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Jackhammer Safety - Practice caution to minimize your risks - December 2016

Jackhammers are one of the most dangerous types of hand tools because they can cause serious damage not only to your body from intense vibrations, but also to your hearing. On average, a worker operating a jackhammer is exposed to about 130 decibels of noise—that’s a little louder than a jet plane taking off and slightly quieter than firearms or an air raid siren.

In addition to damaging your hearing, jackhammer use also poses large risks to the hands and wrists. In fact, using a jackhammer frequently can quickly lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or Raynaud’s disease, also known as vibration white finger. Follow these tips for safe jackhammer operation.

Precautions Before Use

  • Read the instruction manual and receive the proper training before operating the machinery.
  • Inspect the equipment before use.
  • Ensure that the safety guards are properly in place and in good working order.
  • Make sure bits are sharp.
  • Inspect the compression hose lines.
  • For three-wire system electric models, ensure they are grounded properly to avoid a fire or shock.
  • For electrical models, use an extension cord large enough to accommodate the distance between the hammer and the receptacle tool.
  • For air models, fill the gas tank with the engine off.
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, eye protection (goggles or safety glasses), ear protection (earplugs or ear muffs), non-slip gloves, a protective mask, helmet and steel-toed boots with non-slip soles.
  • Do not use a jackhammer in wet conditions.
  • Remove the chuck key before using.

Precautions During Use

  • Disconnect power or air supply prior to putting in or removing tools.
  • Lock tools before using.
  • Grip the tool just tight enough to maintain control, but allow the jackhammer to do the work.

Residential Construction Fall Protection Requirements - November 2016

Falls in residential construction are deadly and common. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 40 workers are killed each year as a result of falls from residential roofs—the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction. These injuries and deaths are not only costly to your company due to claims and elevated insurance premiums, they are preventable. For this reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has explicitly stated that residential builders are not allowed to bypass fall protection requirements. 

Who is Involved?

All employers engaged in residential construction work are required to provide fall protection for workers working more than 6 feet above ground. Residential construction includes the following elements:

  • The end use of the structure being built is a home or a dwelling.
  • The structure is built using traditional wood frame construction materials and methods. Limited use of structural steel does not disqualify a structure from being considered residential construction.

Any employer involved in residential construction is required to comply with OSHA regulations regarding fall protection systems. This means employees working 6 feet or more above lower levels must use one of the following safety systems:

  • Guardrails and safety nets
  • Personal fall arrest systems, an example of which being a full body harness, a deceleration device, a lanyard and an anchor point.

Certain types of work specified under other OSHA provisions warrant alternative fall protection measures.

What if Fall Protection is Infeasible?

When the use of conventional fall protection methods is infeasible or creates a greater hazard, employers must create a written, site-specific fall protection plan that documents why these methods are infeasible and why they would create a greater hazard. 

Contact Us

At CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc., we have a variety of materials for you to ensure compliance and promote a safe workplace, which are essential components of any construction risk management program.

Erionite—An Emerging Hazard - October 2016

Erionite is a naturally occurring mineral that belongs to a group of silicate minerals called zeolites. Like naturally occurring asbestos, deposits are present in many Western states and can occur in a fibrous form. Disturbance of this material can generate airborne fibers with physical properties and health effects similar to asbestos.

Until recently, erionite was not generally considered to be a potential hazard in North America, in part because relatively little risk for exposure was seen. However, evidence has slowly accumulated that links exposure to erionite with serious adverse health effects in North America, and suggests that some workers may have a greater potential for exposure than previously recognized.

Risk and Regulation

There are no regulatory or consensus standards or occupational exposure limits (OEL) for airborne erionite fibers. Development of a quantitative OEL depends on the development of a standardized, validated exposure assessment method and a quantitative evaluation of the risks associated with given exposures. Still, The National Toxicology Program has designated erionite to be a known human carcinogen.

Little is known about exposures currently experienced by US workers. However, erionite-related disease has most often been reported in road construction and maintenance workers with potential occupational exposures to erionite-containing gravel used in road surfacing. Although it is reasonable to be concerned, erionite-related clinical disease has not yet been reported in other US workers engaged in activities that might crush erionite-containing rock or stir up dust in soils/gravel that contain erionite.

Erionite fibers only pose a hazard if they are disturbed and become airborne, and control recommendations should focus on reducing the potential for exposure to airborne erionite fibers. Activity-based breathing zone air sampling has confirmed that when gravels containing erionite are disturbed, erionite fibers can become airborne. The intensity of these exposures may vary due to a number of factors, including the weather conditions (e.g., damp vs. dry, windy vs. calm), the intensity with which erionite-containing materials are disturbed and the concentration of erionite in the gravels being disturbed. However, bulk gravel erionite concentrations alone are not a reliable predictor of air concentrations, as disturbance of gravels containing erionite in "trace" amounts (less than 0.2%) can sometimes result in relatively high airborne fiber concentrations.

