All posts by Monica Vink

ROADSIDE AWARENESS

While traveling to and from our jobs, we are often faced with issues resulting in the need to pull over on the side of the roadway.  This can be due to a flat tire, a loose load that needs to be resecured, or worst-case scenario, a vehicular accident.  Dealing with unforeseen vehicle issues can be frustrating and potentially dangerous.  Keeping yourself out of harm’s way while determining the cause of the issue can be challenging. 

Today let’s discuss three key points to consider during a Roadside Breakdown.

  • PARK YOUR VEHICLE OUT OF HARM’S WAY.
  • CHECK FOR ONCOMING TRAFFIC BEFORE EXITING THE VEHICLE.
  • KNOW WHEN IT’S APPROPRIATE TO DEPLOY YOUR ROADSIDE KIT.

PARK YOUR VEHICLE OUT OF HARM’S WAY.

If you encounter a problem while driving, finding a safe place to stop and investigate is key to your safety.  Your first choice should be to position your vehicle on the right side of the road, as far off the road as possible while remaining on level ground. If you are driving on an interstate or multiple-lane highway with medians, you may consider the left shoulder if getting to the opposite side poses a safety hazard.  Avoid parking your vehicle on a corner or a road curve as doing so decreases other motorists’ ability to see you and react accordingly.  If you cannot get your vehicle to a location away from traffic, or if you are uncertain about your safety notify law enforcement immediately. 

CHECK FOR ONCOMING TRAFFIC BEFORE EXITING THE VEHICLE.

After you have stopped in the safest possible location, check all your mirrors as well as the surrounding area before exiting your vehicle.  Watch for oncoming traffic traveling directly at you as well as those approaching from the rear.  Knowing your surroundings before exiting your vehicle may prevent unnecessary risks caused by the environment, wildlife, or temporary changes in the roadway.  Keep your headlights on and your four-way hazard lights activated anytime you’re outside of your vehicle, especially at night or during inclement weather.

KNOW WHEN IT’S APPROPRIATE TO DEPLOY YOUR ROADSIDE KIT.

In addition to the activation of four-way hazards and headlights, Commercial Regulated Vehicles are required to place additional warning devices such as flares or triangles.  Warning devices must be placed within 10 minutes of stopping or when applicable safe to do so.  Per the code of federal regulations 392.22 (3.6), One triangle will be placed at least 100 ft ahead of the vehicle. One triangle should be placed 10 ft behind the vehicle on the side of the oncoming traffic. The final triangle will be placed between 100 ft and 500 ft back down the road to provide ample warning to vehicles coming up on your truck. Placing warning devices including triangles properly can be challenging depending on where the vehicle is stopped such as hills, bends, or curvy roads. As pointed out in key points 1 and 2, it’s important to consider your surroundings and all the precautions required when stopped in areas other than a straightaway. It just may save a life!

Today, we touched on 3 areas of focus for dealing with roadside breakdowns, but many aspects could have also been discussed.  Things like wearing a safety vest before exiting your vehicle, proper positioning when troubleshooting the problem, and the use of a spotter while moving around outside the vehicle are all critical to your safety.  One last tidbit before we close for today is trying to take notice of things like landmarks, mile markers, or last exit numbers.  These pieces of information can help speed up responses in the event you need to summon assistance.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

FORKLIFT SAFETY

Forklifts are quite amazing machines. They can lift thousands of pounds of material off of the floor, quickly move it across a giant warehouse, and place it several feet in the air on a rack. If workers still had to do these tasks manually without the assistance of powered industrial trucks, I sure would not want to help! While forklifts are incredible at what they do, we at Ontivity, recognize the dangers of operating and working alongside them. On average, there are 87 deaths per year due to forklift accidents and roughly one-third of these involve pedestrians. That means just because you are not behind the wheel does not mean operator safety does not apply to you. We all have to do our part by staying vigilant when forklifts are in use.

As we discuss Forklift Safety, we are going to focus on the following three key points:

  • ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEATBELT WHEN OPERATING A FORKLIFT
  • INSPECT THE FORKLIFT, AREA OF OPERATION AND LOAD
  • UTLIZE A SPOTTER WHEN THE VIEW OF THE OPERATOR IS OBSTRUCTED

ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEATBELT WHEN OPERATING A FORKLIFT

A recent case study performed by OSHA reviewing numerous forklift accidents revealed that the fatalities were completely preventable. Several real-world incidents were fatalities attributed to operators not wearing seatbelts. In the event of a tip-over, the driver can be tossed from the seat and pinned under the roll cage. Properly securing and traveling with a load will help prevent a tip-over situation, however, operators should always wear a seat belt. When climbing into the operator seat, the first thing you should do is secure your seatbelt. After operating the equipment and properly shutting down the unit, the last step is the removal of your seatbelt. Good seatbelt habits will protect you every day.

