PPE

July 3, 2020 in Cal/OSHA, COVID-19, Electrocution, Eye protection, Face protection, Fall Protection, Foot protection, Gloves, Hand protection, Hard hat, Hazard, Head protection, Injury, OSHA, Personal Protection Equipment, Safety, Welding

There is hardly anyone in the United States and around the world who has not heard of the acronym PPE. PPE is short for Personal Protection Equipment. 

In the age of COVID-19 we all know the importance of face covering, or masks and face shields. We are also encourage to use gloves, hand sanitizers, along with regular hand washing.

The shortage of PPE was a common news headline at the beginning of this pandemic especially affecting first responders and health workers. Thankfully the shortages lessen as production of these items ramped up in every corner of the globe.

When this pandemic is finally behind us the masks and gloves may not be our first day to day priority but PPE’s will continue to make a difference between life and death for many occupations and such as construction, commercial, and industrial industries.

Safety and PPE are synonymous. One does not exist without the other. Head, hand, eye and foot protection are the basic four criteria for protecting the construction worker and others in industries where physical injury is a concern.

Personal protective clothing and equipment are to be designed with safety in mind.  They are to consider the work to be performed and must be kept maintained in good condition, sanitary, and without defects. PPE must meet NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and/or ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards. Those recommended standards have been incorporated by statute into the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) rules and regulations.

As of the date of this writing we see some of the four basic PPE regulations:

A)   Eye and Face Protection – ANSI Z87.1-1989 – Our faces have some of the most delicate parts of our body, especially the eyes. A nose can be repaired, teeth can be replaced with implants but currently medicine does not have the technology to give our site back once it is lost.

Eye and face protection must be suitable for the type of work being done. There are four basic eye and face protection gear as follows:

  • Single Lens Goggles – Vinyl framed goggles of soft pliable body are designed to provide adequate eye protection from a variety of hazards. The goggles are generally averrable with clear or tinted lenses, perforated, port vented, or non-vented frames.  Single lens goggles proved similar protection to spectacles and may be worn in combination with spectacles or corrective lenses.
  • Welders/Chippers Goggles – They are available in rigid and soft frames to accommodate single or two eyepiece lenses. Welders goggles provide protection from sparking, scaling, or splashing metals and harmful light rays. Lenses are impact resistant and are averrable in graduated shades of filtration. Chippers/Grinders goggles provide eye protection from flying particles. The dual protective eye cups house impact resistant clear lenses with individual cover plats.
  • Face Shields – Generally face shields consist of an adjustable headgear and face shield of clear or tinted acetate or polycarbonate materials, or wire screen. They are can be ordered in various sizes, tensile strength, impact and heat resistance and light ray filtering capability. Face shields will be used in operation when the entire face needs protection and should be worn to protect the entire face against flying particles, metal sparks, and chemical/biological splash.  It is important to note that the type of face shield currently seen on television, internet advertisers, and other media for COVID-19 face protection should not be used for any other purpose. Meaning, they are not designed for protection from flying particles generated by construction, commercial, and industrial operations.
  • Welding Shields – The welding shield is generally manufactured from vulcanized fiber or glass finer body, a ratchet/button type adjustable headgear or cap attachment and a filter and cover plate holder. The shield is designed to protect the welder’s eyes and face from infrared or radiant light burns, flying sparks, metal spatter and slag chips which are byproducts of welding, brazing, soldering, resistance welding, bare or shielded electrical arc welding and oxyacetylene welding and cutting.

Many of the eye protection equipment can be designed with corrective lenses built in. However, keep in mind that it is generally less expensive to replace a damage goggle or shield with standard lenses versus ones that require a doctor’s prescription.

B)  Head Protection – ANSI Z89.1-1986 – The basic principal of head protection is to reduce the possibility of an injury due to falling, or flying objects, and bumping the head against a fixed or moving object. The head protection, often referred to as the hard hat, need to be designed such as the shell of the protective hat is hard enough to resist the blow and the headband and crown straps keep the shell away from the wearer’s skull. Such hats when property chosen can also protect against electrical shock. 

There are five basic categories of head protection as follows:

      • Type I hard hats are intended to reduce the force of impact resulting form a blow only to the top of the head
      • Type II hard hats are intended to reduce the force of lateral impact resulting from a blow which may be received off-center, from the side, or to the top of the head.
      • Class E (Electrical) hard hats are designed to reduce exposure to high voltage conductors and offer dielectric protection up to 20,000 volts (phase to ground). This is for head protection only
      • Class G (General) hard hats are designed to reduce exposure to low voltage conductors and offer dielectric protection up to 2,200 volts (phase to ground). This is for head protection only
      • Class C (Conductive) hard hats differ from their counterparts in that they are not intended to provide protection against contact with electrical conductors and may include vented options.