Control Measures

This data supports the need to implement precautions to protect workers by limiting the generation and inhalation of dust known or thought to be contaminated with erionite. A reasonable approach based on current

information would be to take precautions such as those described in existing guidance for working with asbestos, 29 CFR 1910.1001. Existing recommendations for working in areas with naturally occurring asbestos may be particularly relevant to reducing outdoor occupational erionite exposures.

Risk reduction recommendations to limit erionite exposures of workers who engage in activities that disturb erionite-containing gravel/soil or crush rocks that contain erionite can include the following:

  • Train workers about the potential hazards of erionite and control methods for reducing the potential for exposure
  • Know where erionite-containing material is present and will be encountered prior to beginning any work
  • Avoid the use of erionite containing aggregate whenever possible
  • Use wet methods to reduce dust generation for road and other work such as in quarries where erionite is present (e.g., when drilling rock, apply water through the drill stem to reduce airborne dust, or use a drill with a dust collection system)
  • Limit the number of workers who will be engaged in work with erionite
  • Establish decontamination protocols including a change of clothing, showering before leaving the worksite and appropriate cleaning/disposal of personal protective equipment
  • Ensure that work clothing is not washed at home to prevent erionite fibers from being brought home on work clothes and boots
  • Prohibit dry sweeping, the use of leaf blowers, or the use of compressed air for cleaning
  • Protect employees with personal protective equipment, including respiratory protection. An occupational safety and health professional should be consulted for specific guidance about the most appropriate personal protective equipment that should be used for the work being conducted.
  • Prohibit eating, drinking, or smoking in dusty work areas where erionite fibers may be airborne. Workers should move away from the work area for breaks and wash their hands and face before eating, drinking, or smoking.
  • Establish protocols for vehicle use on erionite containing roads (e.g., drive slowly, close vents and roll windows up)
  • Wet wash equipment and vehicle exteriors, and wet clean or use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter vacuum vehicle interiors.
  • Follow Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) procedures for proper dispose of waste and debris that contains erionite.
  • Limit bystander exposure by preventing visitors and coworkers from standing in work areas where erionite fibers may become airborne.

Although much remains to be learned about erionite in the US, airborne occupational erionite fiber exposures should be considered at least as hazardous as asbestos fiber exposures and similar preventive measures should be used. Contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. to keep your workers safe from erionite exposure and other risks on the work site

Welding and Cutting at the Work Site - September 2016

Welding and cutting tasks are dangerous, especially when working on a construction site. As your surroundings are constantly changing, it is important to keep safety top of mind. 

Prevention and Protection

To avoid injuries on the job, consider these safety recommendations:

  • Always check for fire hazards before you start welding. Wood, paper and other flammable materials should be removed from the area. Flammable liquids should be removed as well. Never weld or cut in areas with a lot of trees or dry grasses.
  • Clean away any debris on the floor or ground before welding over it. Then cover the ground or floor with metal or some other material that will not burn. It may also be a good idea to wet the floor or ground, though this can cause an added shock hazard. Guard against these hazards as necessary.
  • Seal cracks so that sparks or slag cannot fall through them, and never allow these hot materials to fall into machine pits.
  • If you must weld near combustible materials, a fire extinguisher, pail of water, fire hose or a pail of sand should be at hand. It may be necessary to have a worker stand by with a fire extinguisher to put out sparks as well.
  • If you are welding or cutting a tank or drum containing flammable liquids or gas, do not start your operation until an approved test shows that there is no dangerous vapor present. Do not rely on another employee’s word that the tank or drum was tested previously; insist on a new test before you start your work.
  • If you’re working in a confined space at the worksite, make sure your work area is properly ventilated. Many welding and cutting operations produce fumes that are harmful in heavy concentrations, and good ventilation is one of the best methods of protecting yourself against this hazard. Utilize special ventilating equipment, if necessary.
  • Wear face and eye protection such as goggles and a helmet to protect against hazards. Workers dealing with metal, chipping and cleaning should always have their helmets lowered to prevent throw particles of metal from coming into the eyes. Eye protection, such as goggles, are worn to protect against sparks, slag and molten metal, and flash burns caused by radiation from the welding equipment.

Safety First

Make safety a top priority as you weld and cut. Taking these precautions seriously will lower your risk of occupational injuries, which will make your job much more safe and enjoyable.

Safety Tips for Dealing with Lead - August 2016

Lead is a toxic substance that builds up in the body, posing serious health risks to those exposed to it. When you work with lead, it accumulates on your clothing and skin in the form of dust. It can be inhaled or ingested, and can damage the lungs, kidneys, nervous system, intestines and reproductive system. There is no cure for lead poisoning.

How Might I Be Exposed?

Lead can be found in the paint and pipes of buildings built before 1978. During activities such as demolition, window replacement or opening up walls, dangerous amounts of built-up lead dust can be released, putting you at risk of exposure.

In order to do work on houses that contain lead-based paint, our firm has been certified. This means we are expected to uphold certain standards to protect you and the occupants of the building. Study the following work practices that minimize the risk of lead poisoning.

