What’s wrong with this road construction site? #HazardSpotting

| June 19, 2013

#HazardSpotting is a community safety initiative that helps raise awareness about dangerous workplace safety violations. Our readers submit photos, and we write a post with special guest insight from featured safety experts. This week we’re highlighting the road construction hazards in a street construction zone.

At MySafetySign, we believe hazard awareness can build safer communities. As someone once said, “it takes a village,” and #HazardSpotting is no different. For this post, we’re collaborating with another seasoned safety veteran, Wade Smith, to pick apart the plethora of road construction site hazards in a photo that one of our team members snapped while taking a lunchtime stroll.

road construction site

A recent work site in Brooklyn. Click to enlarge.

Personal protective equipment (or lack thereof)
Wade said it well: where to begin? None of the three workers are sporting three essential pieces of personal protective equipment: safety glasses, full-face shields safety glasses, full-face shields, or hard hats. Only the gentleman on right is using hearing protection. This is a recipe that would give any OSHA official high blood pressure. Wade explains: “the crew appears to be wearing work boots, but are they equipped with metatarsal protection while using the jackhammer?” If this worker’s boots aren’t reinforced, stubbing his toe could send him to the hospital.

Pedestrian safety
For the safety of both workers and pedestrians, barricades separating foot traffic and construction must be present. According to the DOT’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, “Pedestrians should be provided with a safe, convenient travel path that replicates as nearly as possible the most desirable characteristics of sidewalks or footpaths.” Wade notes, “It appears that a pedestrian is walking through the barricades, if you call traffic orange cones a physical barricade.” The four orange cones don’t provide a sufficient barrier to deter pedestrians from entering the dangerous construction zone. Also, Wade wonders whether “there are any signs informing pedestrians and vehicles that demolition is underway.” This poses a hazard to the woman on the balcony in the back-center of the photo as well. Lastly, it’s unlear if there are underground obstructions since no delineations or markers on the road or sidewalk are present. Talk about hazard spotting!

Runoff hazard
Wade also detected another issue: “It appears that the crew saw cut the road prior to jack hammering, where did the runoff go?” We can’t be sure of what precautions, if any, were taken to ensure the runoff was directed to an area that doesn’t pose a hazard. Errant runoff is yet another OSHA no-no.

Noise, air and chemical hazards
What do Bob the Builder and Fred Flintstone share in common that the workers don’t? They know jack about hammers! Just taking a quick look at this image gives us a headache; jackhammers don’t exactly operate at a whisper. Was industrial hygiene monitoring taken into consideration for decibel levels and potential dust hazards? This applies to the workers and all the folks around the site who likely had to consume a fair share of Tylenol. Not to forget, asphalt fumes don’t smell like roses; lethal chemicals such as silica could expose anyone in the area to serious health hazards.

Fellow safety enthusiasts: are there any further hazards we didn’t spot? Throw in your two cents below! We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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.com. We’ll write a post and consult a safety expert. Did we miss anything? Comment below.

Our thanks go to Wade Smith, Health, Safety & Environmental Manager at Champion Technology Services, Inc. Wade has spent over 20 years as an Industrial Hygiene, Occupational and Industrial Safety, Environmental, and Security professional, and has coordinated numerous projects over his career.


Category: #HazardSpotting, Construction, OSHA

About the Author ()

Half-stallion, half-cyborg*, Mike found his way eastward after 24 lovely years in Denver. Mike enjoys living in the East Village of Manhattan, rooting on his Colorado sports teams (Go Broncos!), wearing sandals in the winter, and home brewing beer. Previous to his role of Head of Social Strategy at SmartSign, Mike worked in the finance industry. He's a critically acclaimed haikuist under the pen name, Maiku. He can count to 10 in eight languages, including English, Hebrew, Hungarian, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, and Pig Latin. His lofty life goals include learning how to fly fish, acquiring proper pizza dough spinning technique, and figuring out how to whistle. You can find him frequently smacking his head on ceilings, door posts, and exit signs, (he's tall) or tweeting at @SmartSign. *Editor's Note: Since cyborgs are technically half-robot and half-human, Mike's specific heritage is quarter-robot, quarter-human, and half-stallion.

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  1. Beware the Cone Zone | Edward Antrobus | July 12, 2013
  1. Neil Silins says:

    I think this is a great series, and often thought provoking. However, relating to the jackhammer activity, I don’t understand. How is “Errant runoff is yet another OSHA no-no.” OSHA isn’t tasked with protecting the environment.

  2. Grady Lynn Holt says:

    1926.302(b)(1) Pneumatic power tools shall be secured to the hose or whip by some positive means to prevent the tool from becoming accidentally disconnected.

    It wasn’t obvious the hose connections were wired or keyed together to prevent unintended disconnection.

  3. Andria Dutcher says:

    No anti-vibration gloves.