C)  Foot Protection – ANSI Z41.1-1991- Safety shoes are to be worn in the shops, warehouses, maintenance, cage wash, glassware, and construction sites. Safety shoes or boots with impact protection are required to be worn in work areas where carrying or handling materials such as packages, objects, parts or heavy tools, which could be dropped. Also, for other activities where objects might fall onto the feet. They are also to be worn where skid trucks, manual or power pallet jacks or other such material handling equipment where such equipment has a potential of rolling over the operator’s feet.  They also protect against penetration of the shoe or boot sole from penetrations by sharp objects.

D)  Hand Protection: There are no current ANSI standards for gloves, however, selection must be based on the performance characteristics of the glove in relation to the tasks to be performed such as:

    • Natural Rubber – Used against alcohol, dilute water solutions and fair against aldehydes and ketones.  Disadvantages: Poor vs. oils, greases, organics. If imported may be of poor quality.
    • Natural Rubber Blends –  Used against same as Rubber. Disadvantages: Physical properties frequently inferior to natural rubber.
    • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – Used against Strong acids and bases, salts, other water solutions, and alcohol. Disadvantages: Plasticizers can be stripped.  If imported may be of poor quality.
    • Neoprene – Used against Oxidizing acids, anilines, phenol, glycol ethers.
    • Nitrile – Used against Oils, greases, aliphatic chemicals, xylene, perchloroethane. Fair against toluene. Disadvantages: Poor vs. benzene, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, and many ketones.
    • Butyl –  Used against Glycol ethers, ketones, and esters. Disadvantages: Expensive and poor vas hydrocarbons, and chlorinated solvents.
    • Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) – Used against Aliphatics, aromatics, chlorinated solvents, ketones (except acetone), esters, and ethers. Disadvantages: Very expensive, water sensitive, poor against light alcohols.
    • Fluro-elasomer (Viton)™ (Trademark of DuPont Dow Elastomers) – Used against Hazmat work and has excellent chemical resistance. Disadvantages: Poor fit, easily punctures, poor grip, and stiff.

As can be seen above glove selection can be somewhat complex. There are 97 common chemicals that are generally used in various construction, commercial, and industrial settings. In addition, there are a variety of other industries such a medical and cosmetics which have their own unique hazards to consider when choosing hand protections.

The above discussed items are only the basic four and there are certainly more PPE’s to consider such as fall protection when discussing specific operations.

Humans are delicate forms of nature. We have sensitive skin, eyes, face, arms, legs, feet, and body. Personal protective equipment does not guarantee that all injuries can be eliminated but we can reduce the risk of an injury and death by using these widely available basic protective equipment.   

Suspended Scaffold – Legal vs. Smart

June 15, 2020 in Cal/OSHA, Fall Protection, Falls, OSHA, Personal Protection Equipment, Safety, Scaffolding, Suspended Scaffolding, Welding

Photo #1 – Suspended Scaffold Supported By Ropes

There are times when something can be perfectly legal but not necessarily smart. Recently the author observed the construction of a new steel framed building where large steel girders,  beams and posts were being welded at various joints.    What caught my attention was the  suspended scaffold being used by the welders to reach both the interior and exterior sides of the weld joints.

Suspended scaffolding has been used for centuries. They are common place for many applications including window washing, painting, masonry and quality inspections. They can accommodate several workers or a single worker on a boatswains’ chair.  OSHA Section No. 1926.451 states the following: “A suspension scaffold contains one or more platforms suspended by ropes or other non-rigid means from an overhead structure, 29 CFR 1926.450(b), such as the following scaffolds: single-point, multi-point, multi-level, two-point, adjustable, boatswain’s chair, catenary, chimney hoist, continuous run, elevator false car, go-devils, interior hung, masons’, and stone setters’.”

Generally the use of suspended scaffolding is safe when properly rigged and inspected. As with any temporary piece of equipment the suspended scaffold should be used only when it is safe to do so. That means that such a mechanism should not be used during high winds, rain, and lightning storms. 

Photo #2 -Welder Working Above Suspended Scaffold Near Support Ropes

When comparing the regulations to the suspended scaffolding observed at the above construction site we do not see any specific violations but does that make it smart?  Specifically, when welders are welding right next to suspended scaffolding supported by ropes? Clearly, as we see in the Photo #2 sparks from the arc are in close proximity to the uncovered ropes.  Even where the ropes are covered by what appears to be flame retardant blankets as seen in Photo #3, portions of the ropes are exposed and can be damaged by an errant welding spark.

