Last night while watching the local news, there was a story about a water main break and the reporter was at the scene of the break reporting live. The water had been shut off, so all the reporter showed was the crew beginning to dig up the street to get to the leak. Exciting video, wow! What struck me immediately was that none of the crew were wearing any type of PPE—no hard hats, no reflective clothing, no gloves. The guy operating the jack hammer did not have safety glasses or hearing protection, hard hat, or gloves.
I began pointing out to my wife of all the safety issues I saw wrong just on the 30 seconds of video, and after listening patiently, as wives do, she said “I wonder, why don’t they have any of that stuff on?” Great question!
Do they not have the PPE available and just choose not to wear it? Possible, but not likely.
Do they have a chief or foreman that doesn’t make the crew wear the PPE? Possible. If the chief doesn’t think it’s important, then the crew won’t either. Guess who influences the chief.
Has management failed to encourage and create a culture of safe behaviors? Yes!
Management has the responsibility to provide the training and PPE and require its use as part of a safe working culture. If management was doing their job, you would not see a four-man crew digging up a street with zero safety measures in place.
From what I saw in 30 seconds, I have no confidence the digging, equipment operation, trench boxes, ladders, etc. were any more safely performed. If you don’t do the small things right, then odds are you don’t do the big things right. It’s all luck if no one gets hurt or killed.
Management must take a hard look in a mirror and ask if they are creating the “Safety is part of your job!” culture for their team. How well you’re doing may be right there on the news for you.
Recently, I read an investigation about an injury that could have easily been more serious than a broken leg and shoulder contusion. A 600-pound, seven-foot tall piece of equipment was to be lifted by a crane. The piece had a small square base and was designed with four rigging points. The crew and the crane operator decided they could do the lift with two straps instead of the required four. As soon as they lifted, the piece rotated and fell over, striking the groundman on the shoulder and leg. His injuries could have been much worse, plus the equipment that fell was expensive and damaged beyond repair. Why did this happen?
The investigation found the crew was experienced, having done many identical picks, with four slings. All PPE was in use and the job brief was done, but they did not have the required four slings on hand and decided they could do it with two slings. In my opinion, this was another management failure. If management had created the right safety culture, someone at the job would have said, “We can’t do the job safely without the other two slings, stop the job until we get them.” When they called management to report the delay, management would have told them, “Good job for stopping until it could be done safely” (and would have found out why all the slings weren’t there in the first place). Soon as management raises a fuss to a crew for not working past a safety issue without resolving the issue, the crew will begin to lose safety focus because management just told them safety is second or third to getting the job done.
Your crew’s safety performance is a direct reflection of management’s commitment to safety.
Quick question: Are seat belts required to be worn when operating heavy equipment by OSHA?
ANSWER: OSHA Title 29 CFR 1926.28(a) (Personal Protective Equipment) states that every employer must require the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment in all operations where there is an exposure to hazardous conditions, or where the nature of work indicates the need for using such equipment to reduce the hazards to the employees.
Title 29 CFR 1926.602 notes that the above requirement includes such heavy equipment as: scrapers, loaders, crawler or wheel tractors, bulldozers, off-highway trucks, graders, agricultural and industrial tractors.
Seat belts must be provided on all equipment covered by “heavy equipment.” Moreover, these seat belts must meet specific requirements for that equipment.
If the machinery is designed for operation while standing up, seat belts need not be provided. The OSHA rules do not mandate that seat belts must be used. However, failure to do so can result in the employer’s receiving a citation from OSHA because the employee is in contravention of OSHA 29 C.F.R. 1926.602.
29 CFR 1926.28(a) creates a requirement to use personal protective equipment where there is exposure to hazardous conditions and/or an indicated need for using personal protective equipment.
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) Review Commission contends that §1926.602(a)(1) indicates the need for seat belts as a provision of employee safety under recognized hazardous worker environment when using heavy equipment
Meaning if there are seat belts on the equipment, they are considered PPE and should be worn when operating the equipment.