18 Feb 2014
Whenever workers are working in a shipyard or aboard a vessel in a shipyard, a fire watch is usually designated purely for the purpose of watching out for a fire. In some places a fire watch is actually required by law whenever working on a vessel or inside a shipyard. As a worker who works in a shipyard, it is your responsibility to know these requirements. However, one of the problems with fire watches is that they can become easily bored since a majority of them simply wait around and wait for a fire to happen. This doesn’t have to be the case though. There are several things the designated fire watch can be doing to help prevent fires while they are on fire watch duty. Fire watches should treat their jobs much like a safety role. Yes, they are there primarily to combat a fire if it were to break out, but while they are waiting for this to happen, they can be taking proactive safety measures to help prevent a fire from ever breaking out.
For example, whenever there is welding or cutting taking place in the shipyard or on a ship, there are several safety precautions the fire watch can take to ensure that other workers are working under the safest possible conditions. The following checklist is a good example.
- Ensure that the ventilation in those spaces where the welding or cutting is happening is adequate enough for someone to be working in that space. If there’s little to no ventilation, workers could be affected by the smoke before a fire ever appears.
- Have a Competent Person inspect the spaces where work will be done BEFORE workers enter the space and start working. No one should enter any space before the Competent Person has made their full inspection.
- Make sure that any and all lighting is adequate enough for the workers who will be working in the space. If lighting is poor, there is a myriad of problems it could create.
- If workers will be working with foam insulation, then the fire watch should make sure that all foam is stripped back to their correct guidelines or have all the exposed edges painted with No-Char. If you don’t have No-Char, find an appropriate substitute.
- Ensure that good housekeeping is practiced. Bad housekeeping creates a number of problems including debris being strewn about, spaghetti leads, and workers who are in a bad mood because everything is a mess. Bad housekeeping has led to some of the worst accidents in the industry. Don’t risk it.
- Make sure that there is no gasoline anywhere near the welding area! There have been instances where a worker was welding, noticed a vertical skip in an enclosed space, and was sitting on a 5 gallon can of gasoline at the same time. The gas can was used earlier for the pressure washer on deck and another worker brought it down for the welder to sit on. Make sure you read the labels on everything that is handed to you! This particular incident could have resulted in disaster that could’ve blown up the entire ship just because of a dumb mistake.
A fire watch is extremely important when working in a shipyard or aboard a vessel. However, the best fire watches take the extra initiative to inspect, catch, and report any fire safety hazards BEFORE an accident occurs. Yes, it could be possible that the fire watch needs to delay or stop work in the process, but the cleanup process for even a small fire can take hours or even days to clean up. An inspection will only take a few minutes. Make the smart decision.
We already know that thousands of injuries occur in the workplace each year, and unfortunately, some of those injuries ultimately result in death. Everyday when workers walk onto the job site, or into the factory, or into the warehouse, etc. they are accepting the fact that an accident could happen at any given moment and that they could be the next victim. However, once workers have been working at their jobs long enough, they start to develop somewhat of an immunity to these threats. In other words, they become so used to the constant threat of an injury or death happening to them or their coworkers that they get used to it and start to become careless while they are working. Carelessness on the job obviously leads to unsafe work practices, but some may be surprised to learn that carelessness is actually the leading cause of incidents in the workplace. Statistically speaking, 20% of injuries result from unsafe conditions while the other 80% are caused by unsafe acts. This means that 80% of all injuries in the workplace each year are directly caused by workers who either didn’t know how to safely perform a specific task, or they simply ignored learned safe practices for one reason or another. Since it is the workers’ responsibility to learn safe practices, we are going to focus on the workers who already know what they’re doing, but are still being careless about their jobs anyways. For these particular workers, we will offer some general workplace safety tips and point out the biggest contributors to carelessness in the workplace.
No, this is not high school, but workers still experience peer pressure to get their jobs done quickly, whether it be from their coworkers or even from their managers or supervisors. There have been several accidents attributed to workers performing a job quicker than they should have. When a worker is put under pressure like this and speeds up his or her work, they naturally start to become unsafe and an accident becomes all but inevitable. The small amount of time workers will save speeding up their work pales in comparison to the consequences they will suffer should an accident occur.
Poor Work Habits
Some workers actually start to make their poor workplace practices a habit over time. They become lazy one day, but nothing happens. So they think that if it didn’t happen that time, it probably won’t happen the next time. This attitude can build over time to the point where the worker is practicing unsafe work habits everyday they walk into the workplace. Once this happens, it turns into a habit and they essentially start playing a game of Russian Roulette. They can pull the trigger a bunch of times without anything happening, but someday they won’t be so lucky and they will pay the consequences for their unsafe habits.
