Nuts-And-Bolts Safety Tips

Smaller-scale safety measures are far from inconsequential in any workplace safety program. Careful attention to the myriad details of a work setting


Smaller-scale safety measures are far from inconsequential in any workplace safety program. Careful attention to the myriad details of a work setting can have an impact at least as significant as that of more high-tech safety solutions.

Clean water coolers

Daily use of Styrofoam and plastic water coolers can result in a buildup of invisible but toxic levels of bacteria. Since bacteria or slime growing inside a cooler can incapacitate a whole crew, water and drink coolers should be cleaned frequently using any one of a variety of approved methods. A commonly used procedure involves the following steps:

  1. Wash hands before cleaning the cooler.
  2. Empty the cooler and rinse with clean water. Open the spout and rinse it well, draining the spout dry.
  3. While the interior is still wet, sprinkle common baking soda inside the cooler.
  4. Use a long-handled scrub brush equipped with a disposable sponge or towelette to clean the interior of the cooler and lid. Do not put hands inside the container.
  5. Thoroughly rinse the container and spout, again opening the spout to drain any rinse water.
  6. Turn the cooler upside down in a clean place and rest it on paper towels. Cock the cooler on one side to allow air to dry its interior surfaces.

Whenever the cooler is refilled, tape should be applied across the lid seal and marked with the date the cooler was filled. Sealing the cooler with tape and dating it helps prevent drinking from a cooler that has not been cleaned.

Prevent cracked-windshield claims

After delivering a product load, the truck’s trailer should be swept clean of any chips and debris before the vehicle reenters the highway on its return trip. Block and brick cubes should be enclosed on all external sides, so a chip produced in transit by a bump or shift can not bounce off the trailer and into traffic. Shrink-wrap or hard siding, such as plywood or other specialty siding protectors, serves this purpose.

Once the product has been delivered and the trailer swept clean, the driver should be aware of any gravel or loose material adhering to the wheels that may become airborne once the truck gains speed. For loose gravel, rock, or dirt clods on the truck wheels, forklift, or pipe unloader, a second sweeping of wheels and low-lying delivery equipment after leaving the project site is recommended. Finally, after securing the straps, dunnage, specialty unloading equipment, chains, and siding, a walk around the trailer is necessary to assure all equipment is sufficiently anchored and clean.

Tool racks

At some plants, a housekeeping problem is created by shovels, brooms, bars, and similar equipment scattered on the floor throughout the production area. To avoid such disarray, some plants use a lightweight rolling tool rack to move the tools to each area as needed. Following is a diagram of one such tool-rack system.

Similarly, in precast and pipe plants, slings can present a trip hazard and storage problem. Wire rope and chain slings should be maintained off the floor to prevent rusting. The following schematic illustrates an effective design used by some producers for sling storage.

Forklift steps

A common injury in the use of forklifts occurs when the operator slips on the steps while ascending to the driver’s seat. The edge of the step is typically worn smooth, a result of the operator placing the arch of his foot on the step’s edge, rather than placing his foot squarely on the step surface. Such slip-and-fall incidents, possibly resulting in serious back injuries, can be prevented by applying traction surfacing to the edge of each step. While traction surfacing on the top of the step is helpful, the edge of the step is where the slip usually occurs. Thus, a serrated edge provides the best traction; yet sometimes, a double fold of coarse hardware cloth is simply tacked over the edge.

Newer, large forklifts come equipped with a grab bar located in a convenient location to help the operator climb onto the vehicle. A grab bar can be easily retrofitted on any older model that is not so equipped.

Forklift backup warnings

In noisy production areas, forklift back-up alarms can be lost in the din. To amplify the warning, then, a bright strobe light that operates only when the backup alarm is active can be installed on the back of the forklift. Possessing at least a million candlepower intensity, the light should be shrouded so that the beacon can be seen only from the forklift’s rear.

Forklift damage

That every fabrication process involving forklifts eventually entails damage to a facility’s doorframes seems to be a law of concrete production. A proven prevention for this type of damage is to install steel pipes, set into the floor slab and filled with concrete. Thus, core drilling a hole through the concrete floor, installing a heavy gauge steel pipe at least six inches in diameter, and filling the pipe with rebar and concrete are essential. Simply bolting the pipe to the floor is insufficient: a tremendous amount of kinetic energy is produced by a forklift striking an object with the tip of its prong, and only a large, reinforced bollard will deflect the forklift to prevent it from hitting the door. Once the bollard is installed, the forklift operator must be reminded of the seatbelt rule, as restraint will be needed if the bollard is struck.

