, but make sure you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • During the day, wear sunglasses to help you see better and avoid hazards.

Walk like a penguin

In cold temperatures, assume that all wet, dark areas on pavement and sidewalks are slippery and icy. A thin layer of moisture can freeze on cold surfaces, forming a nearly invisible layer of black ice that can look like a wet spot on the pavement.

Walk in designated walkways whenever possible. Taking shortcuts over snow piles and other frozen areas can be dangerous. Avoid walking in the street if at all possible, icy streets are slippery for cars too, and they’re much more difficult to stop.

  • When walking on ice, angle your feet out, like a penguin, this will increase your center of gravity.
  • Lean slightly forward and walk flat-footed to keep your center of gravity directly over your feet.
  • Taking short steps will help you keep your balance
  • Extend your arms out to your sides to maintain balance. If you must carry a load, try not to carry too much; leave your hands and arms free to balance yourself.
  • If you do carry something, carry it in your dominant hand. This can help prevent you from using your dominant hand break your fall, and avoid injuring your hand, wrist, or arm.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets. Putting your hands in your pockets while walking may keep them warm, but it decreases your center of gravity, balance, and increases your chances of slipping and falling.
  • Watch where you’re walking, focus on the path in front of you, and take your time
  • When walking on stairs always use the hand-railings and plant your feet firmly on each step.
  • It’s easy to lose your balance when getting into or out of your car, use the vehicle to help support yourself.
  • Look at the ground while you’re walking, don’t end up slipping on ice that we could have seen if we had been looking.

Walking on a slippery floor can be just as dangerous as walking on ice. Keep these tips in mind when entering a building:

  • Melting ice or water on the floor can make it slippery.
  • Watch for floors and stairs that may be wet and slippery, walk carefully by outer doors.
  • Determine the best path to take to get to your destination and take a little extra time to get there
  • Be sure to use floor mats when entering a building to remove moisture from the soles of your shoes – this will help protect you, and others, from having to walk on wet or slippery surfaces

Winter weather can be irritating enough without adding injury to the equation.

GETTING A GRIP ON HAND-ARM VIBRATION SYNDROME

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Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) also known as “Dead Finger” or “Dead Hand” causes symptoms in fingers, hands, and arms from using vibrating tools, or by working with machinery that vibrates. HAV, formerly vibration white finger, was renamed to HAVS, as other symptoms may occur in addition to white fingers.

HAV, may appear shortly after starting a job, or may not appear until years later. The harmful health effects of vibrating tools are related to the length of time that a worker has been using vibrating tools and to the frequency of the vibration. The length of time person uses a vibrating tool, and the speed at which the tool vibrates, increases the risk of HAV.

The technical name for HAV is Raynaud’s Syndrome of Occupational Origin. Raynaud’s Syndrome can occur in people who do not use vibrating hand-held tools, and a number of medical illnesses can also cause Raynaud’s Syndrome.

Many symptoms of HAV syndrome will disappear when worker stops using tools vibrate the hands and arms. The muscle fatigue and pain in the arms and shoulders associated with HAV also will generally disappear. In the early stages, if a worker stops using vibrating tools, HAV will not get any worse and may get slightly better.

Preventing hand-arm vibration

Employers can implement the following steps to help prevent HAVS in workers who use vibrating tools:

  • Hold tools loosely, and in different positions.
  • Ensure that tools are well-maintained
  • Use the right tool for the job.
  • Keep warm while at work – especially your hands.
  • You should not smoke – the chemicals in tobacco can affect blood flow.
  • Jobs should be redesigned to minimize the use of hand-held vibrating tools.
  • Replace high vibration tools with improved, low vibration tools that are designed to absorb vibration
  • Whenever possible, substitute a manual tool for a vibrating tool.
  • Determine vibration exposure times and implement work breaks to avoid constant exposure. A worker using a vibrating tool continuously should take a 10 minute break after each hour of using the tool.

Education

Employees who are required to use vibrating hand-held tools should receive training about the hazards of vibration and they should be taught how to minimize the ill effects of vibration.

Smokers are much more susceptible to HAV that non-smokers and the HAV in smokers is usually more severe. For this reason, workers who use vibrating hand-held tools should not smoke.

Medical Evaluation

  • Workers whose occupations will place them at risk of developing HAV should have pre-employment physicals, and then be checked at least annually for symptoms.
  • Workers that have a history of abnormalities in blood circulation and especially workers who have Raynaud’s Syndrome should not be permitted to use vibrating hand-held tools.
  • If workers develop symptoms of tingling or numbness, or if their fingers occasionally become white or blue, or painful, should be examined by a doctor familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of HAV.
  • Workers who have moderate to severe symptoms of HAV should be reassigned to work that does not involve using vibrating tools.

