News 4 Nashville reported that a construction worker died Tuesday, June 23, 2020 afternoon after falling from scaffolding at a work site. According to Metro Police the construction worker was identified as 16 year old Gustavo Enrique Ramirez from Springfield, Tennessee.
TOSHA’s safety and health standards are written to protect all employees regardless of age. There is no rule or standard that establishes more stringent requirements for minors.
The Department’s Labor Standards Unit has opened an investigation into this incident. 16 year olds are permitted to work. While construction in general is not a prohibited occupation, certain jobs on a construction site may be prohibited, and the state will determine the circumstances of this case during its investigation.
We further understand that Metro Police say the 16 year old victim and his 18-year-old brother were on the scaffolding together. The brother reported that he had his back to Mr. Ramirez, heard a sound, then turned around to see his brother fall. The scaffolding was reported to be approximately 120 feet from the ground equal to a fall from a 12 story building. Metro Police said Mr. Ramirez was a part-time employee at Cortez Plastering. The project is a new hotel.
It was further reported by the news media that Metro detectives did not find a safety harness on Ramirez or on the scaffolding a device which may have saved this young man’s life.
This tragedy underscores the high risk and dangers facing construction site workers. Even more so the question should be asked why was a 16 year old regardless of gender conducting this dangerous work. Is it sufficient to be physically fit, or do we need as a society to implement minimum age limits for high risk work?
There is much we do not know about this case including safety training especially in the use of fall protection devices. Was Mr. Ramirez afforded such training? If he was, why was a harness not used? Was there a failure in the proper installation of scaffold guardrails?
This story does not have a happy ending because a young life was cut sort before it had a chance to even start. Hopefully lessons can be learned.
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 thesuspended 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.
We see them every day as we travel the roads and highways of our cities, counties, and interstate highways – “Slow Down Men At Work” signs.Politically incorrect, as there are many women also working on highway projects, but the message is clear, construction work is ahead. You, the driver, need to pay attention and approach with caution.
According to her online article recently published by the Asphalt Contractor Magazine dated, June 3, 2020, Jessica Lombardo states “Work zone crashes are on the rise in 2020, causing worker injuries and deaths.”It should not be a surprise to anyone that these incidents are increasingly more frequent.With the advent of the smartphones capability to transmit text messaging and emails, there are many more distractions to drivers than before when we only had the flip phone capable of only calling and receiving calls or before that with only car radios, conversations with passengers, and remarkable sightings along the road.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2013 Traffic Safety Culture Index, noted that “83 percent of motorists rated texting while driving and 58 percent rated cell phone use very serious threats to their safety, yet many admitted performing these distracting behaviors while driving within the previous month.Further, 88 percent of respondents said that distracted drivers were somewhat or a much bigger problem today than they were just three years ago.”Additionally, the Foundation’s analysis of data from a 2006 study conducted by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute revealed that “taking your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles your risk of a crash.”
Construction safety is not limited to the job site alone. There are various external sources that can alter the construction site’s working environment leading to dangerous conditions. Such external sources include air pollution, utility malfunctions, and distracted drivers.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2003-20017 1,844 workers lost their lives at road construction sites. Over that 15 year period, the State of Texas ranked #1 with 218 killed, #2 Florida with 132 deaths, #3 Pennsylvania with 91 casualties, #4 Illinois with 83, #5 California with 76, and #6 Tennessee with 70 killed.
So from a safety engineering perspective what are the solutions to safeguard roadway workers?The exact data is not available but many workers prefer to have peace officers on-site during construction operations.The blue and red light bars on top of police or highway patrol cars certainly cause drivers to pay attention and perhaps even slow down.In some states such as in California, you may see Highway Patrol cruisers follow the cleaning crews as they clean the roadways and emergency lanes. However, having such peace officer presence is not practical or economical at all roadway construction sites, especially those that extend for weeks, months, and even years.
A myriad of safety devices have been developed and are deployed, often in combination, to safeguard roadway construction sites and personnel including K rails, traffic cones, traffic delineators, electronic signboards, barricades, trucks with collision absorption tailgates, collision absorption barrels, and others such devices. Roadway construction workers rely upon those devices to protect and alert others to the worksite but they are not always enough.
Dangerous behavior including the distracted driver, the driver under the influence, the driver whose visibility is reduced due to environmental conditions, the new driver who lacks driving experience, the driver who has lost control over his/her vehicle is, and likely will always be, the main cause of
“struck-by” hazards and injuries to roadway construction workers. Can more robust safety mechanisms be put in place? The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published document No. 2001-128 titled “Building Safer Highway Work Zones: Measures to Prevent Worker Injuries From Vehicles and Equipment.” In this article DHHS (NIOSH) lays out 15 categories to consider for injury prevention measures including work zone layout, use of temporary traffic control devices, motorist education and speed enforcement, flaggers, high-visibility apparel, illumination of the work zone, developing internal traffic control plans, implementing internal traffic control plans, accountability and coordination at the worksite, equipment operation and maintenance, safe equipment operation around workers on foot, training and certification, changes in the contracting process, laboratory and field research needs, and data and record keeping.
Most importantly, as with any construction-related safety procedure, safety engineering preparation for all road construction worksites must include consideration of the particular and peculiar features of each site and each construction project. Safety procedures are not uniform except for the twin needs to follow them once the procedures are known and to continue to look for better ways to reduce the high risks of roadway construction.
This past Sunday, May 31, 2020, marks another day in United States history where peaceful demonstrations and orderly civil disobedience were highjacked by unlawful activity leading to property destruction and theft. The author’s Bixby Knolls, Long Beach, California neighborhood was thankfully sparred wide-spread damage.
Tempered Glass Saves Lives
This article is not about the political reasons for the nationwide demonstrations.Instead it concentrates on something that television coverage and social media have not reported. Specifically, how advancement in glass safety has reduced the number of people being injured due to broken glass.In fact, we will never know how many of the looters and bystanders, including police and national guardsman, were able to escape what could have easily been a significant number of bodily injuries from glass shards and glass debris used as weapons.
In the television broadcasts viewed by this author none of the glass storefronts being damaged or destroyed showed human blood from cuts by broken glass.This is due to the major change in building codes decades ago requiring all commercial glass to be either of the wire safety type or tempered.Again, from television broadcasts the evidence indicates that all the broken glass shown was of the tempered type.
Here is a short tutorial regarding tempered glass:
Tempered glass is also referred to as toughened or sometimes as fully tempered glass.The glass sheets are heated to around 1,148℉. They then undergo a high-pressure cooling process called quenching.This process, which only lasts between 6 to 10 seconds, blasts cool air from various positioned nozzles onto the glass surfaces which cools the outer surfaces of the glass much quicker than the center. As the center cools down it tries to pull back from the outer surfaces resulting in the center remaining in tension while the outer surfaces go into compression which gives tempered glass its high strength. Tempering can also be achieved with chemical treatment but it is far more expensive than quenching and not widely used commercially.
When damaged tempered glass breaks into smaller granular pieces (as can be seen in the image taken of one of the targeted stores near the author’s home) as opposed to large jagged shards of non-tempered glass.These smaller granular pieces are less likely to cause bodily harm.The high strength of tempered glass and its high safety record is why you also see it being used in shower and tub glass enclosures, microwave ovens, refrigerator trays, glass table tops, and more.
We can all be thankful to the scientists, engineers, and the many manufacturers of glass products for making our communities safer.