Photo #3 – Suspended Scaffold With Flame Retardant Blankets Protecting The Rope Supports

What is considered to be legal is not always safe.  There are too many examples to discuss in a single article. The hope is that common sense will prevail in addition to rules and regulations. In a study booklet for the California firearms safety certificate course it notes that the use of the safety on a firearm should be used but not relied upon. The same can be said about the OSHA safety rules. They should be referred to, respected, followed and carefully considered to make sure that individual work sites address their specific safety needs.

 When it comes to the use of a suspended scaffold for welding it would be highly advisable to consider non flammable materials such as the one used by the attached scaffold seen in Photo #4.

Photo #4 – Welder Using Attached Scaffolding

The scaffold is securely attached to the steel frame, guardrails provide additional fall protection, and the welding mechanic is using proper personal fall protection attached to the wire railing with a safety lanyard.  That setup is both legal and smart.

The fine line between regulations, safety, and being smart can merge creating the best possible working conditions.

Why Does Fall Protection Count?

August 28, 2019 in Cal/OSHA, Fall Protection, Falls, Hazard, Injury, OSHA, Roof, Safety, Slips

In a perfect scenario as illustrated in the attached photos we see a roofer standing at the edge of a parapet.  The roofer has no fall protection of any kind.  Give the roofer credit for wearing protective clothing necessary as a means to protect his body while applying a coating over a spray foam roof, but that protective suite will not stop him from falling.

The distance from the top of the parapet to the ground is approximately seventeen (17) feet.  The ground below is a hard surface which would be unforgiving to a falling human body.

A slight slip of either feet. A tangling of the boots in the protective covering. A sudden distraction. A sudden gust of wind. All of these situations can cause the roofer to loose his balance and fall to the ground below.

Beyond any OSHA requirement, and the obvious serious injury or even fatality which would result in the roofer falling to the ground below, the shock and grief that will affect to his fellow roofers, family, and friends is beyond measure.

It is for all the right reasons, and logical conclusion, that fall protection is a necessary safety measure. The code allows a number of ways to protect the roofer or anyone else working above ground.  Simple steps can reduce the risk of injury and prevent long term disability and even death.

When Fall Protection Means Saving A Life

Dangerous Behavior

August 13, 2019 in Cal/OSHA, Fall Protection, Falls, Hazard, Injury, OSHA, Safety, Signs

It goes without saying that standing in the bucket of an excavator to hang a sign is not a good or safe idea. Such behavior is not only unsafe but also violates California General Industry Safety Orders, §3657 – Elevating Employees with Lift Trucks (Fed OSHA §1910.67). 

According to the United States Department of Labor OSHA (osha.gov) “Many workers are injured or killed on aerial lifts each year”. Currently an aerial lift is described as one of the following:

  • Extendable boom platforms,
  • Aerial Ladders,
  • Articulating (joined) boom platforms,
  • Vertical towers, and
  • Combination of the above

The bucket of any excavator does not fit the definition of an aerial lift.

According to OSHA (osha.gov) even if someone properly uses an aerial lift the hazards for using such equipment may include: 

  • Fall from elevated level,
  • Objects falling from lifts,
  • Tip-overs
  • Ejections from the lift platform,
  • Structural failures (collapses)
  • Electric shock (electrocutions),
  • Entanglement hazards,
  • Contact with objects, and
  • Contact with ceilings and other overhead objects

As illustrated in the photo below the gentleman is hanging a warning sign while standing inside the bucket of an excavator. How ironic that someone is hanging a warnign sign considering the unsafe behavior being exhibited.  

You Should Never Do This

In the instance of hanging a warning sign a safe practice would be to use a properly designed ladder supported by solid footing.  Solid footing in this case would have been a smooth, level, and solid ground.

Solar Panel Installer Falls Through A Skylight

January 25, 2019 in Cal/OSHA, Falls, OSHA, Personal Protection Equipment, Safety, Skylight

Fontana, CA – An investigation of an industrial accident took place on June 14, 2016 concerning an employee who on June 13, 2016 sustained serious injuries after falling to the ground through an unguarded skylight while engaged in solar panel installation. The employee was not protected by use of guardrails, personal fall protection system, cover, screens, nets or any other methods

Cal/OSHA issued five citations to an electric contractor after a 29-year-old solar panel installer fell 29 feet through a skylight, suffering extremely serious injuries. The citations included a willful serious violation of Section 3212 Floor Openings, Floor Holes, Skylights and Roofs which requires employers use fall protections systems to keep employees safe. In this case, the employer did not provide the protection even though the company charged the building owner for it. There was no evidence of fall protection such as guardrails, personal fall protection system, covers, screens, nets or any other methods anywhere in the building, despite the presence of more than 140 skylights on the roof.

All employers in the State of California who are cited by Cal/OSHA are entitled to an appeal of the citations.

We have extensive experience in the investigation and analysis, including court testimony, concerning falls through skylights.