Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Safe Building PART II

Ergonomics and Walking/Working Surfaces for a new facility
It’s not unusual after you build a new facility to realize that you had not considered some important items during construction, including those which can prevent an injury.  In Part I of this article, we provided some things to keep in mind as you plan the construction of a new facility. 
Here are some additional, important considerations specifically for employee health and safety.   Now, we offer some ideas for “ergonomic” improvements in your facility, as well as some suggestions for preventing slips and falls.  If you are fortunate enough to be designing a new Public Works facility, here are a few items to keep in mind. 
  • Stairways and ladders – Consider how employees will reach overhead storage and other hard to reach areas.  Is a fixed ladder an option?  Using a fixed ladder will reduce the chance of inappropriate ladder or equipment use.
  • Railings – Remember that standard railings should be installed on mezzanines, catwalks, or overhead storage areas over 30 inches. 
  • Vehicle lifts – Raising trucks and mowers off the shop floor to conduct repairs and maintenance such as tire rotation, change oil, removing mower blades, etc. minimizes awkward postures and reduces the potential for sprain and strain injuries. In the design and construction of the new facility, consider equipment lifting devices such as a vehicle lift, mobile ceiling lift, and/or a mower lift.
  • Pallet rack storage - An orderly and efficient pallet racking system can help reduce manual handling and injuries by encouraging safe storage and mechanical handling.  Consider available options with the design and construction of the new facility including a forklift truck or fork attachments for other equipment.
  • Hoist and chain systems - Hoist and chain systems help to reduce manual handling of snowplow blades and other heavy tools and equipment around the facility. 
  • Wash bays – A catwalk or platform can help with hard to reach areas while minimizing overextending the body.  A long handled, lightweight spray wand, used in conjunction with a 360 ceiling boom can help to minimize muscle fatigue, while preventing trip hazards from hoses on the floor.
  • Lift tables and multiple height work benches – Elevating/adjustable work benches or scissor lift tables allows the employee to perform work on smaller projects from an elevated position minimizing awkward postures and preventing kneeling and bending.
  • Hose reels – Air, water, electrical, or fuel hoses on the ground can lead to serious and costly injuries.  Consider elevated hose reels or retractable hose systems to organize hoses and eliminate the hazards.
  • Changing light bulbs – Something as simple as changing a light bulb can pose a serious hazard if you haven’t thought out how this process will take place.  Is a personnel lift available in the area where light bulbs will need to be changed?  If a ladder will be used, is it the appropriate type?
  • Handling chemical containers – Eliminate barrel handling by installing an automatic oil/fluids dispensing system, or by contracting out the handling of larger containers to a vendor. 
  • Plumbed eyewash stations – these should be located near areas where chemicals are handled and be located in such a way that an injured employee will have a clear path of travel to the eyewash station. 
  • Anti-slip – For wet environments, consider anti-slip floor treatment or placement of anti-slip mats.
  • Icy areas outside – Roof rainwater down spouts can pose a problem if not directed away from pedestrian areas.  Consider pointing downspouts away from sidewalks, entry and traffic areas, including dumpster, loading, and delivery areas.
  • Automatic lighting – Automatically functioning lighting systems can help prevent trips and falls by illuminating storage and stairway areas as an employee enters the area. 
Following these simple steps can help you establish a safer, more efficient shop, and can help protect you and your workforce from the risks of manual handling and slips and falls.  Contact your city’s LMCIT loss control staff for further help or to discuss a Public Works Ergonomic or Slip, Trip, and Fall survey. 
by Matt Columbus

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