FOUNDATION OF THE WALL AND CEILING INDUSTRY. Creating an Injury Free. Work Force. Foundation Research Series

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1 FOUNDATION OF THE WALL AND CEILING INDUSTRY Creating an Injury Free Work Force Foundation Research Series

2 FOUNDATION OF THE WALL AND CEILING INDUSTRY Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry 513 West Broad Street, Suite 210 Falls Church, VA Phone (703) Fax (703) Web Site

3 Prepared for the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry By Words & Images 2010 Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be produced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher. Published by Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry 513 West Broad Street, Suite 210 Falls Church, VA (703) July 2010

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5 Preface Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry In the late 1970s, there was a clear recognition among industry leaders for the need to unite and expand the educational and research activities available to contractors, manufacturers, distributors and the public, in general. At the time, there were many issues facing the industry from a national energy crisis to injuries in the workplace, to unsafe buildings occupied by the public. In response to these issues, the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry was formed in 1977 with the following mission statement as an IRS designated non-profit 501(c)3 corporation to pursue educational and research activities benefiting the industry and the public at-large: The Foundation s mission is to be an active, unbiased source of information and education to support the wall and ceiling industry. To fulfill this mission, the Foundation owns and maintains the largest independent library serving the wall and ceiling industry, provides educational scholarships for those pursuing careers in engineering, construction and design, provides research support to industry inquiries and publishes research papers. To obtain additional copies of this publication or to learn more about the Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, please contact Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry 513 West Broad Street, Suite 210 Falls Church, VA Phone: (703) Fax: (703) The Foundation s mission is to be an active, unbiased source of information and education to support the wall and ceiling industry. 3

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7 Table of Contents Executive Summary Costs of Employee Injury Direct Costs Workers Comp Premiums Indirect/Hidden Costs Family/Personal Benefits of an Injury-Free Crew Decreased Costs Increased Productivity Employee Morale Employee Loyalty Construction Health Hazards General Risk Factors Chemical Hazards Asbestos Welding Fumes Solvents Silica Lead Confined Spaces Physical Hazards Noise Vibration Temperature Extremes Radiation Biological Hazards Ergonomic Hazards Construction Health Hazards Falls Scaffolding Injuries Electrical Injuries Lifting Injuries Eye Injuries Lacerations Motor Vehicle Accidents OSHA Rules

8 Why Injuries Happen Lack of Training Lack of Safety Measures/Equipment Lack of Warm-ups Skanska Time Pressure/Stress Other Trades/Messy Worksite Preventing Injuries Common Sense Safety Awareness Safety Equipment The Key Equipment Reluctant Employees Equipment Training Procedures Tools Better and Safer Housekeeping Drug/Alcohol Free Workplace Long-Term Exposure Noise Warning Signs Heavy Loads/Lifting and Shifting Awkward Postures Plaster Dust Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) Preventing Long-Term Effects Ergonomics Tools Tool Extenders Ear Protection Eye Protection Support Belts Poor Posture Lifting Lifting Procedures Stretching/Warm-Ups Suggested Warm-Ups Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling industry

9 Asbestos Exposure Mesothelioma What It Is Symptoms Diagnosis Conventional Treatments Surgery Radiation Therapy Chemotherapy Alternative Treatments Living with Mesothelioma Prevention Is Good Business Safety and Productivity NSC Studies What to Do Next...25 Make Safety Mandatory Start Stretching Safety Director Safety Culture Notes

10 Executive Summary From 2003 through 2008, 158 of our wall and ceiling colleagues died on the job. Those are 158 lives needlessly lost for reasons that, in retrospect, do nothing to justify such loss: deadlines, laziness, rush, clutter. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that during the same period more than 40,000 of our colleagues were injured on the job. If there is a positive aspect to these figures, it is that the death and injury rates dropped slightly in 2008, partially due to a slowdown in the industry, and partially due to improved worksite safety, but the reported numbers are still far from acceptable. At an average direct cost of $35,000 to the employer per lost-time injury, not taking into account the often-higher indirect costs such as increased workers comp and insurance premiums, as well as family and personal impact it is evident that workplace injuries cannot remain at current levels. On the other hand, the benefits of a safety aware crew and an injury free work site mean far more than dollar savings, and include greater productivity, greater job satisfaction, higher quality work and a stronger company loyalty. 8 Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

