Archive for the 'Construction and Workplace Safety' Category

Staying safe while working in construction sites in the heat

Heat during construction operations will put heat stress on workers, whether they’re working indoors or outdoors. Aside from natural causes like sunlight, hot and humid conditions in the workplace are caused by a variety of reasons. Indoors, it can be the numerous machineries, like the electrical utilities, smelters, furnace operations, electrical vaults and boiler rooms. Outdoors, causes of heat include road building, homebuilding, trenching, working on roofs, and excavations. The almost inexhaustible list just shows that management of heat stress is an apparent concern.

In this regard, the Construction Safety Association of Ontario has come up with a guide to managing heat stress during construction.

If left unaddressed, what can heat stress lead to? Some of the common problems are heat rash, sunburn, and heat cramps.

1. Heat Rash

This happens when the environment is hot and humid, thereby plugging the sweat glands. It is characterized by a red bumpy rash with severe itching.  When this occurs, change into dry clothes and stay away from hot environments. It’s also important to rinse the concerned area with cool water.

2. Sunburn

Caused by too much exposure to the sun, sunburn is seen as red, painful blistering or peeling in the skin. If this happens, medical aid must be sought. A skin lotion should also be applied, while avoiding topical anaesthetics.

3. Heat Cramps

When there are painful cramps that occur suddenly in the arms, legs or stomach, the person most likely suffered from heat cramps. It’s serious because it can be a symptom of other danger heat-induced illnesses. When this happens, move the worker to a cooler area, loosen the clothing, and have him/her drink cool salted water with 1 tablespoon of salt for every gallon of water. If severe cramps persist, medical aid must be sought.

4. Fainting

This happens when there’s fluid loss and insufficient water intake. When there’s sudden fainting after two hours of continuous work, weak pulse, and cool moist skin, heat is most probably the cause.  Medical attention must be sought, and the person must be made to lie down.

5. Heat Exhaustion

Characterized by heavy sweating, low blood pressure, tiredness, nausea, extreme thirst, and a body temperature of over 38ºC, heat exhaustion is quite serious. It’s imperative to get medical attention as it can lead to heat stroke. Immediately remove excess clothing and give cool water to drink and spray on the worker.

5. Heat Stroke

This happens when a person has a high body temperature of over 40 ºC, feels confused, acts strangely, has hot or dry skin, a fast pulse, and dizziness. An ambulance must be called immediately. Removal of excess clothing, offering cool water, and spraying the person with cold water are also supplementary measures.

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How are Steel Buildings so Quickly Built?

Construction site. Image Source: Public domain.

How come some steel buildings can be built so fast?

No, it’s neither an act of God nor an extraordinary feat of nature. This is a result of pre-engineered buildings—steel structures that are easily assembled and has a variety of uses across all industries. Several prospective building owners do not yet fully understand the merits of prefabricated buildings and refuse to understand fully its advantages. For that reason, Norsteel has prepared a list of advantages of prefabricated steel buildings.

  1. The easiest advantage to point out is that prefab buildings are fast to assemble. It virtually takes only weeks to put together them. Therefore, you can get back the return of investment a lot faster than conventionally built structures.
  2. Prefab buildings are self-supporting, so the costs for shuttering and scaffolding are reduced.
  3. Quality control is better with prefab buildings, since they are built in a factory assembly line setup and have the hands-on guidance of engineers and architects. On the contrary, building from scratch in a construction site always has the risk of having flaws in quality control.
  4. The construction is not exposed to harsh weather environmental factors caused by bad weather or strong winds. Such factors threaten the integrity of a regularly assembled building, but they are not present in prefab buildings.
  5. Advanced materials are used in assembling prefab buildings, such as sandwich-structured composite that improve sound and thermal insulation. These are materials that are much more expensive in other buildings.
  6. Careful handling of steel panels is assured. From the time the panels are manufactured to when they reach your site, the panels are shipped in a cost effective and safe way.
  7. Prefab buildings also cost less in terms of electricity and water costs. Because of its essentially environmentally friendly nature, prefab buildings are much easier to maintain.
  8. Because prefab buildings are easy to transport, you can do away with the arduous process of meeting with the architect and eating up your time. You can even deal online!

