Health & Safety

Safety Equipment and Materials

Many types of motor vehicles, such as trucks, forklifts, and cranes, are common to work sites. Working safely around motorized vehicles requires care on the part of their operators and also on the part of anyone working in their vicinity by using safety equipment and materials.

The operator of any motorized vehicle is responsible for the safety of passengers and the protection of any load being carried. Using common sense and following safety rules and using safety equipment and materials help prevent accidents. The operator should always have a clear view of the road. This means that windshields, rear-view mirrors, and lights should be clean and functional. The operator of a motorized vehicle should wear a seat belt, obey all speed limits, and reduce the vehicle’s speed in crowded areas.

When the vehicle is backing up, the operator should look to the rear and sound the horn first. If the operator’s rear vision is blocked, someone should direct the vehicle’s movement. If the vehicle has a back-up alarm, it should be checked to make sure that it is working.

The operator should turn off the engine and set the brakes before leaving the vehicle for any reason, including to refuel.

Cranes and other vehicles that are used to lift loads require additional precautions. For example, another worker may be required to signal the operator about the position of the load or the direction of the vehicle’s travel.

Several techniques can be used to put equipment in a safe condition to be worked on. For example, tags and locks may be used to ensure that the status of a system or component does not change while work is being performed. In other words, locks and tags are used to make sure that motors are not started, valves are not opened or closed, and no other changes are made that would compromise worker safety.

Tags and locks are placed on each switch, circuit breaker, valve, or other component that is operated to isolate the equipment being worked on. In this way, workers are protected from hazards such as electrical energy, mechanical energy, hydraulic energy, and high temperatures.

In most lockout procedures, each lock has its own key, and the key is kept by the person who installs the lock. In general, the person who installs the lock is the only one who can remove it. When a device such as a switch, a valve, or a piece of equipment is locked out, a proper tag is also attached. Only tags that have been approved for the work site should be used.

A basic rule of thumb is to never operate any device that has a tag or a lock attached to it.

The exact procedures followed for lockout/tagout vary between different companies and work sites. Personnel should learn about and follow the lockout/tagout procedures used where they work.

Another potential safety hazard from which workers should be protected is any opening in a wall or floor. The two basic ways of protecting workers from these hazards are by covering the openings and by guarding them. Any hole in a floor should be covered if possible. When covering an opening is not practical, barriers, which may also be referred to as barricades, are used to alert workers to the hazard.

Barricade tape is often used to alert personnel to hazards in an area. Typically, barricade tape is strung between two points, such as between poles. Barricade tape is color coded according to its function. For example, red means danger is present. No one can enter an area guarded with a red barricade tape. Yellow barricade tape means caution. Personnel can enter the area, but should know what hazard is present and remain alert. Yellow and black barricade tape means that an X-ray machine is in the area. No entry is allowed beyond the barricade.

Another commonly used type of barricade is a protective barricade. Protective barricades physically prevent people from passing beyond them. These barricades can be steel fence, wooden posts and rails, posts and chains, or various types of cable.

The safe use of equipment at a work site is not the only safety consideration that workers need to keep in mind. There are also many materials that personnel must work safely around.

In order to help protect workers from hazardous materials, OSHA has developed a standard called the Hazard Communication Standard, or HAZCOM, for short. This standard addresses the worker’s right to know about the specifics of any hazardous materials that he or she may come in contact with on the job and what safety equipment can be used.

HAZCOM requires that all employers educate their employees about the hazardous materials they may be exposed to and that employees be taught how to work safely in the presence of these materials. A document called a Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS, should accompany every shipment of a hazardous substance and be available to the workers on a job. Although MSDS forms may vary, the information on this type of document includes the identity of the material, the material’s physical and chemical characteristics, the nature of the hazard it presents, precautions for the safe handling and use of the material, exposure limits, the reactivity of the material, and specific control measures.

HAZCOM also spells out various responsibilities that workers have. These responsibilities can be summarized as knowing the location of the Material Safety Data Sheets at the work site, spotting and reporting any hazards, knowing the potential physical and health hazards posed by any of the hazardous materials on site, knowing and practicing the actions necessary to protect themselves from these hazards, knowing what to do in case of an emergency, and knowing the location of the employer’s written Hazard Communications program.

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