‘It happens in a second’: CPWR webinar focuses on preventing trench collapses

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Silver Spring, MD — Pausing on an image of workers installing a septic tank liner, OSHA Directorate of Construction Director Scott Ketcham told attendees of a May 28 webinar they were looking at “a tragedy in the making.”

The photo showed an unprotected trench, and one of the workers pictured died when the trench collapsed moments after the photo was taken, said Ketcham, one of several experts featured in the webinar, hosted by CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training.

“This is why we’re focusing on trenching,” he said. “It happens in a second, and the conditions can lead to loss of life very quickly.”

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17 workers died in excavation or trenching incidents in 2018.

Joe Wise, regional customer training manager of trench safety at United Rentals, and Alan Echt, senior industrial hygienist at the NIOSH Office of Construction Safety and Health, joined Ketcham in addressing factors that influence trench safety during the one-hour presentation.

Atop the list are protective systems. The OSHA standard for trenching and excavation (29 CFR 1926.650-652, Subpart P) requires protective systems for trenches that are 5 feet or deeper, unless the excavation occurs in stable rock. A registered professional engineer is required to design protective systems for trenches that are at least 20 feet deep or approve tabulated data prepared for the system.

The three primary protective systems are:
Sloping (or benching): Cutting back the trench wall at an angle inclined away from the excavation.
Shoring: Installing aluminum hydraulics or other types of supports to prevent cave-ins.
Shielding: Using trench boxes or other supports to prevent cave-ins.

Wise highlighted the vital role served by the designated competent person, who leads the operation and assesses existing and potential hazards before work begins.

“There’s so many different ways to help shore up a trench, and not every job is the same, so someone that is a competent person, that has that awareness of many different solutions, is going to be better suited to make sure that job can not only be safe, but also very productive in the process of that project,” Wise said.

The National Utility Contractors Association recently declared June Trench Safety Month. In addition, the North American Excavation Shoring Association and OSHA are set to host a series of educational trench safety summits in Boston; Orlando, FL; Los Angeles; and Denver during the summer and early fall.

Osha has a new webpage with guidance specifically for keeping construction workers safe during the pandemic

Construction worker with PPE | Photo Credit: Courtesy of Turner Construction

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Turner Construction

This section provides guidance for construction employers and workers, such as those engaged in carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/ ventilation/air conditioning/ventilation, masonry and concrete work, utility construction work, and earthmoving activities.

Click here to visit the new webpage. 

 

COVID-19 pandemic: Construction workers subject of new OSHA alert

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Photo: strods/iStockphoto

Washington — Aimed at protecting construction workers from exposure to COVID-19, a new OSHA safety alert lists measures employers should take during the pandemic.

Released April 21, the alert calls on employers to encourage workers to report any safety or health concerns and stay home when sick. Additionally, the agency recommends that in-person meetings, including toolbox talks and safety meetings, be kept as short as possible. Organizations should limit the number of workers in attendance and make sure they remain at least 6 feet apart from each other at all times.

Employers also should ensure alcohol-based wipes are used to clean tools and equipment – especially those that are shared – before and after use. Workers tasked with cleaning should consult manufacturer recommendations for proper use and any restrictions.

Physical distancing protocol should be followed inside work trailers or when visitors are onsite, and physical contact should be avoided.

Organizations are advised to clean and disinfect jobsite toilets on a regular basis, and ensure hand-sanitizer dispensers are filled. Any other frequently touched items such as door pulls should be cleaned and disinfected.

Other recommendations:

  • Educate workers on the proper way to put on, take off, maintain and use/wear protective clothing and equipment.
  • Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Use cleaning products listed by the Environmental Protection Agency as effective against the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes COVID-19.
  • Promote personal hygiene. If workers don’t have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • Continue to use “normal control measures,” including personal protective equipment, to safeguard workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities.

The alert is available in English and Spanish.

COVID-19 pandemic: CPWR shares tips to help shield construction workers from exposure

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Photo: beekeepx/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — Aiming to protect construction workers from the COVID-19 pandemic, CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training has released guidance for employees and employers.

CPWR collaborated with North America’s Building Trades Unions, as well as partners in research and government, to develop the guidance. The center said it plans to update its COVID-19 webpage regularly as information becomes available.

Tips for workers include:

  • Don’t go to work if you’re feeling sick.
  • Don’t shake hands when greeting others.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others on the worksite, if possible, including during meetings and training sessions.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or do so into your elbow.
  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

For employers:

  • Plan for office staff to have the ability to work from home.
  • Provide soap and running water – and hand sanitizer, if possible – on all worksites to allow for frequent handwashing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces on worksites and in offices, including hand rails, doorknobs and portable toilets.
  • If a job involves working at a health care facility, provide workers with Infection Control Risk Assessment training.

Of all professions, construction workers most likely to use opioids and cocaine

Construction workers are more likely use cocaine and misuse prescription opioids, according to a study  by the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research at NYU College of Global Public Health. These workers are also the second most likely to use marijuana.

Researchers looked at data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health between 2005 and 2014.

“It makes sense that we see higher rates of construction workers using pain-relieving substances such as opioids and marijuana, given the labor-intensive nature of their work and high rates of injuries,” said Danielle Ompad, the study’s lead author. Read more.

Opioid misuse, cocaine use higher among construction, extraction workers: study

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Photo: kali9/iStockphoto

New York — Written drug policies and programs are strongly needed in the construction and extraction industries, researchers from New York University are saying after their study revealed that workers in these industries are more likely than those in other industries to misuse prescription opioids and use cocaine.  Read more

Suicide in the Construction Industry: Breaking the Stigma and Silence

A suicide occurs every 12 minutes in the U.S. While these incidents touch every industry, one industry in particular has felt the impact of suicide in recent years – construction and extraction. A CDC study found that in 2012 and 2015, suicide rates were highest among males in the construction and extraction occupational group. Continue reading»

OSHA delays enforcement of crane operator documentation requirements for ‘good faith’ employers

Employers who make “good faith efforts” to document their evaluations of crane operators have an additional 60 days to comply with OSHA’s Cranes and Derricks in Construction: Operator Certification Extension, according to a Feb. 7 enforcement memorandum from the agency. Continue Reading»