Sometimes workers become so overwhelmed with everything they have to do that they start to rush through their tasks to get them done quicker. Employers love driven individuals in the workplace, but there is a fine line between working quickly and effectively and working dangerously. To put it simply, workers will not complete the job if they are injured or dead, if they are healthy and alive, they will. It’s that simple.
Poor Attitude and Outlook
Sometimes workers will develop a sense of superiority after working at a job for a long time. They will start to think that the rules don’t apply to them and that they are superhuman because they have performed their tasks over and over without any type of incident. This is poisonous thinking and will assuredly result in disaster. Just because someone has worked at a job for decades without a single incident does not mean that they won’t experience a horrific accident tomorrow. Humans are human, and humans make mistakes. The worst mistake one can make, however, is having a poor attitude and a sense of superiority over the rules and other workers.
All of the things we have mentioned are very simple, however they contribute to 80% of all workplace accidents each year! Don’t underestimate the importance of being consciously aware of the proper safety procedures for each job and resist the urge to become lazy and careless on the job. There are several injured and dead workers who would support everything we have said here, don’t become one of them!
13 Feb 2014
A lot of times, scaffolding will be erected on a job site in order to complete specific tasks and jobs. You will see scaffolding used a majority of the time in the construction and maintenance of buildings. Scaffolding is, by definition, a temporary, field erected structure that is used for working at elevated heights. Since scaffolds are temporary structures, they can be subjected to wear and tear over time. This includes abuse, incorrect or improper assembly, or unauthorized changes or modifications to the structure. Of course, if you are a construction worker on one of these job sites, you should already know that it is required by industry standards that there be a “Competent Person” who inspects any scaffolding for fallacies and defects before every shift of work. However, they should not be the only ones who know how to inspect a scaffold. Any construction worker who will be working on, around, or near the scaffolding should be familiar with any and all safety requirements relating to the scaffolding. To help you, we have put together this scaffold inspection checklist to familiarize workers with what they should look for before ever setting foot on a scaffold.
- All scaffolding needs to be erected on firm ground that can support the maximum carrying load intended. DO NOT use barrels, boxes, bricks, or loose concrete blocks to support the scaffolding.
- Know how much weight the scaffold will need to support. Take this weight and multiply it by four. The scaffold must be able to support FOUR TIMES the maximum load without failure. This includes the workers who will be working on the scaffold along with all of the supplies and equipment they will be using.
- Most scaffolding is naturally unstable because they are usually tall structures with a narrow base. Since this is usually an inevitability, you need to counteract this by bracing or tying off the scaffold to a stable structure such as a building wall or, if you’re working in a shipyard, a ship’s hull.
- Any and all planking must be considered scaffold grade. This means that the wood needs to be free of splits, loose knots, or other fallacies. Generally speaking, 2 planks must be laid side by side to build a 20″ wide platform to work on. At the ends of the scaffold, the planking must overlap the edges by at least 6″ but no more than 18″. If you’re in a shipyard these measurements are limited to 12″. The only exceptions for this is if the planks are actually fastened securely to the supporting structures.
- Along the outer scaffold edge, toe boards need to be installed. These need to be at least 4″ high so that they prevent equipment or supplies from falling off the edges and possibly hurting someone below.
- According to OSHA, if your platform is 10 feet or higher, you need to establish guardrails on the platform. If you’re working in a shipyard, guardrails must be established if the platform is 5 feet or higher above the ground or water. Remember that these requirements can vary from state to state and industry to industry, so make sure you know which apply to you and that you are meeting those requirements.
- The top rail of your guardrail needs to be at least 42″ above the scaffold platform with a mid-rail at about half that height. If it is being attached to rigid supports and will be kept taut, then you can use wire rope or fiber. Keep in mind the purpose behind the guardrails; they must be able to support the weight of anyone who could possibly fall into it.
- There are times, such as when a ship’s hull prevent their use, that you can omit the use of guardrails. However, workers must be wearing safety harnesses and life lines if they are working 5 or more feet above the ground or water. If you’re working over water, you must be wearing an approved buoyant work vest.
Remember that the designated Competent Person should be responsible for a majority, if not all of this. However, workers still need to be aware of industry scaffolding standards and requirements, not just because it is required by law, but because they are further protecting themselves in the process. Use this scaffolding safety checklist to help ensure that your are meeting all of these requirements while also protecting yourself and your coworkers.