INSPECT THE FORKLIFT, AREA OF OPERATION, AND LOAD

Ontivity requires forklift operators to inspect their trucks each day. A quick visual inspection of the vehicle before a functional check will help identify any deficiencies. If at any time a powered industrial truck is found to be in need of repair, the truck should be taken out of service immediately until the unsafe condition is corrected. Not only do operators need to inspect their equipment, but they also need to inspect their surroundings. Aisles and passageways shall be kept clear and in good repair. Lighting, ventilation, and overall serviceability should be accounted for. Lastly, inspect your load. Uneven or damaged loads can negatively impact the forklift’s stability.

UTILIZE A SPOTTER WHEN THE VIEW OF THE OPERATOR IS OBSTRUCTED

Due to the size of loads carried by lift trucks, blind spots are everywhere so using a spotter is best practice. Operators often cannot see what is below or above their load or how close they are to objects from the driver’s seat. A good spotter can ensure that loads do not strike aisles or other materials. If your vision is obstructed by a load, the operator might have to drive in reverse to see where they are headed. Be sure to sound the horn and communicate with your spotter before moving. Never position yourself in an area between the counterweight and a wall or aisle while spotting to avoid severe injury. Remember if you are spotting a forklift operator, to keep your eyes on the load and no other distractions. Lastly, ensure you make eye contact with the operator before approaching the forklift.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

Avoid Sprain/Strain Injuries

Sprains and strains are among the most common workplace injuries. They are painful and debilitating for employees.  Recent studies show that annually, sprains/strains account for one-third of all reported injuries in the construction industry.  These types of injuries are often caused by how we lift, lower, push, pull, or carry materials while performing our duties. Sprain/strain injuries can happen over a period or take only a quick moment and can take days or months to heal.  Preventing strain and sprain injuries is a lot easier than correcting them once the damage is done.

Today’s discussion will target 3 areas to help eliminate sprain/strain injuries in our workplace.

  • AVOID CONDITIONS THAT CAN CAUSE SPRAIN/STRAIN INJURIES
  • TAKE THE TIME TO PREPARE YOUR BODY
  • USE PROPER LIFTING PRACTICES TO AVOID INJURY

AVOID CONDITIONS THAT CAN CAUSE SPRAIN/STRAIN INJURIES

Sometimes, repetitive job functions cause employees to ignore or forget about common safety measures, leading to sprain/strain injuries. Lifting, pushing, and overreaching are the most common causes of strains and sprains. Jobs that require employees to sit, stand, or bend in awkward positions for long periods can also lead to these types of injuries.  There are many ways to avoid sprain strain injuries.  Things like good housekeeping, exercising caution on slippery surfaces, and looking where you are placing your feet as you step off a ladder are just a few examples.  At the end of the day, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution but if we consider these types of injuries during our pre-work planning, tailgate meetings, and while performing assigned tasks then we can give ourselves a fighting chance. 

TAKE THE TIME TO PREPARE YOUR BODY

Construction is an athletic event! The importance of being warmed up before starting construction work is just like getting ready for a sporting event. Stretching is a means to avoid the most common body sprain/strain injuries. Stretching before lifting is especially helpful to avoid back injuries. As you begin to stretch, it’s important to listen to your body’s limits.  If a particular stretch is causing you pain, or discomfort, modify the stretch or take a break.  Getting into the habit of a pre-work warmup dramatically decreases the chances of a sprain/strain injury.    

USE PROPER LIFTING PRACTICES TO AVOID INJURY

Many strains and sprains occur because of poor material handling. Workers lifting things that weigh too much or lifting incorrectly can lead to serious soft tissue injuries. Get help with heavy loads. Do not try to move or lift an object you cannot handle. Break loads down into smaller parts or get help from a mechanical device such as pallet jacks or dollies. Also, ask for help from a coworker to lift heavy items, Ontivity policy is that equipment/material over 80 lbs. requires a two-person lift. Learn to look at something and understand your limitations and then acquire help by your needs.   