Trailer inspections

Although daily truck and trailer inspections may be tedious for the driver, the undercarriage structure supporting the trailer deck can become severely corroded over time, especially in areas where roads are salted. Consequently, periodically conducting a thorough inspection of the trailer’s underside is necessary; and each spring, all rust spots must be removed and rewelding performed as necessary, in addition to recoating of any damaged areas. Since all rust spots will simply grow, causing structural weakness if not treated properly, removing all rust spots is essential.

Housekeeping helper

Common sense dictates that a trash can should be conveniently placed in areas where trash accumulates. Oftentimes, laborers will not relocate trash receptacles or request additional trash cans, leaving the floor or tables the only place to discard refuse. Obviously, trash cans that overflow should either be emptied more often or replaced by larger containers.

Conquering the dust problem

The cleanest production floors are typically water washed with a power nozzle every day. This procedure, however, entails one problem: the powdered material on the floor is washed out the bay doors and left to dry in the path of mobile equipment. When the material dries, forklift traffic further pulverizes the powder, creating a severe dust problem. Plants encountering dust-in-the-eye injuries are routinely self-victimized by this cleaning method. Once the dust appears, completely removing accumulated material near the bay doors and on adjacent roadways is the only way to remedy the problem.

To avoid the hazard altogether, perhaps the best solution is to use a mobile floor washer and vacuum. Sweeping the floors every day and disposing of the sweepings separately also suffice. Although water washing is preferable because it removes all dust from the production floor, wash water must be directed to an area lacking forklift or foot traffic. Once the wash dirt dries, it should be removed and discarded at some distance from the plant building.

One facility used a 10-ft.-wide _ 6-in.-high, floor-level slot at each end of the building. All wash water was directed to one of the two slots that drained into a catch area. Periodically, a front-end loader picked up the material outside the building and transported it to a spot designated for waste concrete.

Work tables

Wherever personnel are observed setting hand tools on the floor and picking them up again in the course of their work, consideration should be given to providing a worktable to prevent repetitive stooping and bending. The same solution applies where personnel are required to repeatedly squat in order to complete a task.

A quality control supervisor, for example, takes samples and makes test cylinders, sometimes using a wheelbarrow. Since the floor of the wheelbarrow is too low, such an arrangement is less than optimal. In that case, a simple worktable should be provided and positioned so that its surface is conveniently located at waist level. To avoid an impediment on the floor, a table can be hinged to the wall and supported on two legs.

Extending the worktable concept to concrete pipe finishing, small-diameter pipe can be easily placed on a stout, two-runner rack by a forklift so that finishers can stand upright to finish the pipe. Once such a finish area is established, overhead cover can be provided to keep rain and sun off the workers. For block that occasionally must be stacked by hand, place the pallet on several other pallets so the cube area is elevated, preventing the worker from excessive stooping.

Eliminating trip hazards

Sometimes daily routines entail draping a hose or extension cord across a walk area; and, while hoses and cords on the floor may seem fairly innocuous, all personnel will eventually trip on them. Accordingly, hoses and cords can be permanently run overhead to span walkways or aisles, or convenient hooks can be provided for looping the hose or cord overhead and out of harm’s way. Hooks with a vertical angle iron and hook at the top may be useful in areas where hoses and cords are used frequently. Wherever water hoses are stored, a hook should be provided so the hoses can be coiled and kept off the floor.

Avoid handrail splinters

Inexpensive, 2 _ 4 wooden handrails are typically provided as an afterthought, usually outdoors. Though legal, the handrails quickly become weathered and splintered. Addressing that hazard, one producer turned the rail so the 1.5-in. side was on top and ripped a 2-in. PVC pipe to mount half the pipe over the handrail, creating a smooth surface free of splinters. He secured the PVC to the 2 _ 4 with beveled screws through the top of the handrail without deflecting the PVC. The screw hole was beveled to sink the screw head, providing a surface smooth to the touch.