Contain the Work Area

Contain your work area to keep occupants out and to be sure that other areas of the building are not contaminated with lead dust.

  • Create a sealed air lock at the entrance to the area in which you are working, and at the vents and heating ducts.
  • Remove everything, including furniture, from the work area. If an item is too large to move, cover it with heavy plastic sheeting secured with tape.
  • Cover floors with heavy plastic sheeting.
  • Cover doors with two layers of protective sheeting: one with a vertical slit, and one overlapping layer hung from the top of the doorframe.

Protect Yourself

Without the right protective equipment, you may ingest or inhale lead or risk bringing it home to your family. Always wear the following equipment:

  • Safety goggles
  • Disposable protective coveralls
  • Disposable shoe covers
  • Gloves
  • Painter’s hat
  • Properly fitting HEPA respirator

Thoroughly wash your hands and face whenever you stop to eat, drink, smoke or use tobacco. Carefully remove all clothing and launder it separately before returning home.

Minimize the Dust

  • Use wet sanders or misters to keep down dust from sanding and drilling. 
  • Use HEPA vacuum attachments when you are able.
  • When a heat gun is necessary, use a low temperature setting. 
  • Pry and pull apart components instead of pounding and hammering.
  • Never use open-flame burning or torching of lead-based paint, and never use high-speed sanders or grinders without HEPA exhaust control.

Leave the Work Area Clean

Clean the entire area using the following methods each day, throughout the day.

  • Wet sweep and wet mop your work area each day, changing the mop water frequently. Strain out debris from the mop water and dispose of them.
  • Vacuum the walls, tops of doors and windows and the plastic barrier to the work area daily. Use a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.
  • Dispose of your personal protective equipment or place it in a separate laundry container or plastic bag.
  • Continue to keep the work area completely separate from the rest of the building.

Tips for Teens in Construction - July 2016

The construction industry ranks third in the number of work-related youth fatalities, but you can help lessen or even eliminate this statistic by paying attention to all safety guidelines.

The Basics

  • If you are younger than15, you cannot work on construction sites by law.
  • Make sure you have clear instructions on each and every task. If you do not understand, ask someone before beginning.
  • Never perform a task you have not previously been trained to do.
  • Trust your instincts about dangerous situations.
  • Never work alone.
  • Make sure your personal protective equipment (PPE) is properly sized.
  • Always work under proper supervision.
  • Stay sober and drug-free.
  • Try to familiarize yourself with the federal and state youth employment laws; a good resource is the Department of Labor (www.dol.gov)

Prohibited Jobs

Certain jobs are declared hazardous by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and are therefore prohibited for youth under age 18. Specifically relevant for construction workers are:

  • Driving a motor vehicle
  • Operating power-driven woodworking machines (including drills and nail guns)
  • Operating forklifts, cranes, hoists or elevators
  • Operating power-driven circular saws, band saws and guillotine shears
  • Wrecking, demolition and shipbreaking operations
  • Roofing operations
  • Excavation operations

Know the Hazards

There are six main hazards you need to be aware of in the construction industry:

  • Machines and tools – Moving machine parts have the potential to cause severe injuries. Any machine part, function or process that may cause injury must be safeguarded. Teens under age 18 should not be using this equipment, but it is important to be aware of the dangers regardless.
  • Confined spaces – There are many instances in which workers must squeeze in and out of narrow openings and perform tasks while cramped or contorted. Suffocation is a main concern when doing these jobs.
  • Electrocution – Overhead power lines are a main concern when working in construction. They carry tens of thousands of volts of electricity. Certain equipment (such as aluminum paint rollers or metal ladders) conducts electricity and can be fatal.
  • Falls – Falling is the most common cause of death for construction workers. Fall protection is vital when working at heights above six feet.
  • “Struck-by” – The second most common cause of death is being struck by an object or vehicle. It is important to pay close attention to alarms and horns when on the job.
  • “Caught-between” – Be sure to stay alert when working around any large objects that might move. Being crushed is a scary but very real hazard on a construction site.

Before beginning any job, make sure that you understand the proper safety procedures and policies on the job site. Your supervisor can answer any questions you may have. Safety should always be your top concern.

Top Four Construction Hazards - June 2016

Do you knows the risks?

You’re good at your job and you love what you do. However, every time you come to work, you risk suffering an injury. The construction site is one of the most hazardous workplaces, and many of the injuries that occur there are caused by these top four hazards: falls, struck-by, caught-in/between and electrocutions.

When you have sufficient knowledge, preventing accidents caused by these hazards is easier than you might think. Here are some basic safety tips to keep you injury-free.

Preventing Falls

  • Wear and use fall arrest equipment.
  • Install and maintain perimeter protection.
  • Cover and secure all floor openings and label floor opening covers.
  • Use ladders and scaffolds safely.

Preventing Struck-bys

  • Never position yourself between moving and fixed objects.
  • Wear high-visibility clothes near equipment and vehicles so that others can see you clearly.