We all know that keeping our equipment and tools in good condition and operating smoothly is critical to doing good work. Your body is by far your most important piece of equipment and without it, nothing is getting done. Sprain/strain injuries were at the top of our list for injuries in 2023 and it will take all of us working together to avoid a repeat in 2024.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

HARDHAT SAFETY

A hard hat is the last line of defense against objects impacting one of your most vital assets – your head. OSHA regulations require employers to provide hardhats when objects or debris might fall from above and strike workers on the head, when employees may strike their heads against fixed objects, or when there is the possibility that workers’ heads are exposed to electrical hazards. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that hard hats were worn by only 16% of workers who sustained head injuries on the job. In just about any given year, more than one thousand workers are killed in the US from head injuries sustained at work. 

Today we will discuss 3 topics related to the use of hard hats in our workplace. 

  • ALWAYS WEAR A HARD HAT WHILE ON-SITE
  • AVOID USING STICKERS IN A WAY THAT WOULD PREVENT PROPER INSPECTION
  • ENSURE YOUR HARD HAT IS PROPERLY RATED

ALWAYS WEAR A HARD HAT WHILE ON-SITE.

This point is pretty short and sweet.  Ontivity’s company policy is that hard hats are required to be always worn while on site, except during lunch and break periods.  This is of course provided no work is in progress in the immediate break area or above it. One additional exception is when workers are operating equipment with fully enclosed cabs.  Keep in mind that some customers or property owners could have more stringent guidelines that could supersede our internal requirements negating our allowed exceptions.

AVOID USING STICKERS IN A WAY THAT WOULD PREVENT PROPER INSPECTION.

This is a common question. What is our stance on the use of stickers on a hard hat? From a safety perspective, non-metallic stickers or tape with self-adhesive backing are acceptable on most of today’s hard hats. However, there are some general guidelines to follow – we must ensure that the use of stickers does not prevent a thorough inspection. More directly or stated differently, we must ensure stickers are not used to cover up damage on a hard hat. Some manufacturers also state that hard hat stickers should be placed at least a 1/2” from the edge of the helmet. We all love our hard hats not only because of the protection they provide but also because they allow us to show off some of our experiences and accomplishments by way of stickers. However, keep in mind, as we stated in today’s bullet point, we must make sure the use of stickers doesn’t get in the way of a thorough inspection.

ENSURE YOUR HARD HAT IS PROPERLY RATED.

ANSI designates 3 classes of hard hats. Class E, G, and C are the three classes identified in Z89.1.  Class C hard hats are made of conductive material and since we deal with varying levels of electrical hazards, and RF daily, Ontivity policy does not allow them on our job sites.  Our company safety policy specifically requires the use of Class E or G hard hats.  These classes of hard hats provide certain levels of protection against electrical, and RF exposure, with Class E offering the highest level of protection.    

When choosing a hard hat, it’s not about how cool it looks or how much space you have for stickers.  It’s all about choosing the right type and class that offers the appropriate level of protection. You can verify the type of hard hat you have by looking for the ANSI required labels or stamping placed somewhere on the inside of your hard hat.  I will leave you with one quick tidbit of information.  The average hard hat weighs 14 oz, couple that with the average weight of a person’s head at 14 lbs. and the old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure holds true.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

Vehicle Telematics and Pre-trip Inspections

As each one of us gets ready for our workday we will be utilizing one of our greatest tools, our vehicles.  Each of Ontivity’s vehicles is equipped with a Motive system to assist us in keeping our employees safe and to aid in staying in compliance with DOT rules and regulations. Often a camera and vehicle telematics system comes with a negative connotation however the installation of our Motive equipment has protected our employees more often than not against fraudulent claims by the general public and even lawsuits. Let’s look at just a few ways our Motive systems are assisting our operations daily while protecting our employees.

Today we will discuss three important topics on Vehicle Telematics and Pre-trip Inspections.

  • WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO CONNECT TO YOUR VEHICLE BEFORE DRIVING?
  • KNOW WHY COMPLETING DAILY INSPECTIONS ARE CRITICAL.
  • SAFE DRIVING HABITS ARE KEY TO ZERO HARM.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO CONNECT TO YOUR VEHICLE BEFORE DRIVING?