It is not clear how vibration causes hand-arm vibration syndrome. It is probably due to slight but repeated injury to the small nerves and blood vessels in the fingers. Up to 1 in 10 people who work regularly with vibrating tools may develop HAVS.

Temporary tingling or numbness immediately following the use of a vibrating hand tool is not considered HAV, however tingling and numbness in the fingers lasting more than an hour after finishing work may indicate early stages of HAV.

Safety School: Spotlighting the Importance of Checklists

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Do you consider workplace checklists an important part of ensuring all necessary safe work procedures are consistently followed? Or do you consider a checklist a slow, tedious, and largely unnecessary procedure for work you already know how to do?

Here are two interesting accounts where checklists have been used to great effect. One is a matter of history that changed an industry, and the other occurred much more recently, demonstrating that there can be human resistance to following demonstrably better procedures.

Boeing B-17 and the First Checklist

On a B-17 test flight, in 1935, the aircraft stalled on takeoff because the elevator lock was accidentally left on, and pitch control didn’t work. Three men were injured, and two later died.

Because this new airplane was much more complicated to fly, it was determined that even experienced pilots would need a checklist. Instead of relying on memory every time, a checklist would ensure that all necessary steps were completed to keep the airplane safely in the air. Because of this simple, new process, Boeing was able to get the government to mass produce the B-17, and it went on to be a very successful asset for the United States in World War II.

Believe it or not, Boeing’s checklist is considered the first. Certainly, checklists are a very common practice in aviation today, where a focus on safety requires numerous variables to be checked before every flight. There are more than 25,000 daily commercial flights in the U.S. each day.

Hospital Checklist Slashes Infection Rates

In 2003, Dr. Peter J. Pronovost established a simple, five-step checklist to be followed every time a common catheter (central venous catheter) was inserted at 108 intensive-care units in Michigan. Over 18 months, catheter-related infection rates dropped from 4% to 0, saving 1,500 lives and nearly $200 million.

As you can see, the checklist is as simple as it gets:

  1. Wash hands with soap.
  2. Clean patient’s skin with chlorhexidine antiseptic.
  3. Put sterile drapes over the entire patient.
  4. Wear a sterile mask, hat, gown and gloves.
  5. Put a sterile dressing over the catheter site.

According to Dr. Pronovost, he wanted to change behavior, which he says is the biggest opportunity to improve health care. Still hospitals lag in implementing similar checklists. However in the news, the CDC procedures where health care workers who may come into contact with Ebola patients will have another person guide them through the step by step process of putting on and removing PPE amounts to a checklist.

Some reasons people resist using checklists include:

  • Experts such as doctors don’t want to be monitored by others
  • Experts want to have the freedom to act as they see fit
  • Standardized tasks are associated with bureaucracy, and more paperwork
  • There is a focus on new medical procedures rather than ensuring current ones are enforced

Checklists in the Workplace

So, looking at these two examples, can you see where workplace safety can benefit from following a checklist? Anywhere a series of steps has to be followed correctly every time, a checklist can be implemented to make sure everything has been covered and nothing is missed.

Here are a few places where creating a checklist may be helpful:

  • Making sure a first-aid kit is fully stocked with necessary materials
  • Daily and monthly inspections of vehicles such as: forklifts, cranes, and ladders
  • Annual workplace inspections
  • PPE maintenance and repair schedules
  • Required monthly and quarterly fire-extinguisher inspections
  • Equipment inspection and repair schedules
  • Start-up and shutdown procedures
  • Established lockout/tagout procedures

Other Safety School articles that examine the more academic concepts of occupational safety:

  • OSHA Inspections
  • Contact Release Training for NFPA 70E 2015
  • Scaffolding Code of Safe Practices
  • Emergency Response Plans for Permit Required Confined Spaces
  • Spotlighting the Importance of Checklists
  • Details of a Fully Developed Emergency Action Plan
  • The Six Guiding Principles of an Industrial Hygienist
  • Exactly How Does A Safety Manual Protect Your Company in an Inspection?
  • Who Is Covered (Or Not) By OSHA

Safety School: Exactly How Does a Safety Manual Protect Your Company In an Inspection?

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Too often companies are told that they need to have a custom safety manual to protect them from OSHA violations, and while that’s true, understanding how that works is just as informative to a safely run company as having all the right words and regulations in a policy.

During an inspection, the inspector will ask for the written safety policy and all documentation of training, inspections and discipline. This documentation becomes important after the inspection, when a company can challenge or attempt to mitigate any possible penalties.

