Understanding the Dangers of Silica Dust

silica dustBecause silica dust is nearly ubiquitous on construction sites, it’s easy to underestimate the threat it poses. By practicing conscientious silica dust safety, though, you can greatly mitigate risks of exposure without slowing down your workflow.

A Common, Yet Invisible Threat

Silica, also called quartz, is found in many construction materials, including sand, many types of rock, brick, mortar, tile, grout, drywall and asphalt. Your workers create silica dust when they cut, grind or otherwise process any of these materials.

Silica dust particles are too small to see, yet it takes only a small amount to cause health problems. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations set acceptable exposure levels at just 0.1 mg/m3.

Breathing this dust can lead to a condition known as silicosis, in which scarring occurs in the lungs and breathing becomes difficult. The condition is disabling and can be fatal.

Symptoms usually appear only after long-term exposure, but once they start, the disease will inevitably progress. There’s currently no cure. Despite the known risks, thousands of new silicosis cases are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. Silica dust is also a known carcinogen, contributing to lung cancer.

Protection for Your Workers

Good silica dust safety practices can save your workers’ lives, and these practices are neither difficult nor expensive to implement. On every project, identify all materials and tasks that could lead to silica dust exposure and devise a plan to minimize this exposure.

Use equipment with built-in dust control features, such as vacuums or water sprays, to hold down dust. Provide respirators when necessary. Designate areas for resting, eating and drinking that are away from anywhere dust is produced. Encourage workers to practice good hygiene by changing into washable or disposable work wear, showering (or at least changing into clean clothes) before going home, and parking their cars away from dusty areas.

Another option is to reduce your reliance on materials containing silica, such as by switching to aluminum oxide or silicon carbide instead of sand for abrasive blasting.

To learn more about effective silica dust safety practices, contact Construction Monitor.

OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign

It’s widely accepted that construction is a dangerous business, particularly for those who work on roofs or projects high above the ground. A fall from as little as six feet above the ground can cause serious injury or death. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains an ongoing fall prevention program to address this important area of job site safety. Here are some of the elements of this program and how it helps prevent roofing falls.

  • prevent roofing fallsPlanning: When construction jobs will require employees to work on roofs or at heights, OSHA recommends that the job be carefully planned before anyone even sets foot on a ladder. Managers and safety professionals should decide how the job is to be done and what tasks will be involved. With this information, further decisions about safety procedures and equipment can be made. Remember that safety equipment should be included in the initial bid for the project.
  • Providing: Fall protection and safety equipment should be provided to all employees working at heights. Ladders, scaffolds and similar equipment appropriate to the job should be made easily and readily available. Harnesses and other personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) should be issued when needed. All anchors for attaching personal safety systems should be sturdy and capable of handing the stresses associated with a fall. PFAS equipment should be properly utilized and regularly inspected to ensure it’s in good working order.
  • Training: Make sure your employees know how to use their fall safety equipment by providing in-depth training on the use of PFAS gear and other necessary devices. Train employees in how to recognize potential fall hazards and how to avoid them when possible. Give instruction on what to do if safety equipment isn’t up to standard. Ensure your employees are granted both the right and the requirement to question safety procedures and to halt work if safety has been compromised.

Construction Monitor provides business owners, managers and supervisors essential data for success in the modern construction industry. Contact us today for the newest construction leads, and for more information on how to make your construction site safer and prevent roofing falls.

OSHA to Publish Rule on Silica Dust Safety

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to issue its final rule on silica dust safety in the workplace in the latter part of 2016.

silica dust safetyAn article in the magazine Safety+Health, published by the National Safety Council, indicates that the final rule on silica dust was announced during a March 16 hearing on the U.S. Department of Labor’s policies and priorities.

A draft of the final rule was submitted to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in December, which indicates that the rule could be expected to be published within a few months, the article reported.

Important Safety Standards in Construction

The rule will contain important safety standards and other information on how construction projects should deal with silica dust safety. For example, the rule will include data on exposure limits that detail how much exposure to silica dust will be considered acceptable.

Silica dust presents substantial dangers to respiratory health among construction professionals who are exposed to it. When inhaled, the dust causes lung tissues to thicken. It also causes scarring within the lungs. In severe cases, silica dust exposure leads to a condition known as silicosis, a type of lung fibrosis.

OSHA also notes that exposure to and continual inhalation of silica dust can lead to lung cancer and kidney disease.

Silica Dust Safety

Silica dust is commonly encountered in construction activities that involve the cutting, sawing, crushing, or drilling of stone products such as rock, concrete, brick, and ceramic tiles, OSHA reports. Industries that use large amounts of sand, such as foundries and glass manufacturers, are also likely to expose workers to significant amounts of silica dust.

The new rules on silica dust safety are expected to provide economically and technologically feasible ways to improve worker health and safety in all industries where silica dust exposure has been a problem.

Construction Monitor provides detailed information on construction industry trends and developments that affect the health and safety of workers and building occupants. Contact us today for more information on silica dust safety and for additional help interpreting and applying OSHA’s rules on silica dust safety in the workplace.

New York City Lifts Ban on Cranes

Following a fatal accident, the use of crawler cranes in New York City was placed under exceptionally strict regulations. These regulations quickly became unpopular with construction contractors and crane companies who found they provided little benefit. Now the regulations are set to be replaced.

crane companiesTragedy Brings Stricter Regulations

On February 5th, 2016, a nearly 600-foot crawler crane collapsed as it was being lowered as a precaution against approaching 25-mile per hour winds. The collapse caused damage for a full city block, ending in several injuries and one death.