11 Today, every state in the union has some form of workers comp legislation on the books, which represents a major employer cost of doing business. Costs of an Employee Injury None of your employees set out in the morning planning to have an injury at work. But, one fateful day, it happens. The injury whether light or severe has both immediate and long-term impacts for the employee, naturally, but also for other employees, and the business. Accidents cost more than people realize. Some costs are obvious workers compensation claims, for example, which cover medical costs and indemnity payments for an injured or ill worker these are the direct costs. 3 But what about the costs to train and compensate a replacement worker, repair damaged property, investigate the accident and implement corrective action, and to maintain insurance coverage? And even less apparent are the costs related to schedule delays, added administrative time, lower morale, increased absenteeism and poorer customer relations. These are the indirect costs costs that warrant a closer look. 4 DIRECT COSTS When an employee suffers a job-related injury or illness, the immediate cost is that of medical treatment. Then what follows are usually additional medical costs, such as physician and hospital bills, prescription medicine, occupational therapy and medical equipment crutches and wheelchairs. These costs are covered by your workers compensation policy, which you normally must maintain under state law. 5 Workers Comp Workers compensation (colloquially known as workers comp) provides insurance to cover medical care and compensation for employees who are injured in the course of employment or who contract an occupational disease, such as mesothelioma. Today, every state in the union has some form of workers comp legislation on the books, which represents a major employer cost of doing business. Premiums The premium paid for workers comp is determined primarily by two things: job classification and experience modification factor. Job Classification. The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) is the primary organization responsible for developing the classification codes used by workers comp underwriters in 35 states. Some states, however, including California and New Jersey, use other classification systems and codes such as the North American Industry Classification System. The purpose of either system is to analyze and group employee duties under descriptive categories, which in turn are ranked as to risk for injury. To illustrate, here is a brief comparison from the state of Missouri (the Manual Rate referenced here is the base annual premium per $100 of employee payroll, which is then adjusted by the Experience Modification Factor discussed below): NCCI CODE AND DESCRIPTION MANUAL RATE PER $100 OF PAYROLL 0083 Farming-Cattle Ranch $ Logging Or Lumbering $ Theater-Live Entertainment $ Trucking-Long Haul $ Clerical Office $ Drywall Installer $ 7.92 According to this chart, the lumberjack runs a much higher risk of getting hurt than the farmer, who, in turn, lives dangerously when compared to the trucker, who, in his turn, runs a higher risk of injury than the drywall installer, who, indeed, lives a daredevil existence when compared to the clerical office worker. NCCI provides more than 600 classification codes that aim to assign each employee to the one that best describes his or her duties (and risk of injury). Experience Modification Factor. With correct job classifications, you now have what is needed to calculate your total base premium. However, to arrive at what you actually will pay, you must multiply the base premium by the Experience Modification Factor (sometimes also known as Experience Modification Rating, or EMR). Joe O Connor with INTEC, AWCI s safety consultant, explains it this way: Your actuary sits down with you and says: Here are the average losses due to workplace injury and illness for a wall and ceiling contractor. Here are your losses over the last year. Now, you are either average, better than average or worse than average. It s a ratio. If your losses match the average, it s a 1-to-1 ratio, and your insurance company would then multiply the manual rate, or base premium, by 1.0 to arrive at your actual premium for the next year. If your claims or losses are higher than the average, the experience 9