As we look at our daily driving habits we must be looking at the actions/behaviors of the actual person behind the wheel.  As each family member company operates under a Department of Transportation or DOT number, we fall under Federal Motor Carrier Administration rules and guidelines.  These rules and guidelines set minimum standards for drivers and vehicles to keep the drivers as well as the public safe. The FMCSA has mandated that every operating vehicle that meets the definition of a commercial vehicle, is operated by a driver signed into a vehicle electronically. In the event of a critical incident, it’s important to know who to call for incident updates and proper notifications and this is not possible if you are not logged into your assigned vehicle.  If the actual driver of the vehicle is not connected this could potentially delay life-saving measures for not only the driver but passengers as well.

How can you tell if you’re logged into your vehicle, you ask.  After the dash cameras go to a solid blue, indicating that it’s operating and transmitting properly, the driver; needs to connect to the vehicle via the Motive app on your phone.  Make sure your cell phone’s Bluetooth is on as well as the location services.  Having them both on is key to a good connection.  Motive’s current application software level is identified as version 72.0.  If you’re using an older version of the app, you may not establish a solid connection and received data could be incomplete or erroneous.   If you need assistance with connecting or verifying the version of the Motive app you are running, please contact your local fleet manager or contact safety directly.

KNOW WHY COMPLETING DAILY INSPECTIONS ARE CRITICAL.

Before hitting the road each day, you need to complete a pre-trip inspection. Although it can seem repetitive to do this every day, it is essential for your safety and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) compliance. A thorough pre-trip inspection can help prevent accidents and save you time and trouble later.  Completing these inspections properly helps protect you as well as anyone else on the road. Vehicle malfunctions have the potential to cause accidents. If you don’t fix a mechanical issue right away, it can cause a breakdown later or worse cause an accident. Although it can seem like getting an issue fixed will take longer than you would like, it saves time compared to needing to stop on the side of the highway.  The Motive tool is set up to require a pre and post-trip inspection of our vehicles and assets. Don’t get in the habit of skipping these steps because you’ve never had anything go wrong before. It is important to understand that every time you hit the road without checking your truck, there is a chance you’re putting yourself or someone else in danger.  If we all take a thorough approach to the inspection process, we make conditions better and safer for the next driver, your passengers, and anyone sharing the road with you.

Remember as the driver, you are the captain of the vessel.  This also means that you are responsible for getting the other crew members to the site safely.   Don’t risk operating an uninspected vehicle down the road.

SAFE DRIVING HABITS ARE KEY TO ZERO HARM.

Here at Ontivity, we talk a lot about safe driving.  We discuss the topic so frequently because it’s arguably the riskiest thing we do daily.  Having Motive installed in our vehicles has allowed us to identify trends, hazards, and training points for our drivers to improve their driving habits and decrease the chances of vehicle incidents.  You must listen for those In-cab alerts as they are designed to correct unsafe behaviors before something bad happens.  Please, take it seriously and make a true effort to listen when someone calls you to discuss reports of close following, excessive speeding, or stop sign violations.  Take a proactive approach to correcting the behavior and don’t make excuses for why you were dinged by the tool.  The intent of the Motive system is not to have “big brother” watching over you, it truly is about the well-being of our drivers, passengers, and the general public, and ensuring your safe arrival to and from. 

Your feedback on the performance of the tool has been crucial in assisting Motive to develop a better and more accurate system.  More importantly, since the initial installation of the systems, we have seen a steady decline in unsafe habits and on-the-road vehicle incidents.  With the Ontivity family members companies driving a total of 10million-One hundred thirteen thousand-190 miles, in 2023.  The continued messaging for safe driving habits isn’t going away and is a big piece of our journey to achieving Zero Harm. 

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

MIGRATORY BIRDS

February 14th or Valentine’s Day sparks love in the air and romantic feelings across the country. As a safety professional, the only thought that comes to my mind is the official start of bird season. Specifically, Redtail hawks will be finalizing their courtship during the month and will produce eggs very soon. Because of these mating and nesting cycles, North America passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Currently, there are 1,093 species of birds protected under the act with an additional 342 species listed as Birds of Conservation Concern. Those numbers pretty much guarantee that many of us, either working at height or simply working on the ground, will be impacted by the presence of birds or a bird nest at a cell site in 2024.

As we discuss Migratory Birds, we are going to break the topic into three main areas:

  • FIRST, SOME HAZARDS WITH NESTING BIRDS AND HOW TO MITIGATE THEM,
  • COMMON SIGNS TO HELP YOU IDENTIFY AN ACTIVE NEST, AND
  • LASTLY, WHAT STEPS TO TAKE IF YOU ENCOUNTER A NEST.

