Construction Safety

5 Forklift Safety Tips by Safety + Health Magazine

5 Steps to Forklift Safety.jpg

According to OSHA, 11% of forklifts will be involved in an accident.  On average, 85 people die a year in a forklift accident.

1.  Train for Safety

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries states that "workers without proper training and knowledge of forklift operation, as well as operators who maneuver forklifts carelessly, have an increased risk of injury or death."  

Someone who is untrained driving a forklift is just as dangerous as someone who drives a vehicle without a license.  OSHA requires that forklift training programs combine formal instruction (lectures, tests, written instruction) with hands on training.

Forklift drivers can't just assume that because they have driven a forklift, they can drive any forklift.  Different models and sizes drive differently.

2.  Perform Checkups

Forklifts should be inspected before each job.  Forklift operators should check seat belts, tires, lights, horn, brakes, backup alarms, and fluid levels as well as the moving and load supporting parts of the forklift.

3.  Know the Machinery

The National Safety Council's training program for rough-terrain lift truck operators says, "Although lift trucks and personal vehicles share some similarities, they ultimately are quite different."

Drivers are not enclosed, the weight ranges from 9,000-30,000 pounds, they travel closer to a walking pace, the can tip easier than a vehicle, and they have a tighter turn radius - all making forklifts more difficult to drive than cars.

To drive forklifts safely, drivers should have a clear view, look in the direction of travel, use spotters or aides (rear view mirrors), and use headlights.

4.  Stability Triangle

A lift truck has a center of gravity that is higher than in a personal vehicle.  However, the load has its own center of gravity.  Once the load is picked up, there is a new center of gravity.

Lift trucks are built on a three-point suspension, which resembles a triangle.  The stability triangle is where the operators need to stay while the truck is in motion.

To avoid tipping, operators need to make sure the load is secure and stable, keep loads low to the ground during operation, keep loads uphill while climbing or descending, and drive slowly.

5.  Know the Load

OSHA advises that loads are checked before picking them up.  The load needs to be stable and the dimensions need to be safe for transport.

Read more about forklift safety at Safety + Health Magazine.

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How to Make Toolbox Talks More Interesting

interesting toolbox talks

Toolbox talks are important, but they can get repetitive or boring if you aren’t making an effort to spice them up.  Here are four tips to make toolbox talks more interesting and engaging.

1.     Keep it Fun

Just like any public speaking, you want to draw your audience in.  One way to do that is to make it fun.  You can run a contest to increase participation, make the toolbox talk into a game, and keep interesting through real life examples.


2.     Make your team feel like a community

Toolbox talks are a great time to build a community with your workers.  Invite them to share experiences related to the topic.  Give other workers the opportunity to lead a toolbox talk with your guidance.  To build a community, we go straight into number three, have a common goal.

3.     Work towards a common goal

To build a community within your team, have a common goal you can work on together.  Maybe your goal is to reduce your EMR.  At the end of each meeting, wrap up with something you can do that week to accomplish the goal.  If you reach your goal, decide on an incentive like a company-paid happy hour or catered lunch.


4.     Photos, Videos, and Real Life Experiences

Attract the attention of all learning types.  Use elements of visual, audio, and hands-on to keep your team’s attention.  As an example, a visual learner might respond to images or video best.  An audio learner might enjoy a verbal presentation, podcast recommendations, or a video.  A hands-on learner would learn best by physically doing part of what your toolbox talk is about.  Adding in stories of real life experiences will keep people intrigued and will bring more perspective to the toolbox talk.

Keep your workers’ attention by adding some extra interest into toolbox talks.  They will no longer be something people have to do, but rather, something they look forward to.

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Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

failing to plan is planning to fail construction safety

Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

Pre-task planning is essential for the timely and safe completion of a task within a construction project. A pre-task work plan covers six essential aspects of the task to be performed: determining potential problems, scheduling, costs, quality requirements and assurances, prerequisite tasks, and determining the progress of the task. Follow the directions below to arrange your next pre-task planning meeting.



