Important Points in the 2016 Safe Pipes Act

pipeline constructionHigh safety standards in construction don’t just protect building occupants, they also help protect the natural environment around us. The “Safe Pipes” Act, developed to protect the Great Lakes from fuel spills, is a good example of this.

Improved Planning for Pipeline Safety

This summer, President Obama signed the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016, or PIPES Act, into law.

This act will keep the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s (PHMSA) for oil and gas transportation safety working through 2019, while also expanding the administration’s duties.

The act has given the Great Lakes the designation of “unusually sensitive area,” so that transportation of hazardous materials in the area will be subject to higher safety standards. In addition, the Secretary of Transportation, who heads the PHMSA, will now have the power to issue emergency orders for management of the pipelines in the event of an incident that suggests a threat to public health or the environment.

The PHMSA will also be required to develop regulations for the safe construction and operation of underground facilities that store natural gas.

Aging pipes and related equipment were also taken into account. The act requires the Government Accountability Office, an independent, nonpartisan watchdog agency, to review and report on risks related to the pipelines’ age and condition.

Addressing Current Threats

As production of natural gas has grown throughout the country, so too have the problems related to transporting it. Canadian Energy firm Enbridge’s “Line 5” in particular has raised concerns. This decades-old line now carries thousands of barrels of crude oil, as well as natural gas, though the ecologically sensitive Straits of Mackinac daily.

Due to the large amount of water that flows through the Straits of Mackinac, a gas or oil spill here could have disastrous consequences for the Great Lakes and surrounding towns.

Provisions in the “Safe Pipes” act were designed to prevent potential disasters like this and mitigate the effects of any accident that does occur.

To keep up-to-date on safety standards in construction, contact us at Construction Monitor.

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.

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.

Top Tips for Preventing Construction Site Theft

Preventing construction site theft will not only save you thousands of dollars, but also protect you from delays caused by missing materials and equipment, and the hassle of replacing your losses. The most effective theft-prevention methods are some of the simplest.

preventing construction site theftKnow that everything is a potential target – Copper pipes and lumber aren’t the only items thieves are eyeing. Don’t assume something won’t be stolen just because it isn’t highly valuable or it’s difficult to move. Securing not only power tools and heavy equipment, but also tile, cables and other less expensive material goes a long way toward preventing construction site theft.

Light the premises well – Your after-hours lighting should cast even illumination over the whole area, leaving no shadows for thieves to hide in. To save energy, use low-wattage lighting connected to motion sensors. Even a soft glow draws attention to suspicious activity and a light that suddenly turns on is often enough to scare away a would-be thief.

Have material delivered just in time – The sight of valuable material lying around your construction zone attracts attention from those looking for something to steal. The longer you store those materials on site, the more time thieves have to make off with them. Schedule materials to be delivered as needed and keep detailed inventory records so you notice if something goes missing.

Lock up everything – Place materials and tools in heavy-duty sheds secured with a combination of a mortise lock and a high-security hasp with a strong padlock. A simple padlock alone offers little security. Use wheel locks or immobilizers on movable equipment to make it harder to drive them away unauthorized. Secure the site’s perimeter with fencing, high-quality locks and alarms.

Get to know the neighbors – Introduce yourself to neighboring home and business owners and take time for the occasional chat. The better your rapport with them, the more likely they are to look out for your property and alert authorities when necessary. Being neighborly also cuts down on noise and dust complaints.

For more experienced-based tips on preventing construction site theft, contact us at Construction Monitor.

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.

Are You Looking Into Your Construction Workers Health?

As part of their daily job, construction workers are exposed to hazards that can cause anything from a minor cut or bruise to instant death. The following information briefly covers the importance of safety in construction work and what you can do to ensure your construction workers health.

Common Types of Construction Fatalities

construction workers health
Source: iStock.com/Squaredpixels

In an article on the Global Construction website, journalist Abigail Phillips reported that the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that 20 percent of the 4,000 worker fatalities in 2011 were construction related. Most construction injuries occurred because of :

  • Falls
  • Electrocution
  • Being hit by an object
  • Being trapped or inside objects.

Construction site procedures that improve safety in these areas can be among the most important components of a site safety program.

The Need for Health Insurance

Construction workers can usually rely on workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job, but health outcomes can be improved by making sure employees have access to an affordable health insurance program. This ensures access to immediate treatment and to health maintenance and prevention programs.

Applying Safety Policies

A group of well-planned and executed health and safety policies for your employees can be very effective at preventing injuries or related problems that can affect workers’ physical well-being and job performance. Another benefit of a comprehensive safety plan is that you will be able to obtain your employee health insurance rates at a lower rate.

Beneficial safety practices in this area include:

  • Devising a safety plan that is specific to the individual construction site and involves all employees, contractors, subcontractor, suppliers, and anyone else who may spend time on the site.
  • Identifying any specific safety hazards on the site before construction work begins.
  • Appointing safety personnel before construction begins and ensuring that each authorized safety person knows their responsibilities.

Construction Monitor helps construction professionals with accurate information on the latest industry trends and developments. Contact us today for more information on the importance of safety in construction work and for construction lead services in Cedar City.

Up Your Safety Standards on the Construction Site and Enjoy Cheaper Surety Bonds

safety standards in constructionApplying strict safety standards in construction creates an environment in which injuries are reduced. Boosting safety standards in construction can also have a substantial financial benefit for construction professionals who want to obtain lower-cost surety bonds for their projects. Reducing costs while improving safety benefits everyone involved in the project.
Continue reading Up Your Safety Standards on the Construction Site and Enjoy Cheaper Surety Bonds

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

New OSHA Injury Reporting Rules Go Into Effect January 1, 2015

OSHA Injury Reporting The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. government’s enforcement agency for safety and health legislation covering the workplace, has issued new injury reporting rules that will take effect beginning on January 1, 2015. Continue reading New OSHA Injury Reporting Rules Go Into Effect January 1, 2015

Silica Dust Standards and Innovative Products Work Together to Keep Workers Safe

Silica Dust StandardsWith new standards for exposure to silica dust under consideration, new products are already being fielded that improve silica dust safety and reduce the amount of airborne crystalline silica on constructions sites.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed new rules that improve silica dust exposure standards by reducing the permissible exposure limit (PEL), which is the maximum amount of silica dust an employee may be exposed to during a full work shift, according to a definition on the OSHA website. Continue reading Silica Dust Standards and Innovative Products Work Together to Keep Workers Safe