Wildfire Safety at Work and Home

Wildfire safetyOne thing that all of us are aware of is that out of control fire does not discriminate. It does not care who you are or where you are. If you are in its path it will cause incomprehensible and unforgiving damage and destruction in a matter of seconds. There are some key points to consider while at work or home to protect your family and co-workers.

Have an Emergency Action Plan

At Work

  • Designate a Muster Location. Make sure everyone on site knows where to meet in the event of a wildfire. Tell those who are periodically on site, (i.e. Crew, Managers, Oilers/Mechanics, & Subs)
  • Have a Daily Personnel List and an Emergency Contact List. Superintendents and Site Foreman should know who is on site. Always check in/out with the Foreman. Foreman has access to names and numbers of site personnel, emergency contacts and Client.
  • Periodically Question Site Personnel. As part of the Daily Toolbox talk ask individuals if they know where to go and what to do and the fire potential hazards and controls for their assignment
  • Planning for Wildfire. Conduct a practice drill to check readiness. Everyone must know what to do in case of a wildfire. Discuss the plan as part of a weekly safety meeting; determine responsibilities. Coordinate with the fire department on the best route to get to the site.

At Home

  • Designate a Rally Point. Make sure all family members know where to meet in the event of a wildfire. Make sure to account for everyone. Have a safe location to meet. If kids are away have a means to contact them. Have an emergency supply kit in your vehicle.
  • Have a Good Plan. If you are not there, who will carry it out? Does everyone know what to do? Who will pick up the kids? Who will gather up the pets & medicines? If your first entrance or road is blocked, is there a secondary road to take? Have garden hoses readily available to wet vegetation and roofs. If a fire is headed your way get out as soon as possible.
  • Have an Itemized List of Home Items. Have a lists or valuables with pictures, description and serial numbers. This will help with an insurance claim. Keep important documents (i.e. birth certificate(s), passport, financial papers etc.) in a safe, fireproof location.
  • Be Prepared to Leave Home. Leave as early as possible, before you are told to evacuate. Leaving promptly clears the roads for firefighters to get in place to fight the fire. Allows yourself time to get things in order. There is no telling when you may be able to return.

Wildfire preventionWildfire Prevention is the Best Practice

At Work

  • Dispose of Combustibles. Check daily to ensure debris/trash is picked up, put in receptacles, & removed.
  • Have a Designated Smoking Area. Make sure that it is away from dry vegetation & buildings w/ a butt container & fire extinguisher.
  • Handle Flammables Correctly. Store flammables (i.e. gas cans, spray paints, two cycle mix etc.) in a flammable cabinet if possible. If not, keep out of direct sunlight. Make sure a fire extinguisher is readily accessible. Do not store flammables with combustibles. Report and clean up all spills.
  • Check for Dry Vegetation. Avoid starting your vehicle on top of dry vegetation. The heat from a hot catalytic converter has been known to start fires. Avoid starting equipment on dry vegetation
  • Maintain the Landscape. Trim grasses and pick up limbs and sticks. Keep trees & shrubs trimmed to create Defensible Space

At Home

  • Clear leaves and debris from gutters, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home. Remove dead vegetation from under your deck or patio. Keep firewood stacks away from your home. Keep your lawn watered if possible.
  • Invest in a Fire Extinguisher. We are not fire fighters, but consider if you are trapped or the fire is still manageable, fire extinguishers are extremely handy. Recommend and ABC Dry Chemical Extinguisher.
  • Debris Burning. Do not burn on dry, windy days. Burn late in the day after the wind has quieted and humidity increases. Monitor the weather and avoid burning on high risk days. Remain outdoors until the fire is completely out. Keep water, a fire extinguisher and tools ready to use. If you burn in a barrel, consider using a wire mesh screen. Never burn on restricted days.
  • Home Modifications. Considering fire resistant home modifications: Class A shingles, slate or tile roofing, exterior walls of stucco or masonry and double paned tempered glass as heat barrier. Make sure your driveway is fire engine accessible: 12 ft. wide, 15 ft. vertical clearance, and a slope less than 5 %.

Wildfire is unpredictable. Fires start from something as large as lightning strike or as small as a spark or cigarette butt. Most are man caused.

Wildfires are a common occurrence, planning can minimize the impact on families and co-workers.

Preventing Utility Strikes

Utility Workers Discussing Strike AvoidanceNo matter what procedures we put in place eventually we will make contact with a utility. Sometimes in plain sight that little voice inside us says “Aw I can get closer” and then “bam or pow” the next thing you know phones are ringing. In some cases, a locator has been contacted and has marked the site and you have been cleared.

You are ready to go and you grab a bucket full of soil and next thing you know you hear a “pop” or a “hiss.” Where the line was supposed to be, it is not there, and the locate is off by five feet. According to the Common Ground Alliance (CGA), over the last twenty years, utility strikes have resulted in $1.7 billion in damage, 1,906 injuries, and 421 deaths. These are the ones that have been reported. It is unknown how many contacts and repairs have been made.