In legal terms you have “negating defenses” and “affirmative defenses” to argue any possible citations. The negating defense is simply arguing that that an allegation wasn’t a violation or it didn’t happen. More interestingly there is an affirmative defense, which admits the violation occurred but provides a justification. In a criminal case, “self-defense” is an affirmative defense.

So if an employee is spotted performing an unsafe action and a violation has been assessed, the inspector can look at the safety manual and training documents and ask:

  • Is there is a system in place?
  • Are employees trained in it?
  • Do you inspect the worksite and enforce the policy?

As an example, if the inspector cites an employer for a worker not wearing a hard hat, the company can challenge it with a policy stating that all employees must wear hard hats, evidence that employees are trained to know it’s a requirement, and evidence of inspections to enforce the policy with discipline when an employee doesn’t follow it.

Just having the policy isn’t enough; it needs to be backed up with ongoing application and training.

Safety Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

To go a step further, another way to demonstrate a commitment to safety in your policy is to track it.

Every company has its Key Performance Indicators (KPI). An easy way to know if a company prioritizes safety is to see if they track any safety KPIs such as:

  • Days since last incident
  • Number of regulatory violations
  • Annual change in percentage of training compliance
  • Annual change in the Total Case Incidence Rate (TCIR)

A company’s safety performance is the same as any other metric. Have you heard the saying,” what gets tracked is what gets done”?

When you track these safety KPIs, this information can be used in annual safety policy reviews of your manual. Use this information to see if there are incidents or close calls being repeated, or if the current manual and policies cause different hazards not planned for, or if there is something that changed in the last year that needs its own safe work practices.

Other Safety School articles that examine the more academic concepts of occupational safety:

  • OSHA Inspections
  • Contact Release Training for NFPA 70E 2015
  • Scaffolding Code of Safe Practices
  • Emergency Response Plans for Permit Required Confined Spaces
  • Spotlighting the Importance of Checklists
  • Details of a Fully Developed Emergency Action Plan
  • The Six Guiding Principles of an Industrial Hygienist
  • Exactly How Does A Safety Manual Protect Your Company in an Inspection?
  • Who Is Covered (Or Not) By OSHA

Spotting Safety: Excavation Cave-ins

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trench1

 

trench2

For anyone standing at the bottom of a trench and looking up at the sheer face of a column of freshly exposed dirt it becomes clear how important it is to establish proper protections considering the consequences of a cave-in.

And it is apparent that in both photos, neither employee is adequately protected. But let’s look at how cave-ins occur and why each worker is in violation.

Physics of a Cave-in

The stress of a cubic foot column of soil is 100 lbs. per square foot (psf). So the vertical load of that one-foot-by-one-foot column of soil five feet down is 500 psf. When an excavation is cut, the soil in the wall begins to move, however slowly, into the excavation. Cracks will eventually develop away from the excavation’s edge, and the weight of the soil between the excavation and the crack is no longer carried by the soil behind the crack. This causes the lower part of the excavation wall to fail first, the upper part of the wall then falls, and a third cave-in can quickly occur.

Each cave-in can be the one that buries an unprotected worker at the bottom of the trench.

Regulations

The worker in the first image is more than five feet deep and there is no shoring, sloping, or shielding. Employees who work in an excavation five or more feet deep and not in solid rock must be adequately protected from cave-ins. 1926.652(a)(1)

He also doesn’t appear to have a harness with a lifeline to get him out, as required when entering a deep and confined footing excavation. 1926.651(g)(2)(ii)

The worker also needs to be protected from loose rock or soil that can fall or roll into the excavation. This can be done by removing the loose material piled up at the edge of the excavation and keeping it at least two feet from the edge of the excavation, or using retaining devices or equipment to keep back the soil. 1926.651(j)(2)

So much seems to be right in the second photo, where trench boxes are constructed to shield workers inside them from a collapsing excavation. And everything apparently complies with the shielding regulations: the excavation isn’t two feet below the bottom of the box, the top of the box is higher than the excavation, and it looks to be able to withstand subjected loads of an excavation without lateral movement. 1926.652(g)

But once the worker leaves the trench box, he is exposed to the hazards of the trench collapsing. The worker needs to stay inside the trenchbox to complete the task, and if that is not possible, the employer needs to extend the shielding.

It’s up to the employer to provide a safe work environment and ensure that employees follow safety procedures, but it’s also up to the employee to follow safety regulations and the employer’s safe work procedures. This is outlined in OSHA’s General Duty Clause. Section 5 Duties(a)(b)

All Spotting Safety Articles:

  • Excavation Cave-ins
  • Scaffolding Footing
  • Scaffolding Toprails
  • Earthmoving Equipment Training
  • Self Supporting Ladders
  • Forklift Counterweighting
  • Power Tool Trigger Guards

How Cell Phone Use While Driving Laws Vary

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) says that you are three times more likely to get into a crash when distracted while using a cell phone.