In response, the New York Department of Buildings ordered crawler cranes to be shut down and stored whenever winds were forecast to surpass 20 miles per hour or if gusts surpassed 30 miles per hour. Operators were to put the cranes into safety mode then secure them the day before high winds were forecast. Penalties for disregarding these regulations were increased from  $4,800 to $10,000.

Better Crane Regulations Ahead

Wind speeds of 20 miles per hour are a frequent occurrence in New York. So frequent, in fact, construction contractors found themselves shutting down their cranes on a regular basis to comply with the new regulations. These shutdowns caused delays leading to logistical and financial issues. Worse yet, some contractors and crane companies feel the regulations don’t necessarily improve safety.

Mayor Bill de Blasio assembled a task force to review and revise the city’s crane regulations, but the panel was criticized for its lack of crane experts. This task force has recommended returning, in part, to the old regulations which state that cranes must stop operation when winds reach 30 miles per hour or manufacturer’s specified limit.

The task force has also proposed two additional measures. One would require an operator on site unless the crane is designed for winds of 30 miles per hour or higher or it’s in storage mode. The other would prohibit any crawler crane that can’t safely operate in 20-mile per hour winds from use in a public space.

For more information on regulations affecting crane companies and other construction professionals, contact Construction Monitor today.

Maryland Seeks to Raise Safety Standards in Construction

Construction work is well-known as being a dangerous, potentially fatal occupation. In 2016, the state of Maryland is seeking to improve construction safety in an effort to benefit workers, managers, construction companies and building owners.

safety standards in constructionReforming Maryland’s Construction Industry

A number of safety-related bills are under consideration during Maryland’s 2016 legislative session. One of the more important is HB 977, introduced by Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore). This bill “would make serious reforms to Maryland’s construction industry,” noted reporters Emily A. Gardner and Michael Belcher, writing in the Washington Post.

Maryland’s process for screening potential companies for public works construction contracts currently requires assessment of past performance, bonding and legal proceedings, according to Gardner and Belcher. Safety records or existing worksite safety plans are not considered when evaluating a company for public construction contracts.

The Proposition for Safety

The reforms proposed by HB 977 would change the current procedures to include consideration of  a company’s safety status. For example, each company bidding on a public project would be required to have sufficient health and safety plans to ensure employee safety on the job.

In addition, each company submitting bids would have to include a sworn statement of commitment to safety on each project, reported Gardner and Belcher. The contractor’s safety plan would also have to be included with the bid. After evaluation of the plan the state would then make suggestions for additional health and safety measures to be implemented on the construction site.

This proposed legislation comes as a way to improve safety standards in construction in Maryland and elsewhere. In 2014, there were 16 construction-related fatalities in the state of Maryland, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS further reports that there were about 4,000 construction-related injuries in 2014, with some 2,400 of those injuries requiring time off, changes in duties during recovery, or transfers to entirely new positions.

Construction Monitor helps builders, owners and other professionals stay up-to-date on the most recent developments throughout the industry. Contact us today for more information on safety standards in construction and how evolving standards will affect your company and your employees.

Staying Safe: The Top 10 OSHA Violations of 2015

Workplace safety and injury prevention is a consistently vital topic for construction company owners and managers. By studying information provided by the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), builders can learn where the top OSHA safety violations occur.

top OSHA safety violationsAt the 2015 National Safety Council Congress & Expo, a national gathering of safety experts, business leaders, and safety organization representatives, OSHA announced its list of the ten most common safety violations it encountered in fiscal year 2015.

The ten top OSHA safety violations of 2015, as announced at the NSC Congress and reported by Sandy Smith on the EHS Today website, are as follows:

  1. Fall Protection: Involves standards for fall protection and protecting employees walking or working on horizontal or vertical surfaces above 6 feet (6,721 violations).
  2. Hazard communication: Involves communicating information about chemical hazards to workers (5,192 violations).
  3. Scaffolding: Involves standards for building scaffolding and protecting workers from falls or falling objects at scaffold heights of 10 feet or higher (4,295 violations).
  4. Respiratory protection: Involves standards for establishing respiratory safety programs and properly using respiratory safety equipment (3,305 violations).
  5. Lockout/tagout: Covers procedures for protecting workers from hazardous energy, such as electricity, during repair and maintenance of machines and equipment (3,002 violations).
  6. Powered industrial trucks: Involves maintenance and operation of powered trucks, such as forklifts and motorized hand carts, plus training for use of this type of equipment (2,760 violations).
  7. Ladders: Covers requirements for all types of ladders (2,489 violations).
  8. Electrical – wiring methods: Involves wiring, insulation, and grounding of equipment, along with the use of temporary wiring and splicing (2,404 violations).
  9. Machine guarding: Involves covers and equipment designed to protect workers from moving parts on machinery, sparks, flying chips, and similar hazards. (2,295 violations).
  10. Electrical – general requirements: Involves general safety requirements for workplace electrical systems (1,973 violations).

Construction Monitor provides the data on industry trends and developments that managers and owners need to keep their employees safe and on the job. Contact us today for more information on the top OSHA safety violations of 2015 and how you can improve workplace safety in all of your projects.

5 Ways Contractors Can Use BIM to Ensure a Safe Construction Site

BIM, or building information modeling, is a software-based process used in the construction industry to visualize and assess building designs and options in a virtual environment. BIM allows planners, designers, supervisors and other professionals to evaluate potential designs before any physical construction is done, allowing them to spot any potential problems or conflicts before they’re implemented and require costly corrections. Another potential use for BIM is in building site safety. Using BIM for a safe construction site will improve all aspects of a construction project.

Continue reading 5 Ways Contractors Can Use BIM to Ensure a Safe Construction Site