1.  Compile a work plan that addresses the six angles of task planning.

2.  Review the work plan with the crew.

3.  Discuss the work that needs to be done to complete the task.

4.  Assign jobs to the crew that will aid in completing the task.

5.  Begin the discussion on safety hazards.

6.  dentify potential hazards.

7.  Determine if modifying the work plan will avoid the hazard by rearranging the sequence of events or using different tools.

8.  For hazards that cannot be eliminated by modifying the work plan, introduce safeguards against the hazard.


Put safety and timely completion of a project first by implementing these eight simple steps into your next pre-task planning meeting.

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Construction Site Housekeeping: Spotlight on Safety

construction site housekeeping


Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

 “A clean jobsite is a safe jobsite!”

Construction site cleanup is an integral step to jobsite safety.  Clutter and debris can cause serious injuries and may even ignite a fire.   Construction site cleanup is not only in the best interest of the site crew, it is also a requirement of OSHA. 

An often tragic result of a housekeeping failure is the disposal of rags soaked in a flammable liquid.  This resulted in a major fire when a building was undergoing a renovation and a pile of varnish soaked rags were disposed of in a corner.  The rags ignited spontaneously and spread throughout the room.  This facility did have working fire sprinklers that activated, containing the fire to the room of ignition.  Although this facility had fire sprinklers, lessening the damage to the structure, the fire would have never ignited if not for the lack of housekeeping.  Fires can also happen during construction from welding or using tools that can cause a spark around flammable liquids or dust clouds.

Good housekeeping has many benefits beyond fire hazard safety.  According to OSHA, cluttered working conditions are distracting, unsafe, and unsanitary.  The continuous effort to keep a tidy jobsite improves morale, encourages good work habits, saves time, and promotes safety.


Here are some tips for keeping an organized work area:

Separate scrap from usable material, and store the scrap pieces in a tidy pile.

Clean up as you go, waiting until the end of the week allows the hazards to pile up.

Assign chores each day.  Give two people the job of disposing of litter, one person the job of organizing tools, one person the job of disposing of flammable rags, etc.

Send extraneous supplies back to the supply yard ASAP.

Keep all work areas and passageways clear of scraps, protruding nails, wires, buckets, extension cords, tools, and other hazards.

If you see a hazard, clean it or alert a supervisor of the hazard.  Don’t wait until someone gets hurt.

Follow these simple steps to provide safer working conditions for all construction site personnel.  

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Spotlight on Safety: Trenches

trench safety

Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

In November, 2012, a 39 year old construction worker from North Carolina died while working in a trench when it caved in due to improper safety precautions.  In November, 2011 a nineteen year old was killed when an unprotected trench collapsed.  OSHA issued violations for failing to provide proper head protection, failing to keep spoil piles 2+ feet from the edge of the trench, and failing to train employees on recognizing hazards.  A Florida construction company failed to slope or shore a trench, killing one and injuring two.  Trench cave-ins are the top cause for employee injury and fatalities above any other trenching safety issue.  By following proper safety precautions, employees working in trenches have the tools to get home safely.

OSHA requires that all excavations that put employees at risk for cave-ins be protected by one of the following methods:

·         Sloping or benching – forming an incline on the sides of an excavation.

·         Shoring – Using site built structures made with timbers, planks, or plywood to support the sides of an excavation.

·         Shielding – Using trench boxes or trench shields to prevent the walls from collapsing.

The most common causes of a cave-ins are not using shoring, using inadequate shoring, excavating too closely to a building or utility pole, misjudging the stability of the soil, vibrations caused during construction work that destabilizes the soil, or weather conditions that change the stability of the soil.