Preventing Caught-in-between Hazards

  • Never enter an unprotected trench or excavation that is five feet or deeper without an adequate protective system in place. (Note: some trenches that are less than five feet may need a similar system as well.)
  • Make sure that a trench or excavation is protected either by sloping, shoring, benching or a trench shield system.

Preventing Electrocutions

  • Locate and identify utilities before starting work for the day.
  • Look for overhead power lines when operating any equipment.
  • Maintain a safe distance away from power lines and learn your area’s distance requirements.
  • Do not operate portable electric tools unless they are grounded or double-insulated.
  • Use ground-fault circuit interrupters for protection.
  • Be alert to electrical hazards when working with ladders, scaffolds or other platforms.

Reducing Falls While Installing Tile Roofs - May 2016

 

When workers install tile roofs, they are at risk of falling. Using personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) is the most common way to control falls during residential construction. But these systems are not the only way to protect a worker—there are other options.

Risks While Installing Tile Roofs

Roofers installing tiles risk permanent injury or death from falls. Even experienced roofers are exposed to unpredictable fall hazards caused by uneven sheathing, sudden gusts of wind, loose roofing materials and surfaces that become slick when wet. Taking appropriate fall protection measures can reduce risks and save lives.

Employers must provide a training program for each worker who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program must enable each worker to recognize the hazards of falling, and must train each worker in the procedures to follow to minimize these hazards. For fall protection training requirements, refer to 29 CFR 1926.503. In all cases, employers must evaluate the hazards and take measures to reduce the risk of falls.

Reducing Risks While Installing Tiles

Before beginning the job, focus on identifying fall protection needs. Survey the roof to determine whether there are pre-installed anchorages available that can be used. If not, begin planning immediately to identify the systems needed to protect workers from falls and have them available before the workers report to the job.

Communicating Your Needs

The contractor that is building and sheathing the roof structure will need fall protection equipment for workers performing these jobs. At a pre-construction meeting, or at the first meeting on the worksite, ask the building contractor to leave roof anchors or other fall protection equipment in place after sheathing is completed.

Using the Right Equipment

Roofers must use fall protection equipment that meets OSHA requirements whenever they work 6 feet or more above a lower level. States with OSHA-approved state plans may have additional requirements beyond OSHA requirements. Depending on the tasks involved, where the work is taking place and other circumstances specific to tile roofing, contractors may be able to protect their workers using the following equipment:

  • Scaffolds
  • Aerial lifts
  • PFAS
  • Guardrails

Preparing the Worksite

Safeguarding against hazards is as important to preventing fatal falls as having good fall protection equipment. When work begins on a roof, employers must prepare the site by protecting workers from the following hazards that could cause them to fall.

  • Wet or windy weather: Roofing should only be performed when weather permits. Wind and rain put workers at a greater risk for falling. In damp or windy weather, put work on hold until conditions improve.
  • Skylights and openings: Every year, workers die from falling through openings and weak surfaces on roofs. Employers must use covers, PFAS or guardrails to protect employees working around skylights and roof openings.
  • Accessing the roof: Employers must provide safe roof access and make sure that workers know how to get up and down from a roof in a way that minimizes the risk of falling. Extension ladders must extend at least 3 feet above the roof level to ensure safe access to the roof. For other requirements on the safe use of ladders, refer to 29 CFR 1926 Subpart X—Stairways and Ladders.
  • Staging materials: Employers must put all working materials in safe spots. Loose tiles and hand-held equipment create tripping hazards. Workers can fall after tripping or slipping on something they did not see. While walking on the roof and carrying materials, the worker should keep the materials on the down-sloped edge to prevent the materials from falling into him- or herself if the materials are dropped.
  • Performing edgework: When installing the first rows of tile near the roof edge, workers have several fall protection options. In addition to a PFAS, scaffolds and aerial lifts can provide safe access to the edge:

   o     Scaffolds: When properly constructed and used, external scaffolds can provide suitable protection for roof repairs along the edge of the roof. Pump-jack scaffolds offer a secure platform from which to work and can be raised and lowered for specific tasks, such as working from underneath the eaves. Guardrails along the scaffold will provide fall protection. For other requirements for scaffolds, refer to 29 CFR 1926 Subpart L—Scaffolds.

   o   Aerial lifts: A portable boom lift can allow roofers easy access to the leading edge of the roof. The adjustable angle is useful for working on roofs of all grades. It offers an easy place for workers to tie off their lifelines and to work from within the basket. Care must be taken when loading material. Do not let workers overload the lift. For other requirements for lifts, refer to 29 CFR 1926.453—Aerial Lifts.

Fall Protection Methods

There are many methods available to protect workers from falls, but the method used should be determined by the unique characteristics of each job site.

PFAS

A PFAS is a tool available to roofers during installation jobs, and is the system of choice for many roofers. However, a breakdown in any component of a PFAS could be disastrous for a worker.