At the end of 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said about 421,000 people are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012.

Distracted driving involves any activity that can divert attention from driving (eating, grooming, GPS, the radio, etc.), but several states have focused on cell phone use laws.

Employees must follow company policy, as well as their state’s/area’s safe driving laws, some of which are outlined below.

OSHA Requirement

OSHA has said that employers must refrain from requiring employees to text while driving or even creating a work environment that encourages the practice.

That’s because since distracted driving is a recognized hazard, it is a violation of OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which makes it the employer’s responsibility to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace that is free of recognized hazards.

Employees who are driving must wait until they have stopped in order to respond with a text message.

Hand-Held Cell Phone Use While Driving

In the following states/areas drivers are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle while using a cell phone that is in their hands. A hands-free wireless system may be used to make calls while driving.

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Washington D.C.
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Puerto Rico
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

Arkansas has a hand-held cell phone ban for drivers 18 to 20 years old, and for all drivers while in a school zone or highway construction zone. Louisiana and Oklahoma limit the ban to Learner or Intermediate license holders. New Mexico’s ban applies only to state-owned or operated state vehicles. Vermont’s law applies only in work zones.

Text Messaging

Most states/areas have a text-messaging ban for all drivers, with only three states free of any restriction: Arizona, Montana, and South Carolina.

In Missouri, drivers 21 years old or younger can’t text while driving. Mississippi and Oklahoma ban texting for school bus drivers and those with a Learner or Provisional license.

Texas bans texting for drivers 18 years old or younger, and for those who have a passenger 17 years or younger.

Know the Law in Your Area

Unless an employer makes a policy banning all cell phone use for its employees while driving, employees need to know how the law applies to their job and work area.

In 38 states/areas there is a complete ban on cell phone use for novice drivers. This complete ban may affect employees who are 19 and under or with a Learner or Intermediate license. Texas has banned all forms of cell phone use while driving with a passenger 17 years old or younger and for drivers 18 years old or younger and for all drivers in school zones.

School bus drivers are banned from all types of cell phone use in 21 states/areas.

Spotting Safety: Scaffold Footing

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We focused on the toprail requirements of a supported scaffold in the last Spotting Safety article, so let’s look at where the scaffold meets the ground to see why this photo, of wood blocks shimmed underneath a scaffold leg, doesn’t meet OSHA regulations.

  • “Unstable objects shall not be used to support scaffolds or platform units.” 1926.451(c)(2)(ii)

OSHA defines unstable objects as items whose strength, configuration, or lack of stability may allow them to become dislocated and shift. Examples include: barrels, boxes, loose brick, and concrete blocks.

It’s too easy to imagine the scaffold moving just enough to cause the pole to slide off the top block. Or one of the blocks could just as easily get kicked out of the pile.

An adjustable screw jack on the bottom of this pole would provide a solid base with the concrete and allow a worker to dial in exactly the right height to ensure a level scaffold.

Speaking of which, the other bare pole can present its own problems.

  • “Supported scaffold poles, legs, posts, frames, and uprights shall bear on base plates and mud sills or other adequate firm foundation.” 1926.451(c)(2)

Attaching a metal base plate footing to the bottom of all scaffold frames is an easy way to ensure a sound foundation. In truth, base plates are not always necessary as long as the foundation is firm enough, and concrete is the one material that OSHA says doesn’t need to be evaluated by a competent person.

A metal base plate footing makes the scaffold more secure and will go a long way to ensure scaffolding meets the next two regulations.

  • “Footings shall be level, sound, rigid, and capable of supporting the loaded scaffold without settling or displacement.” 1926.451(c)(2)(i)

Although not an issue in this photo, this means that if the scaffold settles into the ground even with footings, then additional measures, such as mudsills may be necessary. It is up to the competent person, appointed by the business to make these decisions.

  • “Supported scaffold poles, legs, posts, frames, and uprights shall be plumb and braced to prevent swaying and displacement.” 1926.451(c)(3)

This regulation speaks to the competent person identifying all necessary ties, guys, braces, and outriggers to make sure a scaffold doesn’t tip, but also requires attention to the scaffold’s poles, legs, post frames, and uprights to ensure they will stay braced and plumb so they don’t sway or move.

All Spotting Safety Articles:

  • Excavation Cave-ins
  • Scaffolding Footing
  • Scaffolding Toprails
  • Earthmoving Equipment Training
  • Self Supporting Ladders
  • Forklift Counterweighting
  • Power Tool Trigger Guards