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CONN-OSHA Quarterly

Volume No. 26
Summer 2001

Workzone Safety—A Plan
Tom Hozebin, Safety Compliance Officer

Although we can now expect to see street and highway workzones throughout the year, spring weather is still the indicator of the start of the busy road construction and maintenance season. State agencies, municipal public works, utilities, and contractors are loading up their trucks and heading for a street near you.

Nationally in 1999, fatalities in workzones claimed 868 lives. Another 40,000 people were injured. For the year 2000, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CONN-DOT) reports 28 accidents in CONN-DOT workzones with 6 of those resulting in injuries to employees.

There is an ever-growing need to protect our employees in workzones. Employee training, motorist awareness, and state of the art workzone safety equipment are necessary elements to meet the challenge.

Workzones are required to conform to Part VI, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD sets basic principles and standards to insure safe movement of traffic through construction workzones on roads and highways.

Every workzone will have its differences that will need to be addressed. Flexibility is a key in meeting those differences through the use of road signs, traffic signals, lighting devices, barricades, cones, and hand signals (flagpersons). Conditions to be considered include speed, volume, duration of the project, employee exposure to workzone hazards, and safety of the traveling public.

Municipal road crews will encounter different problems including lower speeds, wide ranges of volume, limited space, frequent turns, intersections, and pedestrian traffic.

To best deal with conditions and provide safe workzones, employers should develop a Pre-Plan with reasonably specific traffic control plans. The traffic control plan should include provisions for the signage to be used (one lane road, flagman ahead, men working, etc.) and should indicate the correct placement of the signs considering best visibility and effectiveness for the motorists. Workzone channeling should be part of the plan including workzones, buffer zones, transition and termination. The plan should specify where contractor equipment will be placed and if flagpersons or law enforcement will be needed. Workzones should be set up to minimize congestion and confusion, consider employee safety, and allow for the work to proceed expeditiously.

Once the workzone is set up, it should be continuously monitored for effectiveness.

  • Does the workzone inhibit traffic as little as possible?
  • Have frequent abrupt transitions been eliminated?
  • Are traffic patterns clear and precise (no confusion)?
  • Has the work been scheduled to minimize employee exposure?
  • Are flaggers used only when needed?
  • Have employees been briefed prior to the start of work?

As the job progresses, conditions are constantly changing. The workzone should be continually monitored. If squealing brakes are heard or drivers appear confused, a change is needed. Spacing of signs may need to be changed to eliminate driver information overload. Signs should be spaced so drivers can comprehend one sign before encountering the next. Information overload impedes the ability of even good drivers to make good decisions.

The person responsible for workzone traffic control should drive through it to either confirm a good workzone or indicate a need for change.

Finally, the plan should call for the prompt removal of workzone traffic signs upon completion of the project. Nothing contributes more to driver complacency than signage warning of workzone conditions and no work being done or hazards to avoid. The next time through, the driver will exercise no caution, expecting the same condition to exist.

As guidance, those responsible for workzone safety should utilize the following resources:

  • 29 CFR 1926.200 – Signs and symbols shall be visible at all times while the work is being performed on or adjacent to streets, roads and highways --- and shall be removed promptly when the hazards no longer exist. All traffic signs shall conform to American National Standards Institute (ANSI) D6.1 MUTCD.
  • 29 CFR 1926.201 – Where the traffic control devices do not provide the necessary protection, flagpersons must be used. Flagpersons shall be provided with, and use, high visibility garments, retroreflective in low light conditions. They must use paddles or flags 18" x 18" for directing traffic.

As a last reminder, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that approximately 1/3 of workzone fatalities occur within the workzone, by the contractor’s own equipment.

Stay alert, stay out of the travel lane, stay alive!

Gasoline Safety
Jim Pierce, Occupational Hygiene Consultant

Accidents involving gasoline are a major cause of burns in the United States. These result from the misuse and lack of proper knowledge for the safe handling and use of gasoline. When vaporized, one cup of gasoline has the explosive equivalence of five sticks of dynamite. One gallon of vaporized gasoline has the equivalence of twenty sticks of dynamite. The fireball created can reach temperatures as high as 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, gasoline vapors are heavier than air and can cause ignition of the liquid gasoline from as far as twelve feet away.

What are the chemical and physical aspects of gasoline which make it so dangerous? Gasoline has a flash point of -45 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that the liquid, even when chilled to 45 degrees below zero, can still produce sufficient vapor to support its combustion. Gasoline also has a vapor density of three to four times the weight of air, so that the gasoline vapors travel and sink to the ground or lowest point. The vapors can accumulate in pits or in enclosed spaces, where an accidental spark, pilot light, dropped match or cigarette could ignite the vapor and travel back to the original container or tank of gasoline.

Gasoline fires can also start from static electricity. Pouring gasoline into ungrounded containers, or containers which allow the buildup of static electricity can cause a gasoline fire. Clothes that have been contaminated with gasoline and put into dryers have caused fires.