THE HAZARDS OF NESTING BIRDS

Nesting birds present some serious hazards to the workforce.  According to a NATE video, the most common are falls and lacerations.  Some birds can become aggressive and cause aerial workers to make sudden movements that could lead to falls, so it is critical that you maintain 100% tie-off to the structure at all times. Birds will try to attack you from behind so try to protect the back of your head as much as possible or take shelter within the tower structure itself if possible. Some birds might even be large enough to render you unconscious after striking you so protect your face and ears by covering them up or hiding behind larger antennas. Do not think that nests are isolated to the tower top. There are several ground-nesting species of birds as well as lower portholes on monopoles and even ice bridges. Be aware and be prepared, nesting birds of prey will not hesitate to protect their nest if you happen across it while working on the job site.

COMMON SIGNS OF AN ACTIVE NEST

If birds become agitated, aggressive, or avoid landing in the nest due to worker presence this could indicate the nest may be active. I once encountered a site where two red-tailed hawks descended on our crew while opening the compound gate. Warning signs from the bird like high pitch screeching or aggressive movements toward workers can also be a sign of an active nest.  There is no way to determine if a bird is protecting eggs, hatchlings, or maybe even recently deceased babies without actually looking in the nest.  This action should never be one you decide to take on your own.  You must know for sure what you are dealing with before attempting to look inside a nest. Wildlife agencies should be consulted before working at sites with nests and they can guide for completing work during the nesting season safely. In some cases, a biologist might need to be consulted to determine the nest status and evaluate your work options. The carrier or tower owner will often provide written instructions via email to ensure proper steps are taken. It is imperative to follow these guidelines to protect yourself and the animals.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SEE IF A NEST

If a nest was identified during a previous visit, the structure owner’s NOC or carrier should advise you of this at check-in and offer guidance on how to proceed. If you don’t get this notice and see a nest while preparing to work or during your work activities, stop immediately, notify the tower owner, and call the safety hotline. Information regarding the location and height of the nest, description of birds observed/species, observations of bird activity, and photos of the nest (if safe to accomplish). The eagle protection act forbids disturbance while some other species do not. This means if your scope of work does not disturb the animal and they are not aggressive you might be allowed to proceed. Sometimes we can get a speedy resolution and other times our projects can be delayed several months. When faced with the hazard of migratory birds, remember to exercise best practices, and stay within legal requirements. These requirements may also be different according to the state or municipality you are working in. 

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

WIRE MESH GRIPS

Currently, there are no industry standards or regulations regarding the qualification of components, compatibility, and use of wire mesh grips. Per the applicable standards utilized within the industry the use of a wire mesh grip with transmission line and hybrid fiber/power cables (i.e., cable), together comprise a lift system and ultimately a suspension system supported by the structure. Traditionally testing for the compatibility of components has been left to the discretion of the cable manufacturers and the wire mesh grip manufacturers. Therefore, NATE pulled together subject matter experts within the industry and published an advisory notice with best practices.

We would like to look at three key bullet points pulling information primarily from the advisory notice which closely coincides with a recently released industry publication. 

  • VERIFY THE WEIGHT OF THE CABLE AND WEIGHT RATING OF THE WIRE MESH GRIP BEFORE HOISTING.
  • SECURE THE WIRE MESH GRIP TO THE APPROPRIATE ANCHOR POINT UTILIZING APPROVED HARDWARE.
  • ALWAYS USE A SECONDARY TO PREVENT DISLODGMENT.

VERIFY THE WEIGHT OF THE CABLE AND WEIGHT RATING OF THE WIRE MESH GRIP PRIOR TO HOISTING

Just the same as all chemicals have safety data sheets, coax and hybrid cables have spec sheets that detail their weight by foot among other things. As the competent person on site charged with the installation of these cables, it is imperative that we know and verify the total weight of the cable that is being lifted and that all components being used in the lifting system align with the rigging/construction plan and, more importantly, can withstand the forces induced. Failure to perform this critical step can and will most likely result in a failure that may lead to property damage and/or injury.

SECURE THE WIRE MESH GRIP TO THE APPROPRIATE ANCHOR POINT UTILIZING APPROVED HARDWARE.