Soil should be tested before excavation.  Type A soil (clay, silty clay, sandy clay, and clay loam) is stable and okay for excavation.  Type B soil (silt, silty loam, and sandy loam) has middle range stability.  Type C soil is granular soil such as gravel, sand, or watery soil.  It is unstable and requires extra precautions when excavating.

Aside from cave-ins, trenches pose additional risks as well:  falls, falling loads, hazardous atmospheres, drowning, and contact with underground power lines.  To prevent a construction site injury or death, workers and supervisors alike must follow these guidelines.

·         For trenches 4+ feet, employees need access to egress at least every 25 feet.  Egress options may include ladders, steps, or ramps.

·         Everyday trenches need to be inspected for signs of cave-in hazards, flaking, and hazardous conditions.

·         Protective systems and equipment must be tested daily.

·         Spoils and equipment need to be kept at least 2 feet from the edge of the trench.

·         Wear proper personal protective equipment.

·         Keep trenching machines level to prevent undercutting the soil while keeping shoring as close as possible to the trenching machine.

·         4+ foot deep trenches require air testing.

·         Cross-bracing must be in place before entering a trench.

·         Sheeting that forms the walls of the shored trench must reach 18 inches over the trench.

Following the OSHA recommended precautions will protect employees from serious injury or death while working in trenches on the construction site.  Site safety isn’t only the concern of a supervisor or safety monitor; it is everyone’s concern.  Save a life by following and promoting safe working practices.

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Working in Confined Spaces - Spotlight on Safety

safety in confined spaces

Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

In September 2013, Richard "Rick" Whitney Jr. was killed when he was welding a pipe inside a methane gas dome and an explosion occurred. A co-worker, Richard Sterling, was injured in the blast. OSHA investigated and found that the employer failed to train the workers on the hazards of working within confined spaces. The companies involved received $45,720 in fees from ten citations.

Confined spaces are dangerous and can be deadly. Not only for the employees that work within them, but also for rescue workers trying to save employees from confined spaces. 60% of confined space fatalities are rescuers.


Confined space safety hazards include
• Lack of oxygen.
• Poisonous vapors, causing asphyxiation.
• Gases, vapors, or other hazards that can be flammable as shown in the example above.
• Physical hazards such as drowning, engulfment, or becoming trapped.

Confined space is any space that is enclosed on five sides. It can be a storage tank, process vessel, bins, broilers, ducts, sewers, pipelines, or any other space that has an open top and is 4+ feet deep.

To stay safe in confined space, follow the tips below:
• Regularly test the air quality.
• Ventilate the area according to company policy.
• Follow lock out/tag out procedures.
• Maintain continuous communication with a trained attendant.

While working in confined spaces cannot always be avoided, by following these tips, you can work safely within these spaces.

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Spotlight on Safety: Construction Falls

construction site falls

Construction safety is absolutely important. In 2013, 4,585 workers were killed on the job. Falls accounted for 36.5% of those deaths. It is the #1 most cited OSHA violation. In fact, while writing this article, a man fell 100 feet off scaffolding when workers began setting up for a break. They were removing planks from scaffolding when the victim stepped through and fell. He died immediately, adding to the terrible statistic.


By following a few simple steps, construction workers and employers can work together to prevent fall injuries and fatalities.

1. See a hole? Guard it! Any hole that a worker could accidentally step into should be guarded with railing, toeboards, or a floor hole cover.
2. If there is any risk of a construction worker falling into or onto a hazard such as a machine or vat of chemicals, guard it. Add guardrails and toeboards to prevent a worker from falling.
3. Provide harness and line, safety nets, stair railings, and hand rails when they're necessary.
4. Employers should always provide a workplace free of known dangers, clean and sanitary conditions, personal protective equipment, and worker training in a language they can understand.

Construction falls are a very real danger. When workers and employers work together, they can prevent injuries and fatalities from falls.

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Spotlight on Safety: Lockout, Tagout

lock out, tag out

Picture this scenario: A maintenance worker turns off a machine to climb inside and start working on a part. Another worker sees the machine is off, and switches it back on - not seeing the maintenance worker inside the machine. The worker is crushed, maimed, or worse as the machine activates. 