Staying Safe on a Summer Construction Site

Morning Sun. Image Source: Public Domain.

Most employers take great pains to ensure worker safety in the office and on site, and you can count Norsteel among them. Working outdoors can be dangerous any time of year, but there are particular safety precautions that should be met when working in a construction zone during the summer months.

Here are a few things to consider.

First and foremost, it is important that workers avoid excessive heat exposure which can result in sun stroke, rashes, headaches and fatigue.  Common symptoms include confusion, an inability to concentrate and excessive sweating.

According to the United States Department of Occupational Health and Safety Administration, one way to get workers ready for the hot summer months is to acclimatize them by having small teams work in hot environments from progressively longer periods.  This however, may not always be practical, so there are other precautions that should be considered.

It is important that workers have a designated “cooling area” to relax and rehydrate with a cold glass of water.  It is a foreman’s job to monitor his or her workers during the hot summer months and ensure that workers are taking their scheduled breaks.  Workers who are wearing dark, heavy clothing or working at a high energy level in excessive heat should be paid close attention.

Workers should try to remain hydrated by taking small sips every fifteen minutes or so.  While water is best, most cool liquids will do, with the exception of alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, both of which are dehydrating.

Jobs that physically demanding – such as heavy lifting or operating large objects – should be saved for early morning or late evening, when the temperature is cooler.

Workers should always dress to accommodate the heat by wearing light-coloured, breathable clothing, hats and sunglasses (when hard hats and safety goggles are not required) and ample amounts of sunscreen, which should be re-applied frequently throughout the workday.

The Young Worker Awareness Program

Worker on Scaffolding. Image Credit: Public Domain.

Summer is just around the corner and that means a lot of young workers are about to enter the workforce.

Taking a job in a factory or on a construction site is a great way for students to earn some extra money, but it can be a dangerous environment in which to work.  While the vast majority of businesses, including Norsteel,  make worker’s safety their first priority, it’s important for all workers to know their individual rights.

The Young Worker’s Awareness Program (YWAP) is an invaluable resource for full and part-time workers in the Province of Ontario between the ages of 15 and 24.  The website contains health and safety information for young employees, their employers, as well as their parents and educators.  It references a variety of issues that youths may face in a typical work day and provides advice on how to report a potentially dangerous situation to a supervisor.

According to YWAP, “42 young Ontario workers are injured, made ill, or killed on the job every day … that’s almost 2 young workers injured every hour of every day and every night, seven days a week, and it’s often because of what they didn’t know.”

In partnership with the Worker’s Safety and Insurance Board, YWAP sets out to educate youths in hopes of avoiding preventable tragedies on Ontario’s work sites.

The program, which is comprised of a general assembly presentation and a classroom instruction segment, is available to all high school students in the province of Ontario.  Trained instructors use videos in combination with other educational materials to deliver their “crucial message” to Ontario youths.  After each presentation, students are given resource booklet.

YWAP is offered to Ontario Youths by the Industrial Accident Prevention Association, the Ontario Service Safety Alliance and the Workers Health and Safety Centre, organizations funded by the Workplace Safety & Insurance Board of Ontario.

For more information, visit YWAP online, call 1-800-663-6639 or send an e-mail to: info@youngworker.ca.

Seven Tips for Maintaining a Safe Work Environment

Despite the fact that construction sites must comply with strict government regulations, accidents can still happen.  It’s not just the foreman’s responsibility to ensure that a site is problem-free; all employees play a role in creating a safe work environment.  Here are seven tips that will help keep a construction site accident-free.

1.    Avoid clutter. Trips and falls are a common cause of workplace injury.  Ensuring that all equipment is out of the way when not in use is more than just common courtesy – it can also help avoid an unfortunate accident.

2.    Always use protective equipment. Although some safety equipment – like hard hats and steel-toed boots – are mandatory, other pieces of safety equipment, like extra gripping on work boots, are not.  Always err on the side of caution and avoid unnecessary risks whenever possible.

3.    Make sure instructions are given, and received, properly. Miscommunication has led to more than a few workplace injuries.  It’s important that workers feel comfortable expressing their concerns and asking questions on a construction site.  Foremen should always take extra precautions to ensure that all tasks are understood before any work begins.

