July 3, 2020 in Cal/OSHA, COVID-19, Hazard, 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.   

Tragic Fall

June 25, 2020 in Falls, Injury, OSHA, Personal Protection Equipment, Safety, Scaffolding

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.

Scaffold Work Is A Safety Concern

Scaffold Work Is A Safety Concern

News 4 Nashville reporter asked representative of the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA)“How could a 16 year old end up working on a construction site (was parental consent given?)?”

TOSHA responded:

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.


Safety Work Zone Protection

June 8, 2020 in Hazard, Injury, OSHA, Roadway, Safety, Signs

Safety Work Zone “Struck-by” Protection

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.

Tempered Glass Saves Lives

June 1, 2020 in Injury, Safety

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

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.

Hot Water Scalding

May 18, 2020 in Hazard, Injury, Safety, Temperature

Perhaps one of the least analyzed areas of personal injury has to do with the causes of burns due to scalding by hot water. The temperatures which lead to burns differ between age groups and the ways to control those temperatures are often overly generalized.

For instance, in the International Plumbing Code (IPC) (2018 IPC 412.10) for the shower, hot tub, and head shampoo sink faucets water temperature is specified to not exceed 120℉ (2018 IPC 412.3 & 412.5). Anything above that temperature is considered to be a hazard. However, the code is incomplete because it is silent as to how long can or should, a person exposes themselves to a temperature of 120℉.  Anyone who has spent any time in a hot tub knows that your body is somewhat comfortable in temperatures in the ’90s but once you extend into the 100’s your duration in that hot tub diminishes with each degree rise in temperature.

We also need to understand that going too far below the 120℉ temperature could expose us to the dangerous Legionella bacteria well known to cause Legionnaires’ disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/wmp/overview/growth-and-spread.html), this bacteria occurs naturally in a variety of freshwater bodies such as lakes, rivers, and streams where the bacteria are in relatively low amounts and not likely to cause a health hazard. The same cannot be said for the bacteria residing in the plumbing systems of either residential or commercial buildings. Legionella bacteria thrive in such systems with temperatures between 77℉ – 108℉. It is therefore imperative that our hot water storage and delivery systems control the temperatures above or below that range of temperature but as of this writing, they do not.

Some may ask if the hot water temperature can be controlled with the thermostat setting found on the hot water tank or today’s tankless water heaters.  The short answer is only to the degree of its maximum heat and therefore should not be relied upon for safety settings.  IPC 501.6 requires that “the temperature of water from tankless water heaters shall be not greater than 140℉ were intended for domestic uses”.  That leaves a 20-degree difference between the required maximum and the heating capacity of the water heater. Furthermore, standard water heaters do not have a set of maximum water temperature. In fact, in some states such as California, the plumbing code is clear that “The water heater thermostat shall not be considered a suitable control for meeting this provision” (provision meaning controlling the temperature coming out of the spigot at a maximum of 120℉) (2016 California Plumbing Code[CPC] 407.3). The mechanics of controlling the temperature beyond the water heater thermostat is a discussion we will tackle in a follow-up article. For now, we can say that a simple handheld thermometer is a simple first step by property owners and tenants to check the delivery temperature of the water.

Currently, the codes are silent on the temperature delivery for hot water at a sink or lavatory in a private building such as a house or apartment. They only mention a maximum 120℉ range is for “Public Lavatories” (2016 CPC 407.3).  Those would logically include places such as hospitals, restaurants, airports, gas stations, and other places where the “public” has access to lavatories. What about domestic and commercial kitchen sinks? As of the date of this article, the plumbing code is silent.

So we see what the plumbing codes say but in this author’s opinion that is not sufficient to prevent scalding or to truly understand what the consequences are when deciding how to approach burn associated cases involving hot water.

According to the American Burn Association – Scald Injury Prevention – Educator’s Guide:

Young children have thinner skin resulting in deeper burns than adults for the same temperature and exposure time to a scalding substance. The proportion of a child’s body that is exposed to any given amount of a scalding substance is also greater: the same cup of spilled coffee will burn a much larger percentage of a small child’s body. Small children also have little control of their environment, less perception of danger, and less ability to escape a burning situation on their own. Children grow fast and can reach new, dangerous things every day. They do not realize that hot liquids burn like fire. 

The Guide provides the following basic table for how hot temperature can affect a human being: 

In addition, according to an article by the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, National Burn Awareness Week February 6 – 12, 2012 the tolerance for exposure of hot water to infants and seniors is shorter than that noted in Table 1 above,

Further analysis of the two tables reveals a conflict between what the experts believe is a “Safe for bathing” temperature and the warning that any temperature below 108℉ could cause exposure to the Legionella bacteria. So are we exposing persons to the danger of an illness when setting the temperature at or below the otherwise safe 104℉?  And, what is the “time for 3rd degree burn to occur” between 108℉ and 119℉?  It will likely be less than five minutes but the exact time data is not provided.

Some may argue, especially as it relates to small children, that children must be controlled by a supervising adult at the time the child is exposed to the normal bathing activity.  It is assumed that most parents, guardians, or other such supervising adults would know not to place a child in a tub filled with extremely hot water. They may not know the exact temperature but most adults can feel the difference between safe and not safe water temperature. On the other-hand children are known to slip away from the guardian eyes of an adult and could cause themselves harm because of their playful or inquisitive nature.

In conclusion, no matter which side you are on Plaintiff or Defense, the scalding of humans by hot water is definitely a concern and must be taken seriously. Children’s accidental burns are heartbreaking and emotions can cloud our vision. As experts, we need to rely on science and follow the evidence wherever it may take us.  While this article may lead you to believe that lowering the temperature of hot water is the only answer, reducing the temperature to a level where the temperature range can lead to unwanted and unhealthy bacteria growth is also not the answer. The only clear mechanical answer is to design and install a system appropriate for the use and location.

In the meantime, Safe Kids Worldwide (www.safekids.org) and the American Burn Association (www.ameriburn.org) suggest ways for adults to 

Prevent Scalds During Bath Time:

  1. Set water heater to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or just below the medium setting (presumably giving under five minutes of time to pull a child out of a too hot tub)
  2. Check bathwater temperature. Before placing the child in the bath, check the water temperature with your elbow (other sources) or the inside of the wrist as is done with heating baby’s milk. The water should feel warm to the touch, not hot.
  3. Place the child in the bath facing away from the faucet. This way they won’t be tempted to touch the hot faucet or turn on the hot water.
  4. Do not leave a child unattended.

A single article cannot answer all the questions about hot water its consequences.  Commercial, industrial, food industry, health care, and other such facilities vary greatly in the need and standards for each of those industries. Each must be examined for its unique need, use, and safety protocols.