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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10 Construction Apps That Will Make Life in the Field Easier

construction apps

The construction industry is fast-paced.  At any time, a contractor can get a call that something needs worked on immediately.  In fact, in May of 2015, we got a call that a transformer caught fire.  The fire sprinklers activated and extinguished the fire, but the transformer was unusable, causing a forced outage.  We needed to get to the site the next day and a new fire protection design needed to be drawn to meet the new transformer’s needs.  Apps like Notevault, FieldWire, and AutoCAD 360 helped the field team and design department work together seamlessly to install the new fire sprinkler and stay updated on design changes. 


1)     Viewpoint for Mobile


Cost:  Need to Purchase Software

Viewpoint is a great way to track time and productivity.  Construction professionals can organize the app by job site and code.  They can track their time for each job as well as take photos for job site progress and tag the photos with dates, location, and job code.

2)     Hours Tracker App


Cost:  Free

Hours Tracker is a nice, simple app for tracking time on the job.  It is the number one downloaded time keeping app with 500,000 downloads and a 4.1/5 rating.  Hours tracker allows you to track multiple jobs, manually clock in and out or set up geo-fencing that will automatically clock you in and out based on your location.  Added benefits are the ability to take notes and the app will calculate how much you will be getting paid for the job.

3)     Notevault


Cost:  $29-$99 a month

Notevault allows you to track labor and log hours, determine equipment used, and track materials.  Subcontractors can send information to the contractor straight from their phone.  It’s easy – at a job site, you speak your notes into the app and Notevault’s staff transcribes your notes and sends a morning report each day. 

4)     Handyman Calculator


Cost:  Free

This app was listed in This Old House Top 100 and the Top 100 Productivity apps.  It includes applications for time tracking, cut list calculator, and construction calculators for any calculation you might need.  Read the full list of calculators here.

5)     Fieldwire


Cost:  Free for up to 10 users, 5 projects; $29+/month for more.

Fieldwire is the top downloaded construction management app with 50,000+ downloads.  It connects the field team with project managers, subcontractors, and foreman.  Each person can view drawings, carry punch lists, and schedule tasks while sharing it with each member of the team.  Fieldwire has several apps to help the construction team:  drawing & blueprint; lean construction scheduling; and building inspection & punch list. 

6)     Evernote


Cost:  Free

Evernote allows you to make a note and add text, store documents, files, videos, and photos.  Notes can be seen on any device – phone,

 computer, or tablet – so you never are without the information that you need.

7)     Construction Manager

Cost:  Free, in-app purchases available.

Voted as one of the top construction apps in 2015, a half million people have downloaded this app to help them with transferring maintenance logs, daily reports, project estimates, and time sheets between company headquarters and construction sites.

8)     Build Calc

Cost:  $24.99

This app allows you to design layouts, estimate materials, and calculate conversions.  This calculator app has a 4.6/5 rating on the Google Play Store.  The app was developed over 9 months working with construction pros to find out their needs and having them test the functionality in the field.

9)     AutoCAD 360


Cost:  Free with an AutoCAD software code.

When you use AutoCAD, this app will allow you to draft, edit and add mark ups through your smart phone.  While at the job site, you can pull up the most recent plans and edit or re-draw.  Offline changes will sync once your phone goes back online.  In addition, it will connect to cloud storage for accessibility from any device.

10) USD ConstructionSuite


Cost:  Depends on Size

This app has over 100,000 active users.  Construction professionals can manage applications, estimating, job costs, project management, scheduling, and document management.  All of this information can then be shared to other members of the team for easy coordination.

No matter the trade, construction apps make life easier.  With the ability to track hours, take notes, calculate materials, and share information from the field to the office, construction apps are not only a benefit, but a necessity in the industry.

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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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