The system includes three major components:

  1. An anchorage to which the other components of the PFAS are rigged
  2. A full body harness worn by the worker
  3. A connector, such as a lanyard or lifeline, linking the harness to the anchorage. A rip-stitch lanyard, or deceleration device, is typically a part of the system.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on selecting, installing and using PFAS components correctly. Some PFASs include special elevated anchor assemblies that permit the system to protect workers even when they stand near the anchor locations. Certain anchorage assemblies rotate or offer extension arms to improve mobility and prevent lifelines from contacting the roof surface. This is particularly useful during roof demolition when a line could catch on a nail or debris.

For more information on the requirements for a PFAS, refer to 29 CFR 1926.502(d).

Remember that workers must use full-body harnesses in fall arrest systems. Body belts can cause serious injury during a fall, and OSHA prohibits their use as part of fall arrest systems.

Attaching Anchors

When working in an area where a scaffold or aerial lift is not practical, workers can use a PFAS with a secure anchor. OSHA requires that anchors for a PFAS be able to hold at least 5,000 pounds of weight per person, or maintain a safety factor of at least two (twice the impact load) under the supervision of a qualified person [29 CFR 1926.502(d)(15)]. Anchors must not be attached to sheathing alone, since it may not be strong enough to hold the sudden weight of a falling worker. Anchors should be fixed to a strong structural feature (like a sheathed truss). Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions or consult a qualified person when installing anchors. When choosing an anchor to use for fall protection, employers have a number of options, including the following:

  • Peak anchor: At the top of the roof, peak anchors are typically solid, nonmoving pieces secured by the anchor to the trusses underneath.
  • Permanent D-rings: Inexpensive D-ring anchors are attached to the truss frame; they are often removed after the job is done, although they can be left permanently on the roof.

When installing an anchor above the area being built, choose an anchor that is appropriate for the tile type and anchor location. Depending on the roof design, the best location might be at the peak of the roof, directly over a truss.

Otherwise, where practical, consider leaving anchors in place. It will make the current job simpler and reduce the burden for roofers in the future. Roofing is not always the last step in the construction process. Skylight windows and solar panels might be installed later during construction. Workers installing those units will also need fall protection anchors.

Written Fall Protection Plans

When working at heights of 6 feet or greater, if the employer does not use ladders, scaffolds, aerial lifts or fall restraint systems and can demonstrate that it is not feasible or would create a greater hazard to use conventional fall protection equipment (guardrails, safety nets or PFAS), the employer must develop a written site-specific fall protection plan in accordance with 29 CFR 1926.502(k). The plan must be prepared by a qualified person. This person could be the owner, the supervisor or any other worker who has extensive knowledge, training and experience with fall protection and is able to solve problems relating to fall protection.

The site-specific fall protection plan must document, for each location, why the use of conventional fall protection equipment is not feasible or will create a greater hazard. The plan must also describe the alternative methods that the employer will use so that workers are protected from falls. Workers and their supervisors must be trained on the proper use of those other fall protection methods.

Conventional fall protection equipment can reduce or eliminate the chances of a fatal fall. Otherwise, a written site-specific fall protection plan ensures that protection continues, even when conventional fall protection methods are determined to be unfeasible.

Contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. today to learn more about protecting your construction workers from falls.

Avoid Electrical Shock - April 2016

As you go about your work tasks that involve portable electric tools, you may not give much thought about the hazards electricity can pose. That is why it is so important to take the proper safety precautions at all times.

Causes of Shocks

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), electricity travels in closed circuits, normally through a conductor. However, sometimes a person’s body – an efficient conductor of electricity – mistakenly becomes part of the electric circuit. Shocks occur when a person’s body completes the current path with:

•  Both wires of an electric circuit;

•  One wire of an energized circuit and the ground;

•  A metal part that accidentally becomes energized (such as a break in its insulation); or

•  Another “conductor” that is carrying a current.

When a person receives a shock, electricity flows between parts of the body or through the body to the ground.

Inspect Your Tools

Accidental grounding is one of the most common preventable incidents occurring when working with electricity. One way to avoid this is by always examining your tools for these conditions:

•  Defective or broken insulation

•  Improper or poorly made connections to terminals

•  Broken or otherwise defective plugs

•  Loose or broken switches

•  Sparking brushes

If any of these conditions exist, have the tool repaired before using it, report it to your supervisor and above all, do not use it!

Additional Safety Rules

•  Do not attempt to repair or adjust portable electric tools while they are plugged in.

•  Do not use portable electric tools in the presence of flammable vapors or gases, unless they are designed for such use.

•  Always use the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the job, even if it may seem unnecessary.

•  Maintain tools regularly.

•  When using a tool to handle energized conductors, check to make sure it is designed to withstand the voltage and stresses to which it has been exposed.

•  Ensure your portable tool is equipped with a three-prong plug, the best way to guard against shock.

