#HazardSpotting is a community safety initiative that helps raise awareness about dangerous workplace safety violations. Our audience submits pictures, and we write an article with insight from featured safety professionals. Our fourteenth installment is large-scale construction project. Along with our anonymous tipster, we welcome two construction safety experts, Max Everett and Brian Bennett, who conducted a visual audit of this photo.
Just like a department store on Black Friday, large-scale construction projects are complex landscapes. There are hundreds of workers and dozens of jobs happening simultaneously, and adding cost overrun and deadline expectations can create a perfect storm for safety officers. This photo illustrates the difficulties of maintaining construction site safety. Hover over the photo for a magnifying glass, and use your up-and-down arrows (or the scroll wheel on your mouse) to enlarge the scope:
The work area is cluttered with rebar and plywood, and full of trip hazards, and it doesn’t help that one of the workers is chatting on his cellphone; even if it’s his mom on the line, she isn’t around to clean up the mess. The job-made ladder is probably not code-compliant (29 CFR 1926 Subpart X); the side rail looks broken. There’s a generator sitting next to plywood without a fire extinguisher within reach. Brian Bennett also points out that the two concrete cylinders could cause a cave-in since they look to be within two feet of the edge; they should be moved back, or secured by retaining devices to prevent them from rolling into the hole (29 CFR 1926.651(j)(2).) To top it off, there’s no ramp or ladder for safe entry and exit of the far-left excavation.
Unfortunately, we see lots of hazards in this section. OSHA mandates that excavations greater than five feet in depth require a protective system (29 CFR 1926.652), and that excavations cannot be sloped more than 34 degrees measured from the horizontal. Both of these rules appear to be violated, creating a serious fall hazard. In addition, Brian pointed out another fall hazard in the top left corner, where there’s no warning signage or guardrail.
The ladder in the central dig area is not set correctly, either; it’s difficult to believe that it’s placed on a level base, and space around the top and bottom of the ladder is untidy – a violation of 29 CFR 1926.1053(b)(9).
Our anonymous tipster explained that the worker on top of the concrete drain structure (pictured at left) didn’t take the safe route via ladder to climb atop the structure. OSHA requires employers to provide fall protection for employees exposed to heights of 6 feet and up. Even if he’s a trapeze artist, there’s yet another egregious hazard: he’s using the tie-down straps as a foothold. The worker standing next to the trailer isn’t wearing high-visibility clothing, nor does it look like he’s wearing a hard hat.
The perimeter around the crane and its load could be better isolated by replacing the yellow caution tape with red danger tape. Max Everett mentioned that this would signal to adjacent crew members to physically avoid the area, since no labor should occur within close proximity to an operating crane.
Do the workers think they’re little leaguers playing on the sandlot? Several here are sporting their hardhats backwards; this common misuse of PPE is a familiar sight to safety professionals. Don’t take a tumble, because there’s no ladder or ramp in and out of this excavation – nor is there a demarcation line for the entire dig, with warning signs, barrier tape, or a safety net.
Max also mentioned the possibility for a runoff or storm-related hazard caused by excavation (not just in this zone, but around the whole site) since the site is raw and exposed. He told us, “Not a whole lot can be done at this point as exposing so much of the site at once could only be avoided through a Stormwater or Erosion Control Plan executed prior to this stage of construction.”
And although the photographer was outside the construction zone, it’s crucial that he or she actually wear that hard hat you see in the bottom left corner once on site.
This might seem like a pretty quiet quadrant, but Brian Bennett pointed out that the PVC pipe being transported by forklift doesn’t look like a secured load. There was an incident just earlier this year where similar pipes weren’t secured, slid off a flatbed truck, and crushed a worker to death. Brian also pointed out that there should be a trained spotter on the ground to ensure a safe perimeter when materials are being moved; it’s possible that our spotter is the worker standing behind the moving vehicle, but it’s worrisome that he’s facing the other direction and not paying careful attention to the heavy equipment, which puts him at risk of a backover accident.
What construction safety hazards do you see?
There is a lot going on in this photo. Taking it all in is kind of like playing “Where’s Waldo?”, but there are real consequences for the kind of casual yet dangerous hazards we see here. We want to hear your thoughts, too! Did anything catch your eye that we didn’t identify? Leave a comment below and continue the conversation with us.
More about our featured #HazardSpotting experts
Max Everett is a Field and Office Engineer at Milender White Construction Company in Denver, CO, and a member of the team that was given the 2012 “Excellence in Construction” award by Associated Builders and Contractors. Max has eight years of experience in the construction industry, is a LEED Green Associate, a USMS Advanced Stormwater Manager, and has extensive OSHA training. Max graduated from the Real Estate & Construction Management program at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business.
Brian Bennett is a Superintendent at Reidy Construction, with 29 years of field experience working in several capacities in the construction industry.
More about #HazardSpotting
Think you’ve seen an unsafe work condition? Whether it’s construction, manufacturing, or food safety, we’ll investigate the hazard. Snap a picture and share your story with us by sending an email to the editor at Krissa (at) SmartSign (dot) com. We’ll write a post and consult a safety expert.