At Work Moments
Safety moment from BCCI’s Safety Manager
Last fall, BCCI had a scheduled crane pick for a project in downtown San Francisco. Once the crane operator completed its set-up according to the pick plan, the project superintendent, Greg Hussey, and I held a safety meeting, where we questioned the operator on the swing of the materials. The operator then used his arm to demonstrate the swing of the crane. We stopped him right there, reviewed the plan, and informed him the building next to this facility is an occupied apartment complex. The path he demonstrated was not in accordance with the original pick plan and our safety protocols.
Greg and I regrouped with all personnel on-site and repositioned the crane pick and materials so they would not be hoisted near the residential building. The crane pick was successful, and all items were hoisted to the roof without damage, incident, injury, or concern. Immediate recognition of the hazard and quickly mitigating the risk prevented a potentially serious safety mishap.
Takeaway: If a plan goes against safety regulations, speak up and devise a new one.
Safety moment from Govan Brown’s Director of Health & Safety
During a visit to one of our projects, I observed a worker cutting stone on a sidewalk with a quick-cut saw while his coworker stood beside him, splashing water from a bucket onto the blade to help minimize dust. I noticed the worker’s hand was only inches away from the cutting blade when he was flicking water towards the saw.
I didn’t want to startle them, so I let them finish cutting the stone and then directed them to stop work. When asked why they were using this procedure, the workers replied there was no other water supply available to them and the bucket was their only option. I pointed down the street to a hardware store and said, “How about we buy a pump sprayer with a long wand so you can keep all your fingers?”
The worker looked up at me and said, “That’s why you’re the safety guy!” The next day, I returned to observe them cutting again, this time using the pump sprayer to wet the stone from two to three feet away—there were smiles all around.
Takeaway: Don’t choose convenience over safety! Discuss safety challenges with your site safety manager.
Safety moment from Structure Tone London’s Director of SHEQ Systems
A friend of mine has worked in highway engineering for three decades and is a firm advocate of his company’s workplace safety culture. However, a few months ago, my friend sustained serious injuries, including a punctured and collapsed lung and nine broken ribs, after falling from a ladder.
He had been trimming back some bushes at his Cheshunt home when the ladder wobbled, and he decided to jump clear from it. In hindsight, he knows that wasn’t the right decision—it should have been a two-person job so someone could hold the ladder.
After two stays and 23 nights in the hospital, my friend recovered with the support of his family, friends, and colleagues. Now back at work, he preaches safety 24/7, not just in the workplace. “People don’t think about the consequences an accident can have on you and your family,” he said. “This accident could have been avoided, and that will live with me forever.” Safety at work is always a top priority, but this is a reminder to apply the same safety principles while taking on odd jobs at home as well.
Takeaway: Always practice safety precautions on all projects, on-site and at home.
Safety Story from a Structure Tone Boston Superintendent
Earlier this month, I received a call from one of our subcontractors to tell me that an electrician accidentally cut a half-inch copper pipe behind a restroom sink on the 11th floor of our project. Water started pouring out of the pipe and into the restroom. We immediately contacted the building engineering department and the rest of our staff by group text. Turning off the water was a multistep process, but by acting fast, the team was able to shut it off within the hour. We used plastic hampers and buckets to divert the water in the restroom, and the onsite staff cut the wall open to access the pipe and fasten a hose, ensuring the water flowed out of a window.
After we contained the situation, I made sure we set out fans and dehumidifiers to dry any internal water damage. The pipe was repaired that same day and the water was turned back on. The staff checked floors 8 to 11 and didn’t see any moisture spots other than inside the room itself. We dried the room out overnight and removed drywall associated with the leak to return the space back to normal.
Thanks to rapid communication and helpful staff, we averted a major water crisis.
Takeaway: Accidents can happen at any moment, but teamwork and cooperation can keep any crises at bay.