If you or a co-worker does receive a shock, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Even if the victim does not exhibit signs of injury or stress, internal injuries may have resulted from the shock. Low voltage shocks can actually be fatal.

Knowing how to work safely with portable electric tools can save your life. Stay alert on the job, always check equipment prior to use and do not take any unnecessary chances.

Your Multicultural Workforce - March 2016

Diverse employee populations are becoming increasingly commonplace in today’s workforce. Though such diversity is positive in many ways, it can also create problems. Differences in culture and language may create tension among your employees or communication difficulties on the job site. Minorities may feel unwelcome or misunderstood and may perceive a strained relationship with site foremen or the company. It is essential that you address these issues proactively to ensure all your employees have a positive working environment.

Learn About Your Workers

Make the worksite a welcoming environment for all employees by keeping an open mind, learning about your employees and avoiding over-generalizations.

• Understand that diversity exists. When gathering information about the ethnic and cultural makeup of their workforce, many employers are surprised to learn the number of identifiable culture groups and subgroups within their company. Each of these groups may gather and process information differently, and they may have different needs and expectations from their employer.

• Learn about different employee groups. Research the various cultures and ethnicities represented in your company to gain a better understanding of each group. Also, keep in mind that any females you employ represent a minority in your typically male-dominated profession. Though research is a start, the best source for information is your employees themselves – ask them about their values, preferred communication methods and how your workplace could better fit their needs.

• Don’t generalize. While it is true that certain characteristics or preferences can be common among a gender, ethnic or racial group, you should never assume that all employees of one group feel the same. It is important to learn about broad cultural differences, but always think of employees as individuals with unique feelings and needs.

Communication

Employers often make mistakes when communicating with bilingual employees without even realizing it. You may assume that since your workers have an English vocabulary sufficient for them to function on a daily basis that communicating everything in English is adequate. However, for many workers, English is a second language, and they still feel more comfortable communicating in their native tongue. This is especially true when it comes to safety rules, company policies, HR forms and other essential and potentially confusing information.

One way to solve this problem is to use bilingual forms of communication (whether written or spoken) when providing health and safety information. Also, be sure to post federal and state compliance posters in the language in which your employees are fluent – in some states, this is required, so check your local regulations.

Communication may prove to be a problem on your job site. If you have bilingual employees, make sure you have someone who can fluently translate back and forth if needed, and encourage all workers to be patient if problems arise with the language barrier.

Encourage Acceptance

A multicultural workforce can cause tensions among employees. This may be due to underlying prejudices, discomfort or unfamiliarity with other ethnic groups or displeasure with changing established policies and procedures. In order for everyone to have a comfortable and pleasant working environment, you need to address these issues.

Create company-wide nondiscriminatory policies, and distribute them to all employees. Emphasize that the company is committed to a diverse, inclusive workforce and prejudiced or discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated. You may also want to implement mentoring or shadowing programs to help new employees feel welcome and help all employees feel comfortable with others.

To open employees’ minds to other cultures and raise their self-awareness, consider providing diversity training or learning seminars for your staff. Open or semi-directed dialogues among employees can be useful for breaking down barriers, fostering respect and understanding, and helping employees feel comfortable despite their differences. Planning company social events, including picnics, outings, parties and clubs, can also be beneficial in bringing employees together and providing laid-back opportunities to get to know each other.

Train Your Site Foremen

Site foremen should be trained on communicating effectively with workers of other cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  Not only do foremen play an important role in verbally communicating information, but their non-verbal actions can also have a big impact.

Foremen should be careful to always display the same attitude toward all workers regardless of race, gender or ethnicity. Any difference in mood or attitude, whether real or perceived, can make a minority group feel isolated or unimportant and expose the company to unnecessary risks. It is crucial that foremen avoid becoming irritated or impatient when a minority employee needs extra help or is confused by something. This type of response can cause non-English speaking employees to avoid asking safety questions out of fear of further agitating an impatient or already aggravated supervisor. Plus, the company becomes vulnerable to a discrimination lawsuit if the employees feel they are being treated differently because of their minority status.

Recommend the following tips to site leaders:

1. Treat all employees equally, despite any language barriers.

2. Don’t make patronizing comments about a specific group of employees, even if you think they are complimentary. Not only will you risk insulting your employees, but you also open the door to discrimination lawsuits.

3. Don't overcompensate any specific group of employees with the belief that the extra money will alleviate communication barriers. This type of activity will ultimately alienate other members of the workforce, and it is a very discriminatory practice.

4. Be patient with workers who may have a hard time understanding the English language or who struggle to adapt to certain communication methods or working styles.

Hiring Practices

If your company has a diverse workforce, you might want to include a multicultural aspect in your hiring considerations. Hiring site foremen with multicultural management expertise or workers that have previous exposure to multicultural work settings can help you bridge any communication or personal gaps among your workers.

A Simple Approach

While there are many resources available that can help employers develop, promote and value a multiethnic or multicultural workforce, it really all comes down to four simple actions. By encouraging the following, you will be well on your way to creating a more welcoming environment for all of your employees:

1. Work to understand all your employees and their unique needs so the workplace is comfortable and accessible for everyone.