In the most recent publication released by Crown, they state that wire mesh grips shall not be wrapped around components such as, but not limited to, a tower member, mount, ladder rung, or port hole rim. Wrapping the wire mesh grip around a member or edge reduces its stated maximum capacity. It is also stated that hardware used in permanent installs shall comply with ASME B30.26 there for quick links, angle adapters and beam clamps are prohibited. All anchor points must go back to the main structure or leg unless there is an engineered anchor or present. The industry has recently developed multiple products that can be used both on monopoles and lattice towers to better accommodate the permanent securement of wire mesh grips. If you need more information on these products, please reach out to the Safety Hotline, local FSA, or your immediate supervisor.

ALWAYS USE A SECONDARY TO PREVENT DISLODGEMENT UNTIL THE CABLE IS PROPERLY SECURED.

In alignment with our Falling/Flying Objects or Dropped Object Prevention program, the competent person on site must evaluate the site conditions and take necessary precautions to protect workers and the public from falling/flying objects. While hoisting cable with the use of a wire mesh grip, we must utilize a secondary lifting system that would prevent the accidental dislodgement of the cable in the event of a wire mesh grip failure. Ideally, this is accomplished with the use of a rated sling attached to the cable with the use of a prusik shackled to the load line. When doing this, we must ensure that the secondary doesn’t interfere with the synching capabilities of the wire mesh grip.

The use of wire mesh grips and installation of cables on communication structures continues to be a task that can be risky if not done properly. There have been numerous near-misses, property claims, and injuries tied to this specific task within our industry. But as always, our industry pulls together when faced with these types of issues and always prevails. At the end of the day, we must always refer to the manufacturer’s specifications when using wire mesh grips and lean on advisory notices, best practices, and our training. Today’s Safety Call was not intended to be an all-inclusive training on the do’s and do nots when it comes to the installation and use of wire mesh grips. That is why we have included two documents that provide additional guidance and recommend that those in which this topic applies to review. As always, we ask that you reach out to the Safety Hotline, your local FSA, or your immediate supervisor if you have any questions.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

LADDER SAFETY

You may look at a ladder as being a very simple and harmless piece of equipment, but don’t be fooled, falls from ladders are right at the top of the list for causing serious injuries and fatalities in the construction industry.  According to the World Health Organization, falls from ladders result in more than 164,000 emergency room-treated injuries and 300 deaths in the U.S. each year. When you combine those stats with an additional 160,000 ladder injuries at home, the United States leads the world in ladder injuries and deaths.  Even more shocking is that most ladder deaths are from falls of 10 feet or less. That means even when you’re using a simple stepladder on the job site or in your backyard, proper ladder safety is pertinent.  There are many areas we could cover when it comes to ladder safety, and we could fill up the next 5 or 6 calls with that information. 

Today we will focus on 3 basic points to prevent you from becoming a statistic when it comes to ladder safety.

  • CHOOSE THE RIGHT LADDER FOR THE TASK
  • INSPECT LADDERS BEFORE USING THEM
  • ALWAYS TAKE TIME TO PROPERLY SETUP LADDERS

CHOOSE THE RIGHT LADDER FOR THE TASK.

It may seem easier to you to use the same ladder for every job but make no mistake–not all ladders are created equal. You should always make sure that the ladder you are using, whether a step ladder, a-frame ladder, or extension ladder, is the right one for the job that you are doing.  When choosing a ladder make sure to select the correct style of ladder needed for your tasks.  Never use an A-frame ladder like an extension ladder.  Make you’re your ladder is tall enough to prevent you from having to stand on the top two rungs of a portable ladder orthe top 4 of an extension ladder.  Remember that extension ladders must extend at least 3 feet beyond their landing point.  These 3 feet help you transition from the ladder to your work area. The material your ladder is made of is also critical.  As per the Ontivtity safety manual ladders shall be ANSI Type1A and constructed of fiberglass.  Type 1A ladders have a weight capacity of 300 pounds and we should never exceed that.  When determining weight consider body weight, PPE, and tools.  Most of the ladders we use are rated for 1 person only.  If you are in a situation that requires two people, chances are you will need two ladders. Taking the time to select and procure the right ladder can be the difference in a job well done and spending a few days in the hospital, so choose wisely. 

INSPECT LADDERS BEFORE USING THEM.