Safety Story from a Structure Tone New York Project Manager
In 2007, I was working on an out-of-the-ground office tower for a prominent financial firm in Northern Virginia. The building was positioned on a small hill and was exposed to frequent wind. One day we were expecting a severe thunderstorm, so we used weights to secure sheets of Masonite to protect the roof. We had a large landscaping crew working to finish the grounds around the building that day as well. Our superintendent had made his rounds right before the storm hit and told all the landscapers to put on their hard hats, as they were not wearing them. The storm came early and caught us by surprise. As the storm came in, the wind picked up a piece of the Masonite that had been secured under a weight and sent it end-over-end across the roof and off the side of the building. The Masonite ended up hitting one of the landscapers on his hard hat, which he had just put on. The Masonite made a large gash through the worker’s hard hat, but his PPE saved his life. Our superintendent took a few extra minutes to remind the landscaping crew about their hard hats and it made a huge impact. It’s a day I will never forget throughout my career.
Takeaway: Always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) on-site.
Working at Heights
Safety Story from a Structure Tone Philadelphia Superintendent
One Saturday last February, a Structure Tone laborer in Philadelphia headed to his site on the roof of a prominent office building in the city’s central business district to button down any loose material due to incoming windy weather. When he arrived, the building’s window washers were hanging from the roof to clean the windows below. During the inspection, he noticed one of the window washers’ lifelines was connected to a roof anchor base made of PVC, instead of the approved steel anchor that’s imbedded into the roof’s concrete. The laborer immediately went to the roof’s edge, which had a 48-inch parapet, and notified the window washer of the tie-off mistake. The window washer was already six stories down the 14-story structure and quickly descended to safety. The laborer may have saved this window washer’s life, all because he saw something that didn’t look right and took action. As a result of the incident, the window washers created a new standard to confirm the approved roof anchors with each building they work with.
Takeaway: Awareness is key! Stay vigilant on-site and at home and speak up when you spot potential hazards.
At Home Moments
The smoke detectors in my apartment randomly chirped, and I mostly ignored it. But when my lease came up for renewal, I asked my landlord about it. He sent a maintenance worker to replace the batteries in all of the detectors, which fixed the chirping and reminded me that I need to check those batteries.
Takeaway: Make sure your fire alarms and smoke detectors have fresh batteries. Many people use changing their clocks for Daylight Saving Time as their biannual reminder.
I was lifting weights when I injured my shoulder. I was not able to get an MRI until I went to physical therapy for six months. When I didn’t do it, my injury did not heal and became worse. My doctor then informed me that rotator cuff surgery was absolutely necessary.
Takeaway: If you are not feeling well or have any pains, it’s best to pay attention to your body and inform your doctor.
Safety at Home
One day while playing outside, my kids spotted a snake burrowing itself in a crack between the garage and the driveway. After they told me what happened, I grabbed a big stick and poked at it to try to avoid it somehow making its way into our basement. The poking probed the snake to pop out of the crack, visibly eating a frog. To safely get the snake away from my children, I gently guided it into the bushes with the stick and did not bother it.
Takeaway: If you ever encounter a snake or any wild animal, do not provoke it. If it’s dangerous or causing a problem, call animal control.
As soon as summer begins, backyard barbecues move into full swing. After my sister and brother-in-law purchased a grill for their new home, my brother-in-law decided to light it to let it dry out before using it. He soon went inside their home, and my sister handed him their 11-month-old infant. After a few minutes, he went back outside to the grill with the baby in his arms, opened it, and a burst of fire came out and, sadly, burnt them both. They both spent time in the ER with burns.
Takeaway: When it comes to grilling and barbecue safety, be extremely careful when opening the lid and keep children away from the grill.
Proper Protective Equipment
When I recently went to an ice-skating party, I put on a helmet but my friend did not. As she was gliding across the ice, another skater bumped into her, they fell, and the skate blade cut her head.
Takeaway: In all sports, and especially on the ice, safety equipment is always necessary. If a helmet is recommended for your activity, make sure you wear it to prevent injuries.
During a recent summer storm, high winds and heavy rain where predicted. My home suffered some flooding during the rain, and the following day I found a lot of trees lining my property, broken in half. A tree branch was stuck in the ground right in my front yard.
Takeaway: Heed weather warnings and prepare for the predicted conditions. Secure areas where rain could get in, store or tie down objects that could blow away, and move your cars into a garage or other spot that can shelter them from falling limbs.