Here is a video interviewing people who knew a man who would have been saved if a lock out/tag out procedure was completed because of this exact scenario.

This wouldn't happen if a lock out/tag out procedure was used. 

Take our quiz to test your tag out/lock out knowledge!

1) Lock out is accomplished by:
a. Locking the gates at your job site.
b. Shutting down equipment for service or maintenance work.
c. Installing a lockout device at the power source so equipment can't be operated.
d. Tagging equipment to indicate it shouldn't be used.
e. None of the above.

2) Attaching a warning tag to a power source or piece of machinery telling others not to operate is called:
a. Lockout.
b. Tag out.
c. Shutout
d. None of the above.

3) OSHA rules require your employer to:
a. Maintain a written copy of the lockout/tag out procedures.
b. Make the procedures available to you.
c. Instruct you in lockout/tag out procedures.
d. All of the above.

4) Lockout/tagout procedures are in place to prevent:
a. The accidental start-up of equipment.
b. Workers from taking shortcuts while servicing equipment.
c. The release of stored, residual, or potential energy.
d. All of the above.

5) Anytime electrical equipment is deactivated for repair:
a. It must be locked or tagged at the point where it can be turned on.
b. Anyone can turn it back on.
c. It must stay off for 24 hours.
d. None of the above.

6) Locks provided by your company for lockout purposes:
a. Must be strong enough to prevent unauthorized removal.
b. Can be used to lock your tool box.
c. Can be taken home when not in use.
d. None of the above.

7) General requirements for your lockout/tagout procedure include:
a. Circuits and equipment must be disconnected from all electrical energy sources.
b. Control devices can't be the only means of de-energizing equipment.
c. Interlocks for electrical equipment may not be used as a substitute for proper procedures.
d. All of the above.
e. None of the above.

8) Tags must have a statement on them that:
a. Refers you to the authorized person.
b. Says what time the tag should be removed.
c. Prohibits unauthorized operation of a switch and removal of the tag.
d. Tells you where the tagout procedures are located.

Answers: 1. C; 2. B; 3. D; 4. D; 5. A; 6. A; 7. D; 8. C

If you missed any questions, check out our step by step guide on lock out/tag out.

What is a lock out/tag out?

A lock out/tag out prevents accidental start-ups by identifying the power source: electricity, stored electricity, stored pressure, or stored mechanical energy. The lock out/tag out then locks the energy source and adds a tag with the name, department, and date. This makes it clear to all workers that the machine is offline and being worked on.

How do I complete a lock out/tag out?

1) If you are in charge of the lock out/tag out, think, plan, and check. Identify all parts of the system that will need to be shut down. Make a list of switches, equipment, and people who need to be involved. Then, plan on how to restart the machine.
2) First, communicate to all the necessary people that a lock out/tag out will be taking place.
3) Second, identify all power sources. Identify electrical circuits, hydraulic and pneumatic systems, spring energy, and gravity systems.
4) Third, Neutralize all power sources by disconnecting electricity, blocking moveable parts, releasing or blocking spring energy, draining or bleeding hydraulic pneumatic lines, and lowering suspended parts into a rest position.
5) Fourth, lock out all power sources. Each worker should have a personal lock that is labeled with his or her name and department. You might also use clips, chains, and lock out boxes.
6) Fifth, tag out all power sources and machines. The tag should explain the reason for the lockout, your name, how to reach you, and the date and time of the tagging. Tag the machine controls, pressure lines, starter switches, and suspended parts.
7) Sixth, do a complete test and double check all of the steps in step five. Do a personal check and attempt to operate valves to test the system.
8) Seventh, once the job is complete, follow your procedures to restart the machine.