Before you step one foot on a ladder you must inspect it to make sure it is safe to use.  If you are unsure if someone else inspected it, take the few extra few minutes to do it yourself.  Start by looking for the most obvious items like broken or missing rungs, cracked siderails, damaged feet, and corrosion.  Cracks can be hard to see, especially with fiberglass ladders so take your time and look closely.  Spreaders, locks, & metal parts should not be loose, faulty, or in questionable condition.  Ropes for extension ladders should be in good shape with no frays, cuts, or knots. Pulleys should move freely and not bind on the rope.  Now we want to focus on labels.  All labels should be legible and fully intact.  Ladders with damaged or missing labels should not be used until they are replaced.  You want to also look for damage that could snag clothes or tool pouches that could cause you to lose balance or fall off the ladder.  This type of damage can also cause lacerations.  Steps or rungs should not be missing, loose, bent, corroded, or have substances that can cause you to slip. The ladder’s feet should work properly, and slip-resistant pads correctly attached.  If after inspection, a ladder is determined to be unsafe or non-conforming, the ladder must be removed from service immediately.  The ladder should be immediately red tagged with “Do Not Use” and marked in a manner that readily identifies it as defective and not safe for use.  Never ever try to perform field repairs on a ladder, it just isn’t worth it.

ALWAYS TAKE THE TIME TO PROPERLY SETUP LADDERS.

The proper setup of ladders is just as critical as our other two points today.  Proper setup is a crucial step in preventing workplace accidents.  The most basic guidance is to ensure the ladder is positioned on firm and level ground.  Be sure to place the ladder so you always face your work area or transition point.  Never position ladders on moveable objects, elevated work platforms or other objects in an effort to obtain additional height.  Using the bed of a truck, pallets, or setting up a ladder inside an aerial lift basket to gain additional height are an indication you have the wrong ladder, and these practices should never happen in our workplace. Setup your ladder to prevent overreaching – ensure your navel stays within the rails.  Ensure the ladder stays away from overhead conductors and power lines. Extension ladders must be positioned so that it is leaning against a vertical surface of support. They must be positioned at an angle of a 4:1 ratio.  This means four every 4 feet you climb up a ladder, you should move the ladder 1 foot away from the wall or vertical surface on which it’s placed.  Lastly, secure your ladder to prevent accidental tipping during use. Even the shortest duration of risky setup can have an outcome no one on this call wants.

In closing our call today, I just want to cover a couple other items to remember when using a ladder. Remember to always maintain 3 points of contact when climbing up and down. If necessary, wear at tool belt or use a pouch to carry small items. Lastly, always follow the manufacturer operating requirements anytime you are required to use a ladder for your assigned work duties.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

PENCIL WHIPPING

The phrase “pencil whipping” is commonly used in the safety industry to describe the practice of completing inspection forms or checklists without conducting a thorough inspection (e.g., “checking the box”). Pencil whipping is a serious issue that can compromise workplace safety and increase the risk of accidents and injuries.

We will discuss a few key points of why pencil whipping is a bad idea and a few steps that we must take to eradicate this damaging, unethical practice.

  • KNOW WHAT CAN LEAD TO PENCIL WHIPPING
  • UNDERSTAND THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH PENCIL WHIPPING
  • TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT PENCIL WHIPPING

KNOW WHAT CAN LEAD TO PENCIL WHIPPING.

Time pressure in an organization is frequently the gating factor that leads employees to take shortcuts to finish their tasks quickly. When employees face strict and sometimes unrealistic targets and are over-burdened with too much paperwork, they choose pencil whipping to save time while meeting the deadline instead of conducting a comprehensive review. In a world where productivity is highly valued, employees could feel indirectly (and sometimes directly) pressured to “pencil-whip” a process to just get the job done.  Lack of supervision or accountability could also lead to “pencil-whipping”. Our leaders must remain in lockstep with our workforce and discourage this risky practice. 

UNDERSTAND THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH PENCIL WHIPPING.

“Pencil-whipping” can be particularly risky in situations where employee safety is crucial.  When you brush over the fall protection section of a JHA or check “passed” when crews are not wearing their PPE you, you bring unnecessary risks into the workplace. The negligent act of pencil whipping takes away our ability to provide a safe workplace for our employees. Pencil whipping safety documents endangers workers’ wellbeing.  Many of our safety documents, like our JHA, are legal documents and when not completed with your full attention can result in legal consequences and hefty fines.  Non-compliance with industry regulations or safety standards can result in citations, fines, and/or work suspension and contract termination. Pencil whipping can lead to a toxic work environment, where accountability and trust are eroded, and workers become indifferent to their responsibilities. None of these are in alignment with our core value of safety. 