2. Promote open and honest communication within the company between employers and employees.

3. Encourage acceptance and respect among all employees.

4. Establish a commitment from top management to promote and support diversity and equal opportunity as a core value of the organization.

Builder’s Risk Coverage: Understanding the Policy Period - February 2016

Construction projects, regardless of their size, can present complex insurance issues. Are you confused about your exposures and policy options? If so, it’s no surprise—there are no standard builder’s risk policy forms covering these types of risks. To help you limit your exposure, here are some helpful builder’s risk policy basics.

The Basics

Builder’s Risk coverage is a type of property insurance specifically designed to cover property during the course of construction, including renovation and repair. Why do you need it? There are additional risks and responsibilities inherent in this type of work that a typical property policy is not designed to cover. For example, if someone steals contractors’ equipment from the job site or if construction materials are damaged, you could be liable for the loss if you do not have builder’s risk coverage.

Typically the coverage is purchased by either the property owner or contractor. Regardless who purchases the coverage, all parties that have property involved in the project should be named in the policy. This may include the owner, contractor, subcontractors, the financial institution funding the project, and, in some cases, the architects and engineers. Once the project is completed and/or accepted by the owner, your regular property policy kicks in.

Since builder’s risk coverage only deals with the property, it does not include coverage for worksite injuries or design/construction defects. For any mishaps that occur on the job, you should rely on liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies for coverage.

Policy Period

When purchasing builder’s risk coverage, one of the issues often overlooked is the policy period—it may not be clear when the coverage begins and ends. As a result, keep the following in mind:

Commencement of Coverage: Builder’s Risk policies provide coverage for property in the course of construction, renovation or repair. But at what point does construction renovation or repair begin?

  • Typically, contracts require that insurance be provided for the duration of the contract period. This means that the policy inception date would be the date the contracts are signed.
  • The lender may also specify the inception date.
  • However, be sure to review insurance policy provisions to determine whether there are restrictions on when coverage begins. Policies may contain clauses that state coverage begins when construction commences or that the insurance company will pay for losses at the time you become legally responsible for the covered property, either on or after the effective date. Prior to any site preparation, demolition, or delivery of materials or equipment, review the policy to ensure there are no restrictions on coverage inception.

Coverage Expiration: Determining when coverage terminates can be equally problematic. Builder’s Risk policies can contain provisions that terminate coverage prior to policy expiration. The provisions typically state that coverage will end at the earliest of the following:

  • The policy expires or is cancelled
  • The property is accepted by the purchaser
  • Your interest in the property ceases
  • You abandon the construction with no intention of completing it
  • Unless specified otherwise in writing:

  o  90 days after construction is complete

  o  60 days after construction is complete and building described in the declaration is occupied in whole or in part, or put to its intended use

Problems and Solutions

There are some limitations to builder’s risk coverage, but none that don’t have a simple solution:

  • There is no coverage under the policy if the building is occupied to any extent, for over 60 days, without written consent of the insurance company.
  • The policy only provides coverage for up to 90 days after the completion of construction. In the case where the building is completed only two days before policy expiration, there are only two days of coverage available. There are 90 days of coverage available after completion only if there are at least 90 days remaining in the policy period.
  • Coverage issues can arise at the end of a project, after construction is complete and the structure is occupied, but a "punch list" and final completion work remains.

Here are strategies to understand the extent of your coverage:

  • Understand the insurance coverage obligations of the project documents and contracts to ensure the policy period, at a minimum, fulfills the requirements.
  • Understand the terms and conditions of the policy and what triggers the coverage to commence and cease.
  • When coverage ends make sure permanent coverage is in place so no gaps in coverage exist.

Careful planning is the foundation for a smooth construction project, which includes the right exposure coverages. Many businesses choose to transfer or accept risk through contracts, purchase orders and lease agreements. However, not all contracts or endorsements are created equal. An agent who understands your business can knowledgeably help you with builder’s risk policy language to meet your individual needs. Call us today at (619) 297-3160 to learn more about contractual risk transfer and its place in your overall risk management program.

What You Need to Know about the HAZWOPER Standard - January 2016

Following the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) requirements and regulations not only protects the health and safety of your employees, but it also saves you from expensive litigation you could face if you accidentally expose the outside environment and nearby residents to the potentially hazardous toxins on the worksite.

Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) all have input on HAZWOPER’s regulations because of the widespread effect hazardous waste has on the population as a whole, not just the industries’ workforces. This document will help you understand the basic requirements of HAZWOPER and determine whether you are in compliance. For a complete list of HAZWOPER requirements or to read the standard in its entirety, visit www.OSHA.gov and search HAZWOPER (Standard 29 CFR 1910.120).

Who Needs to Comply?

