Lately, I've been thinking a lot more about jobsite safety than I normally do, thanks to a little do-it-yourself remodeling project I'm currently tackling in my master bathroom. Each time I climb up that ladder, squeeze the trigger on a corded power tool, or grab hold of some conductors — yes, they're de-energized — I'm reminded of the ever-present dangers of working in the construction field. I realize that in a fraction of a second one small mistake on my part could change my life, and the lives of my family, forever.
I'm also reminded that as a weekend warrior I'm only required to think about these safety issues on a part-time basis, although I'm sure my wife would like me to think about them much more frequently than I do. At the office about the only thing I have to protect myself against is a paper cut, or possibly carpal-tunnel syndrome from clicking my computer mouse too much. On the other hand, most of you deal with life-threatening safety hazards on a full-time basis. You face the dangers of slips and falls, eye and face injuries, and electric shocks and burns every day you go to work.
In support of this important topic, this month's editorial theme focuses on safety. In fact, many of the articles focus exclusively on it.
For starters, Staff Writer Amy Fischbach rounds up the top 25 construction violations as tracked by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in this month's cover story. As the article points out, improper ground-fault protection, inadequate protection systems for excavations, and poorly constructed scaffolding systems consistently show up near the top of the chart. A summary of OSHA's requirements in these areas and several “How-To” sections provide a nice refresher on the steps you need to take to avoid the risk of injury for you and your fellow workers, and not to mention the hefty fines you may incur if you're found in violation.
On the topic of speech and communications, Managing Editor Matthew Halverson addresses the rise in workplace injury and fatality rates among the ever-growing population of Hispanic workers, many of whom don't speak English. As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, deaths among this demographic group have risen of late, while those of other groups have declined. This alarming trend has even captured the attention of OSHA. Interviews with contractors that employ large numbers of Spanish-speaking workers provide an inside track on how best to address this growing concern.
Probably one of the hottest issues discussed today centers around new requirements set forth by the NEC, IEEE, and OSHA with regard to protecting workers from the hazards of arc flash. George Gregory of Square D/Schneider Electric provides an overview of the four industry standards that establish work practices for the prevention of arc flash injuries, what constitutes an electrically safe work condition, and how to perform a flash hazard analysis at your facility. Reducing the probability of an arc flash event and its devastating effects is a goal we should all rally behind.
As I'm reminded each time I climb the steps of my ladder to replace some insulation, grab my drill to bore a hole, or twist on a wire nut for a splice in a branch circuit, safety is a serious issue for those who work in the construction industry. Jobsite safety starts with you. No matter how many rules or regulations are in place, you're ultimately responsible for making it home in one piece. Make the effort. Your family will thank you.