TAKE STEPS TO PREVENT PENCIL WHIPPING.

By implementing a system of checks and balances, ensuring proper training and supervision, and promoting a culture of accountability and responsibility, we can eliminate the negligent act of pencil whipping from our workplace. Which in turn will ensure the safety and quality of our products and services.  Our commitment to our core values has enabled us to become a leader and go-to organization in our industry. Pencil whipping any document, not just safety documents jeopardizes that position.  Self-pride, accountability, and supervision are essential pieces to preventing pencil whipping. You should be proud to work at a company that cares for you and wants nothing more than for you to be successful at whatever it is you want to achieve.  When you pencil-whip documents, you put yourself and your coworker in harm’s way, so don’t do it.  Managers and supervisors should establish clear expectations and a system of checks and balances to ensure that the act of pencil whipping doesn’t happen at any of the Ontivity family companies.

As cliché as the saying goes, it starts with you!  Be the leader that we know you are and hold each other accountable to eliminate pencil whipping from our workplace.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of. 

BUCKET TRUCK SAFETY

Bucket trucks are extremely useful for accessing areas far above the ground, but you need to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. As simple as a bucket truck may be, there are several opportunities for injury if improperly operated. Precautions must be taken to prevent serious bucket truck operator injuries including falls, electrocution, and rollovers. Most people would not allow a young family member to drive their car without a license and proper training. Yet, when we encounter heavy equipment on the job site, we may be tempted to jump into the seat and just figure it out. To avoid this temptation, we established a more methodical approach to equipment use to ensure that individuals have the necessary tools before climbing into the driver’s seat.

As we discuss Bucket Truck Safety, lets break it down to three main areas:

  • TRAINING REQUIREMENTS BEFORE OPERATING EQUIPMENT,
  • PRE-USE INSPECTIONS AND THEIR IMPORTANCE, AND
  • WORKPLACE INSPECTIONS

TRAINING REQUIREMENTS

The primary objective of equipment training is to provide the operator with the knowledge and skills required to demonstrate the safe operation of the equipment. This is achieved through both theory and practical training. We are a big proponent of understanding how things work. When you understand the basic concepts of the bucket truck, the vehicle’s center of gravity, and hydraulics, you can operate the unit to its full potential. By undergoing hands-on training, employees can learn the proper steps to stable deployment and what to do during a rescue. We must all ensure that our employees and sub-contractors do not operate a bucket truck without the appropriate training. OSHA and ANSI very specifically spell out the requirements for operation. If you are unsure, please reach out to the OneSafety team before operating any equipment.

PRE-USE INSPECTIONS

Regulations, standards, and company policy require pre-use inspections to be conducted before we operate a bucket truck. During the inspection, start with a walk-around visual inspection looking for loose, missing, and broken parts, obvious visible damage, and leaks of any kind. Be sure to look closely at the frame, boom arm, basket, and motor.  Then move on to a powered function check at both the ground controls and the next operator controls. The Ontivity JHA includes some great points to assist bucket truck operators on page 5 under daily inspections. Simply select yes on the form and it will present you with 14 bullet points to check on the vehicle. Furthermore, there are 14 additional questions to assist with truck setup. I like the added checklist as it ensures I do not overlook or forget any components during my daily checkout.

WORKPLACE INSPECTIONS

 In addition to the pre-use inspection of the equipment, you are also required to complete an inspection of the work area where you will be operating your bucket truck. This inspection is just as important as the pre-use inspection, if not more. This allows you to identify all direct operational hazards that if not corrected or mitigated will or could cause serious injury or harm to you or a co-worker. Examples of some specific hazards that need to be identified are drop-offs or holes, ground conditions, sloped surfaces, overhead obstruction, electrical conductors, pedestrians, vehicle traffic, and last but not least weather or wind conditions. Once you have evaluated the hazards, proper controls can be put into place. Utilizing a spotter or ground guide when driving a bucket truck on-site is best practice due to several blind spots in the vehicle. Furthermore, be sure to never move a bucket truck with the boom elevated or extended. There is no need to cut corners or rush with a bucket truck. You are not saving any time out of your workday sitting in a hospital room or filling out a police report.

If you would like more information on this topic or any other safety-related topic, please reach out to the Ontivity safety team at safety@ontivity.com, and we will get you taken care of.