HAZWOPER applies to the following types of operations, unless the employer can demonstrate that the operation does not involve the reasonable possibility of employee exposure to safety or health hazards:

  • Cleanup operations required by a government body (federal, state or local) involving hazardous substances conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
  • Corrective actions involving cleanup operations at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)
  • Voluntary cleanup operations at sites recognized by government bodies (federal, state or local) as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
  • Operations involving hazardous waste conducted at treatment, storage or disposal facilities

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Following the HAZWOPER standard not only protects the health and safety of your employees, but can also save you from expensive litigation.

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What qualifies as an emergency under HAZWOPER can vary, and you should consider the nature of your operation and the extent of your employees’ training. For example, small acid spills by a firm that routinely handles acids would not be an emergency; however, the same situation might be considered an immediate hazard on a site where employees have less training, equipment or experience. In the event that employees are in the following situations, the HAZWOPER standard would apply:

  • Presence of high concentrations of toxic substances
  • Any situation involving hazardous substances that is life- or injury-threatening
  • Environments that present imminent danger to life and health (IDLH situations)
  • Accidents that present an oxygen-deficient atmosphere
  • Conditions that pose a fire or explosion hazard
  • Any situation that requires the evacuation of an area or that requires immediate attention because of the danger posed to employees in that area

HAZWOPER Training

This standard provides specific safety regulations, emergency procedures and training guidelines for employers to follow at worksites that handle hazardous waste or who have the potential for accidental release of dangerous chemical substances. HAZWOPER’s main goal is to get employers to think about how they would handle a spill before it occurs.

HAZWOPER sets five basic training levels related to chemical emergency response, and training requirements for these five groups vary depending on how closely they work with the hazardous material spill. All training must be completed upon hiring for any employee that is expected to participate in emergency response.

1. First Responder Awareness Level — individuals likely to witness a hazardous substance release and whose only responsibility would be notifying the proper authorities. Must have sufficient training to demonstrate:

  • Understanding of what hazardous substances are and the risks associated with them in an incident
  • Understanding of the potential outcomes associated with a hazardous substance emergency
  • The ability to recognize the presence of hazardous substances
  • The ability to identify the hazardous substances, if possible
  • The ability to realize the need for additional resources and make appropriate notifications
2. First Responder Operations Level — individuals who respond to releases of hazardous substances for the purpose of protecting nearby people, property or environment from damage. They should respond defensively by containing the release and keeping it from spreading. Must have eight hours of training or sufficient experience to demonstrate:
  • Knowledge of hazard and risk assessment
  • Knowledge of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use
  • Knowledge of basic control, containment and/or confinement operations
  • Understanding of standard operating procedures
3. Hazardous Materials Technician — individuals who respond to releases with the purpose of actively and aggressively stopping it. They will attempt to plug, patch or otherwise stop the hazardous substance release. Must have at least 24 hours training, all the first responder operations knowledge and:
  • Knowledge of how to implement the employer’s emergency response plan
  • Ability to classify, identify and verify known and unknown materials by using survey equipment
  • Knowledge of how to select and use specialized chemical PPE
  • Have the ability to perform advanced control, containment and/or confinement operations with the resources and PPE availableKnowledge of basic chemical and toxicological terminology and behavior
4. Hazardous Materials Specialist — individuals who respond with and provide support to hazardous material technicians, but with more specific knowledge of various hazardous substances. Also acts as the site liaison with government authorities. Must have 24 hours of training, all technician-level knowledge and employer-certified knowledge on: 
  • The local, state and federal emergency response plan
  • Classification, identification and verification of known and unknown materials using advanced survey equipment
  • The implementation of decontamination procedures
  • Advanced chemical, radiological and toxicological terminology and behavior
5. On-Scene Incident Commander — individuals who assume control of the incident site. Must have 24 hours of training and employer-certified competency in the following areas:
  •  Ability to implement the employer’s incident command system
  • Ability to implement the employer’s emergency response plan and the local/state/federal emergency response plan
  • Understanding of the hazards and risks associated with employees working in chemical protective clothing
  • Understanding of the importance of decontamination procedures

Some important notes on training regulations in the HAZWOPER standard are that measurements of a qualified trainer can be met by academic degrees, completed training courses and/or work experience. Also, HAZWOPER specifically addresses the use of video or online training to satisfy requirements, saying that computer-based systems are an incomplete solution and must be supplemented.

HAZWOPER Emergency Response Plan

Another important section of the HAZWOPER section you should take note of is the need for an emergency response plan with regard to hazardous substance releases. HAZWOPER gives the following guidelines for employers’ emergency response plans, saying it should at least include the following:

  • Pre-emergency planning
  • Personnel roles, lines of authority, training and communication standards
  • Emergency recognition and prevention
  • List of safe distances and places of refuge
  • Site security and control standards
  • Evacuation routes and procedures
  • Decontamination procedures
  • Emergency medical treatment and first aid procedures
  • Emergency alerting and response procedures
  • Critiques and follow-ups on previous emergency response situations

For more information on how you can further implement HAZWOPER loss control methods, contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc..

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