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Identifying Risk on the Jobsite

No one wants a lecture on jobsite safety. Just talking about it can sometimes feel like scolding. But it’s essential that employers provide the necessary information and materials to keep their employees safe on the jobsite.

We’re not here to scold. We just want you and your crew to be able to rise to the challenge of another job. So please don’t take the following tips as reprimands, but rather as a few ideas to help keep you and your crew out of the hospital, on the jobsite, happy and healthy—and of course, profitable.

Personal protective equipment

OSHA is clear about its expectations for personal protective equipment (PPE), all of which is covered in Standard 1926. It’s not an easy read, so we’ll give you the main points:

•    Provide it: An employer is responsible for ensuring employees are provided—at no cost—with whichever PPE is necessary to mitigate the risk of injury as the result of any dangers in working processes or environment.

•    Maintain it: Employers are responsible for ensuring that PPE is not only provided, but also that it is maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition. So you’re not off the hook after providing a single respirator once—you have to make sure it keeps working.

•    Check it: Employers are not responsible for providing non-specialty PPE, such as steel-toe shoes, which can be used off the jobsite. But the employer is responsible for ensuring the employee-provided equipment is adequate and properly maintained.

Tool safety

Tools were invented to make your job easier, but oftentimes they become one of the biggest risk areas for injury. Make sure you’re taking the following precautions to ensure that your tools are working for you and not against you:

Cords: Don’t make tools more dangerous by compromising the integrity of the electrical connections in their cords, which can drastically increase the likelihood of a short or malfunction. You know that cool carry handle? Tell your crew to use it, not the cord, to heft their tools around. Also encourage your crew to take the extra 2 seconds to walk over to the outlet to unplug their tools, rather than ripping the plug out of the socket by the cord from 10 feet away. An alarming number of accidents happen as a result of tools that were thought to be unplugged—but weren’t. 

Guards: The exposed moving parts of power tools need to be safeguarded, and guards should never be removed when a tool is being used. Nowhere are our sins against this principle more egregious than with circular saws. The expectation is simple—an upper, fixed guard must cover the entire upper portion of the blade, and the retractable lower guard must cover the teeth of the saw except for where it makes contact with the work material. Your crew may think they’ve solved the secret to jobsite productivity by somehow altering the guards on their tools—but remind them, nothing will slow them down more than an ambulance trip to the hospital. 

Smart tools: A number of manufacturers are engineering and building their tools with risk-mitigating features incorporated. Bosch, for example, has integrated smart sensor technology into its HDH181X 18-volt hammer drill (found in the CLPK222-181 combo kit at Lowe’s). This “Active Response Technology” cuts power to the drill’s motor when sudden rotational movement is detected, reducing the risk of injury during high-torque tasks. Keep an eye out for this and other safety-inspired, noninvasive features yet to come.

Service: If a tool in otherwise good shape stops functioning properly, check the manufacturer’s website for service instructions or a local service center or service partner. We get it, that 15-year-old recip saw has gotten you through thick and thin and almost has sentimental value to you now, but when the cord starts to fray and the motor starts overheating, it is time to retire that recip to a mount on the mantel and pick up a new model that will likely pay for itself in increased productivity in no time at all.

General jobsite safety

•    Your work: A thousand monkeys unintelligibly typing on typewriters will inevitably pen a line from Shakespeare out of just dumb luck, the same way a thousand “skilled tradesmen” cutting 2x4s on their leg will inevitably lead to an accident—out of real “dumb luck.” Help your crew be more productive and safer by ensuring they have quick and easy access to a stable work surface and plenty of clamps or jigs. 

•    Your air: Respiratory protection, or a lack thereof, is the fourth top source of citations from OSHA. Tools can throw a lot of material into the air—a lot of which should not make its way into the lungs of your crew. Help your team breathe easy by ensuring they are equipped with proper PPE, but also look into vacuum systems for exceedingly dusty jobs. Proper jobsite vacuums, like those available from Bosch at Lowe’s, allow you to plug your tool directly into the vac and will turn on when you trigger your tool. These are not only a great solution for keeping your team healthy, but also for keeping your worksite clean when working in a finished building or anywhere in which cleanliness matters.

•    Your floor: Tripping on a jobsite occurs all too often, and can end poorly especially if you were unlucky enough to be carrying something dangerous at the time. Put away cords. Clean up scraps. Put unused tools back in their cases and out of the way. Mark known tripping hazards. It’s a lot cheaper to pay an apprentice or the new guy to spend 15 minutes cleaning up and sweeping up than it is to not only pay for a hospital bill—but also to suffer the hit on your productivity caused by being a man down on your crew.

There’s no such thing as an inherently safe jobsite, but if we (manufacturers, retailers and crews) work together to make smart decisions and mitigate risks where possible, we can dramatically increase the likelihood that when it comes to our crews, we can always send them home safe.


This content is sponsored by Bosch Power Tools.

Be sure to join the Lowe’s ProServices LinkedIn Group to read additional content and interact with other Construction/Trade and MRO professionals.

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