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Spotlight on Safety: Employee Driver Safety

employee driver safety

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1,766 deaths a year are from driving on the job. Nearly 40% of occupational fatalities are a result of transportation incidents. Statistics indicate someone dies every twelve minutes in a motor vehicle crash, as such, we need to make transportation safety a priority.

Did you know that the average on-the-job crash costs employers $16,500? If that crash causes an injury, it costs $74,000 on average. If that crash causes a fatality, it averages $500,000.


What can employers do to avoid transportation-related injuries?

• Encourage employees be well rested before driving.
• Ensure that employees refrain from taking medication that will make them drowsy.
• Employees should avoid distractions such as eating, adjusting mirrors, adjusting the radio, drinking, or talking/texting on the phone while driving.
• Ask employees to pre-plan routes.
• Encourage every two hour breaks while driving a long distance.
• Maintain vehicles, so they are in good working condition.

Employees should be instructed to practice safe driving and take control of their safety.

• Conduct a pre-start inspection on your vehicle.
• Wear your seat belt and require passengers to as well.
• Stay alert and be prepared for the unexpected.
• Check mirrors
• Scan the roadway and prepare for hazards.
• Comply with speed limits and don't drive too fast for conditions.
• Keep a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you.
• Do not engage in aggressive driving.
• Pay attention to cross walks.
• Do not drink and drive.

Employers spend $60 billion annually on medical care, legal, property damage, and lost productivity from vehicle crashes. Employees are injured every ten seconds in a motor vehicle crash. By following these precautions and encouraging others to as well, both employers and employees will benefit from safe driving on the job.

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Preparing to Avoid Construction Site Accidents

construction site planning

Every day 1,300 construction workers go home injured or ill, and 3 don't go home at all. It is imperative for workers to be aware of their surroundings and take their time plotting out their next move. 

Planning is the number one way to avoid construction site accidents. Only 15 minutes of planning can save hours of time spent repairing the damage of an unplanned activity. Create a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) to plan out a job and note the hazards and ways to mitigate them.


Another common cause of construction accidents is job site distractions. Talking on your cell phone, using music players, or joking with co-workers can cause distractions that may lead to accidents. You don't want any distractions while performing a risky activity. Lifting heavy equipment, handling hazardous materials, working at heights, or using power tools all have the potential for possible injury while distracted.

In order to safely perform your job, keep distractions at bay and plan out workplace tasks. The more prepared you are on the construction site, the more safe you will be.

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Spotlight on Safety - Looking Out for Co-Workers in the Field

co-worker construction safety

Your co-workers aren't just your co-workers. They may be your friends too. It is important to keep them safe. You can keep your co-workers safe by asking yourself three questions: Am I completing safety checks? Am I watching for safety hazards? Am I watching co-workers to ensure their fitness for duty?

Are you completing safety checks?

When assisting a co-worker by setting up equipment, do a safety check before you hand it over. Setting up a ladder? Make sure it is sturdy and the proper height. Do you use shared tools? If a tool isn't working properly, tag it and report it.


Are you watching for safety hazards?

Watching for safety hazards that effect not only you, but those around you, will make your safety awareness keener. Your co-workers or employees can see and recognize a safety issue just as well as you can, but everyone experiences cognitive failure. Who hasn't searched high and low for glasses that were on their head? Watching out for workers can keep everyone safer.

Are your co-workers or employees fit to work?

As a field supervisor or field worker, you observe others every day. However, do you observe them for fitness for duty? Do they look tired? Unfocused? Do they smell like alcohol? Are they acting impaired? Do they physically look ready to work the job they are doing? Do they look injured? It might be uncomfortable to bring up something sensitive in nature or suggest that a worker might not be fit to work that day, but, by doing so, you could save a life.

Safety Speaker John Drebinger once said, "I have interviewed people who saw [a safety concern], didn't say something, the person got hurt, and then they are haunted for the rest of their lives." You'll never regret saying something. Speaking up could be the difference between life and death.

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