4.    Keep a working fire extinguisher nearby. Fire extinguishers are mandatory on most construction sites, but it’s alarming how often they are overlooked.  This is definitely one piece of safety equipment that you want working in the event of an emergency.

5.    On that note, it also doesn’t hurt to make sure that all fire alarm systems are in good working order.

6.    Make sure all workers are accounted for, at all times. This can be difficult to do, especially on a large site, but it’s important to have some sort of informal “buddy system” in place.  Should a worker become injured, it’s important that he or she can be located quickly – in many instances, this can improve the worker’s chance of recovery.

7.    Assign designated smoking areas. Flammable materials and open gas lines abound on construction sites.   It’s important that all workers honour designated smoking areas.

Norsteel takes workers safety seriously, making us much sought after by builders, dealers and contractors within the prefab metal building industry.

Alberta Safety Minister to Increase Fines for Construction Breaches

An article published in the Vancouver Sun reports that Hector Goudreau, Alberta’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, has announced that he will push for steeper penalties for companies that violate worker’s safety.

Goudreau has announced this new initiative in light of a recent legal settlement where a Calgary judge ordered the maximum $15,000 fine against two companies for construction safety breaches that resulted in the death of three year-old Michelle Krsek.  Krsek was struck by a piece of sheet metal that fell from a worksite.

Remarking that the current maximum fines are “woefully inadequate,” Goudreau agreed to step up to the plate and increase fines, in hopes of avoiding further unnecessary tragedies.

Had a worker, and not a bystander, been struck and killed by the sheet metal, the maximum penalty would have been $500,000 with a possibility of six months of jail time.  Advocates are hoping that the half-million dollar fine will be applied to all workplace infractions going forward.

At present, no charges have been laid under the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act in Krsek’s case.

Alberta Municipal Affairs is working with the City of Calgary and is reviewing recommendations which will be incorporated into the new legislation.  The province also has a safety code council working group conducting consultations on the new, proposed act.  While there is no set date for the new legislation to take hold, the government hopes to roll out the new initiative as quickly as possible.

Under the new law, greater accountability will fall on the shoulders of construction companies and its affiliates.  Stricter codes of conduct will also be enforced, along with “more effective” fines.

Lax worker safety protocols are a huge problem, not only for workers and bystanders, but for all Canadian taxpayers.  Disability and health insurance claims that arise out of poor working conditions cost the Canadian government millions of dollars each year.

People living in the province of Alberta should report any suspicious activity to Mr. Goudreau’s office immediately.

Roofing Contractor Fined for Failing to Protect Workers

WorkSafeBC Sticker: Hard Hat Area. Image Credit: Workers' Compensation Board.

Roofing contractor Sheriff-Goslin Co. of Mansfield, Ohio, is facing penalties up to $86,500 for safety violations.  The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) alleges that the company failed to provide fall protection for employees working on a roofing project.

After a series of investigations and complaints, it was concluded that Sheriff-Goslin Co. has a history of violating safety standards, having been penalized for lack of head protection in June 2009, lack of fall protection for workers in June 2009, as well as violations in July, August and September 2010.

The company has 15 business days upon receiving its penalties to comply.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act states that employers must provide safe working environments for employees.

Failing to provide fall protection for workers is a very serious violation.  Here in Ontario, falls represent the Number 1 on-the-job cause of death in the construction industry.  There are strict safety guidelines in both Canada and the U.S. that help lessen the risk, including, guardrails, hardhats, harnesses and clearly-marked signs.  A few simple precautions can dramatically lessen the risk of workplace injury.

It is disheartening to know that workers continue to be exploited and subject to sub-par working environments.  At Norsteel, we pride ourselves on providing employees with a healthy, safe, and welcoming work environment.  Treating employees with the respect they deserve while helping to foster career growth is a practice we are proud to uphold.  A happy workforce enables us to produce quality products, while enjoying a low employee turnover rate.

It boggles the mind that more companies don’t follow the “treat others as you would like to be treated” mantra.  Cutting corners, especially when worker safety is concerned, is never a good idea.  It’s also against the law.

If you suspect a contractor company is violating worker safety laws, contact the OHSA (U.S. only).  In Canada, contact the Worker Safety and Inspection Board.