  4. Dennis says:

    The tools laying around pose a tripping hazard.

  5. Dennis says:

    I also don’t see any utility markings in the street. I do see some paint at the base of the light pole.

  6. Dorothy Hilburn says:

    I don’t see any hearing or eye protection.

  7. Steve Arrico says:

    It appears that someone wanted their employees to be visable (at least). The gentleman facing the frontloader maybe giving instructions to the operator without eye contact with the jack hammer operator. Another case of yes in the back of the head?
    I hope the photographer has said something to supervision if he goes by this way daily?

    • Mike Miles says:

      Steve, great insight…well, unfortunately not great for the workers or others in the vicinity. We glanced around the periphery of the work site to find contact information for the contractor but came up empty handed. Our goal with #HazardSpotting is to provide an informative outlet for both people involved and not associated in the industry to make safety a priority so we don’t stumble upon these situations anymore.

    • Mike says:

      Worse yet,
      If you look closer the gentleman facing the front loader he is throwing cobblestone into the bucket and at that distance it may rebound back out into the back of the Jackhammer operators legs causing injury, In the far bottom right the 2×4 with the nail that is just waiting for some one to step on it and be driven up through someones foot, and the air line should be untangled before use and laid out in a fashon that allows free movement and no pinching points, and the pedestrian (worker? no safety vest) thats walking right by the workers clearly in harms way.

  8. f says:

    This is a great idea and the pictures mirrors the way we do field reports. When things slow a little, I have pictures to share.

    Yes hard hats are required. The standard does not state overhead, but states the potential of head injury. Consider the potential of “fly rock” and potential hazards of working around hand tools and heavy equipment that can cause head injury.

    May I use these pictures as part of my safety training?

    • Mike Miles says:

      Thanks. No hard hats is a huge danger to the workers. Please be in touch when things slow down on your end, we’d love to chat! You’re more than welcome to use our pictures in your training, we’d certainly appreciate being cited. We have plenty of other pictures in the other #HazardSpotting articles and more to come in the next posts as well.

  9. Ben Douglas says:

    Signage: this company could use a refresher on 1926.200. That being said, we cannot see the entirety of the street. There very well may have been signs detouring pedestrians…people have been known to walk around them, open and enter closed gates, and otherwise ignore a “DO NOT ENTER” sign altogether. Just recently I had to kindly ask a mother dragging her two children through our jobsite to go back out and around the gate she walked through; it was a completely fenced-in site with four caution signs on the gate.

    As a culture, many in the field typically see the safety director for pointing out the negatives as opposed to acknowledging the positives. I’m glad it was recognized in this forum that there are some positives: safety vests, cones, and gloves were in use, and we could also say that 1926.25(a) (housekeeping) seems to be done well, and 1926.34 (egress) is not a problem.

    Regarding the use of vibratory gloves, OSHA.gov says, “Vibration-dampening PPE should be used when using vibrating tools (such as needle guns, grinders, chipping hammers).” However, this is under the 1915 section and not 1926…would it still apply or not?

    Still, there are some big things missing that could pose potential health risks for the workers and the public. Good post!


  10. Ben Douglas says:

    I re-read your reply to Steve regarding a periphery scan. Thanks for pointing that out…some of these “spot what’s wrong” photos don’t account for the surrounding environment which can make the topic misleading.

  11. As a flagger, people not wearing hard hats drives me up the wall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Boulder County inspector wearing one.

  12. Ivo says:

    Good post! Interesting debate is going on. Amassing what you can see and learn from one single picture! Keep up doing these posts.

    I would question the handbrake of the front loader. From what I can see in the picture; the road inclines a bit in the direction of the workers even! I even should place a chock for extra security. In my experience small inclinations are more dangerous than bibber ones because people forget the handbrake or chock and the vehicle start moving when already out at the workplace…

    The whole picture makes me think about work preparation and if a risk assessment has been done that led to the appropriate method statements and safe work procedures? I feel that the root causes are perhaps at lagging management systems

    Regards from Belgium.


    • Mike Miles says:

      Thanks, Ivo! I appreciate your comments. We published another #HazardSpotting a couple weeks ago regarding crane hazards, not sure if you saw it already. Stay tuned for more posts in the series, and subscribe to our newsletter!

      We also find it hard to believe that proper assessments were conducted to ensure the safety of the site. We hope that calling out the violations will increase public awareness of these dangers. After all, a front loader that isn’t securely parked could cause a huge amount of damage and potential injuries to workers and people in the area.

  13. Jason says:

    And it looks like they are on the street…was the road closed off? Or was anyone directing traffic with a stop/slow paddle or flags?

    • Charity Stebbins says:

      Unfortunately you can’t see the whole scene here…as I remember it, there was no flag man. The road was partially closed, but without someone monitoring the scene, those cones were about as effective as poodles, as our friend Frank Fox likes to say.