What are the most common misuses of gasoline that result in burns and other injuries?

  • Trying to start a fire using gasoline, whether it is a barbeque, brush fire or outdoor fire
  • Improper storage of gasoline
  • Improper pouring or dispensing of gasoline
  • Trying to start or prime a car with gasoline
  • Ignition of gasoline vapors due to close proximity to a spark or open flame

What safety practices should be followed to prevent burns and other injuries?

  • Only listed and labeled gasoline cans should be used to contain gasoline.
  • Gasoline containers should be placed on the ground, with the gasoline nozzle inside the container when dispensing gasoline. (This is to prevent static buildup.)
  • When refueling small gas powered engines, allow the motor and all metal surfaces to cool before refueling.
  • Always keep a AB@ fire rated extinguisher, or AABC@ fire rated extinguisher nearby. Ensure that the extinguisher is charged, and you and others in close proximity know how to use it.
  • Try not to store gasoline in your house. It is preferred that you store gasoline in an outside, unattached shed.
  • Store the gasoline container in a cool, well ventilated area, and keep the storage of gasoline to a minimum.
  • Keep gasoline and its containers out of direct sunlight.
  • Never use gasoline as a fire starter, cleaner, or solvent.
  • Keep open flames, smoking or sparks at least 12 feet away from gasoline.
  • Do not siphon gasoline by mouth.
  • Avoid prolonged breathing of vapors.
  • If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Call a physician immediately.
  • Keep out of reach of children.

Remember, use gasoline wisely, and have a safe and enjoyable summer.

Highlights of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard Revision

On November 6, 2000, Congress passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act directing OSHA to revise its bloodborne pathogens standard to describe in greater detail its requirement for employers to identify and make use of effective and safer medical devices. That revision was published on January 18, 2001, and became effective April 18, 2001.

The revision specifies the types of engineering controls -- such as safer medical devices -- in the healthcare setting. It also adds two requirements for employers; but, it does not add any new requirements to protect workers from sharps injuries. The following is a summary of the revisions:

  • Two new definitions are included in the revision, while one existing term is amended:
    • Sharps with Engineered Sharps Injury Protections includes non-needle sharps or needle devices used for withdrawing fluids or administering medications or other fluids that contain built-in safety features, or mechanisms that effectively reduce the risk of an exposure incident.
    • Needleless Systems are devices that do not use needles for the collection or withdrawal of body fluids, or for the administration of medication or fluids.
    • Engineering Controls include all control measures that isolate or remove a bloodborne pathogen hazard from the workplace. The revision now specifies that "self-sheathing needles" and "safer medical devices, such as sharps with engineered sharps injury protections and needleless systems" are engineering controls.
  • Employers must review their exposure control plans annually to reflect changes in technology that will help eliminate or reduce exposure to bloodborne pathogens. That review must include documentation of the employer's consideration and implementation of appropriate commercially available and effective safer devices.
  • Employers must solicit input from non-managerial health care workers regarding the identification, evaluation and selection of effective engineering controls, including safer medical devices. Examples of employees include those in different departments of the facility (e.g., geriatric, pediatric, nuclear medicine, etc.).
  • Employers with 11 or more employees who are required to keep records by current recordkeeping standards, must maintain a sharps injury log. The log must be maintained in a way to ensure employee privacy and will contain, at minimum, the following information:
    • type and brand of device involved in the incident, if known;
    • location of the incident; and
    • description of the incident.

Preventing Heat-Related Illness

While the summer months are not the only time workers may be exposed to hot environments, the climate this time of year poses a greater threat for heat-related illness. When working outdoors, it is not always feasible to control those environmental factors {i.e. temperature, humidity (see OSHA Publication #3154), radiant heat (such as from the sun or a furnace) and air velocity} which contribute to heat stress. Therefore, employers and employees should take precautions to prevent the occurrence of heat-related disorders such as heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, fainting, and heat rash. Such precautions include:

  • Learning the signs and symptoms of heat-induced illnesses and what to do to help the worker.
  • Training the workforce about heat-induced illnesses.
  • Performing the heaviest work in the coolest part of the day.
  • Slowly building up tolerance to the heat and the work activity (usually takes up to 2 weeks).
  • Using the buddy system (work in pairs).
  • Drinking plenty of cool water (one small cup every 15-20 minutes).
  • Wearing light, loose-fitting, breathable (like cotton) clothing.
  • Taking frequent short breaks in cool shaded areas (allow your body to cool down).
  • Avoiding eating large meals before working in hot environments.
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcoholic beverages (these beverages make the body lose water and increase the risk for heat illness).

For more information regarding the recognition and prevention of heat-related disorders, visit the OSHA web site at: or call our office at (860) 566-4550.

CONN-OSHA Quarterly Index

Last Updated: March 01, 2017

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