Facts

  • What states have incurred the most damage incidents? Texas, followed by Georgia, and then Illinois.
  • What lines were contacted the most and incurred the most damage? Telecomm lines followed by natural gas.
  • Which equipment is responsible for the most damage incidents? The backhoe/trencher followed by hand tools.
  • What were the top three damage root causes? Excavation practice unsafe, locates not called in, and locating practices insufficient.

Precautions

So, what can we do to prevent such incidents? Below are best practices we can implement:Practice Proper Excavation Techniques

  • Call in and document your locates. Compare the field locates to your plans and walk down the site. Take the time to review the plans and marks with operators and workers. Refresh marks after weather and every 20 days.
  • Document calls to all Tier 2 utility holders on the 811CO ticket.
  • Don’t assume that a line is “Dead” if it was unmarked. Have your plan sheet with you.
  • Do not rely 100% on Ground Penetrating Devices (GPR) or Electromagnetic Locator (EML), look for signs of utilities above ground and compare to the marks.
  • Expose the line so you know the route and depth by hand digging and potholing.
  • Consider exposing as much of the utility as possible across your trench by means of HydroVac excavation
  • Utilize an operator with a good touch and feel when it comes to utilities and conscious of the hazards above and below ground.
  • Utilize a focused and field trained Spotter who will “STOP WORK” when things don’t look right.
  • Communicate what you found. If you find something, report what you have found to others and the GC.

Let’s be honest, due to the business that we are in, contact with utilities is inevitable. We all need to make sure we are doing the things that we can control and following company procedure as a means of performing our due diligence.

Not just some of the time, but all of the time and if you are not sure, contact your supervisor or health and safety.

Never dig without an active 811CO ticket. Respect underground utilities with an 18-inch buffer. Hand dig to expose the utility in your trench.

Using Safe Work Practices To Protect Your Hands

Keeping Your Hands Safe At The WorkplaceUse the proper gloves to keep your hands safe

The most used tool on any job site is the human hand. Think of almost any task at your worksite, from sweeping up construction debris to skillfully using a finishing trowel. Your hands and fingers are the tools you use every day. Try writing without using your thumb, high-fiving your kid at a ball game with a palm full of sutures or holding a hammer with only two fingers. Fiore and Sons has a 100% glove use policy on site; use the gloves fit for your task.

There is not a single glove that will protect from all hazards. Selection of gloves must be based on the hazards that are present, the job task, work conditions, and the duration of use. Don’t use gloves that are torn or damaged. Inspect gloves prior to each use. Use proper tools and Safe Work Practices to keep your hands out of pinch points and struck by zones.

There are many hazards on construction sites that can result in a hand injury, including:

  • Punctures, cuts or lacerations caused by contact with sharp, spiked or jagged edges on equipment, tools or
    materials.
  • Crushed, fractures or amputations caused by contact with hammers, manhole lids, gears, belts, wheels and rollers, falling objects.
  • Rings, gloves or clothing getting caught and putting your hand in harm’s way.
  • Strains, sprains, and other musculoskeletal injuries caused by using the wrong tool for the job, or one that is too big, small or heavy for your hand.
  • Burns caused by direct contact with a hot surface or a chemical.
  • Rashes and other skin disorders caused by direct contact with chemicals in products and materials.

Choose gloves designed to protect against specific hazards of a job being performed. Types range from common canvas work gloves to highly specialized gloves used in specific industries. Rubber, vinyl or neoprene gloves are used when handling fuels, lubricants, acids, cleansers, and concrete. Leather gloves or leather reinforced with metal stitching useful for handling rough or abrasive materials. Flexible knit rubber palm gloves for grip, comfort, and general use.Keep your hands safe around moving parts

  • Be aware of the job tasks, equipment and materials that can create a risk for a hand injury or put your skin in contact with a chemical, and know the steps that should be taken to prevent exposures and injuries.
  • Always stay alert and focused on keeping your hands safe not just at the start of work or a task.
  • Don’t put your hands or fingers near the moving parts of a power tool or equipment. Make sure machinery, equipment and power tools are completely off before you try replacing, cleaning or repairing parts. Follow lock-out/tag-out procedures.
  • Identify safety features on tools and equipment before you use them, such as emergency off switches.
  • Keep hands and fingers away from sharp edges (blades, protruding nails, etc.). Never cut toward yourself.
  • Select hand tools that are ergonomic for your hand w/ the right size, low weight, and as grip.
  • Wear gloves that fit your hand and are right for the work being performed.
  • Do not wear rings, other jewelry or loose articles of clothing that could get caught on a moving object.
Discuss Pinch Points in your Daily Huddle. Your hands are key to your livelihood; protect them from harm.
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