12 modification factor may be 1.1 or 1.3, and you ll now pay 1.3 times the base in the latter case. If your losses are lower than average, the ratio may be 0.55 or 0.4. In fact, I have seen contractors all of which had a well established safety culture with experience modification factors as low as 0.23 or The key then, to lower workers comp premiums, is to do all that you can to reach as low an experience modification factor as possible. And this, of course, means few, if any, worksite injuries. Robert Aird, president of Robert A. Aird, Inc. in Maryland, adds this perspective, An employee injury is not only an injury to the employee but to the company, which thereafter has to carry the burden of insurance (whether workers comp or private insurance) premiums, which diminish the bottom line for the company s work. The injury then raises his EMR with the insurance company, which not only raises the cost but puts the company in a negative light for future work especially now that general contractors and owners/developers are scrutinizing subcontractors more than ever. I know a company that was low on bid day for a sizeable contract but that was not awarded the contract due to a high EMR. The high EMR suggested that they are not a safetyconscious company. Indirect/Hidden Cost An injury-causing accident often will have a ripple effect that incurs a string of expenses far higher than the direct cost: Damage to the vehicle or equipment the worker was using at the time. Loss of the workers time. Loss of time by fellow employees and supervisors responding to the injury-causing incident. Temporarily lowered morale, efficiency and productivity by co-workers and supervisors. Cost of hiring and training a temporary or permanent replacement for the injured employee, with lower productivity during the hiring and training process. This loss could be more substantial if the injured employee is an experienced employee. Studies have shown that such indirect costs usually total three to four times the direct costs of the accident and could amount to as much as 30 times the direct costs. Kathy Coffey, safety director of Grayhawk, LLC in Kentucky, sheds some further light on the hidden costs of employee injuries: When an employee is injured on a job site, and it s of a serious nature, you can write off that day. You may have 500 men on that job, but if the accident is severe, once the ambulance has left, they re not really working. They gathering: Did you see what happened to Joe? They say he fell. And that s 500 men at $30 an hour not focused on their work for six hours. How much did that cost you? And heaven forbid if the person died. That will have a long-term negative effect, not only on the worker s family but on the company as well. Tim Wies, president of T.J. Wies Contracting, Inc. in Missouri, concurs: If it is a severe accident, work stops that day; and if it s a horrible accident, or a fatality, it will cause grief and distress on the job site for days, if not weeks. It s a very real cost that normally stays hidden until the end of the week. If you re tracking that job you say, what happened this week? An accident, that s what happened. Family/Personal Costs But more important than the economic fallout of an accident is the impact it can have on the injured employee and his or her family. Coffey says, An injury puts a completely different dynamic on the family. It can ruin it. That s why, when it comes to safety, we care about our people first and foremost. Phil Ford, safety director at M.L. Jones Acoustics in Oklahoma, also puts the employee and his family above all else. I ve seen people lose a finger or a limb, and that is not just an injury it can alter a life, it can destroy a marriage. Wies shares this concern: I tell my employees, The worst day in my life would be having to call your wife or your husband, mother or father, sister or brother, and tell them that you were severely injured or killed on one of my projects. I can think of nothing worse. So, please, whatever you do in the field to help the company, I beg you: Never put me in a position where I have to make that call. Studies have shown that such indirect costs usually total three to four times the direct costs of the accident and could amount to as much as 30 times the direct costs. 10 Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

13 I know a company that was low on bid day for a sizeable contract but that was not awarded the contract due to a high EMR. Being aware of the downside of employee injuries and doing what we can to avoid them, is one thing. Every now and then, however, we need to step back and count the upside blessings and they are many of a safety-aware, injury-free crew. Benefits of an Injury-Free Crew DECREASED COSTS Of course, the immediate, and in many ways most tangible benefit from few or no accidents is the decreased costs, whether direct or indirect. But it does not stop there. INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY Historically, safety expenditures have been viewed by some as a necessary evil rather than a profitable investment. Lately, however, many companies have begun to see that spending money on safety in order to prevent employee injury and illness can actually be good for business. Still, even so, the perception tends to persist that safety doesn t make money, it only saves money. Fact is, safety does make money. As Wies puts it: A safety program makes sense, economically and otherwise because as you enforce a safety mindset with your crews, you notice that productivity does not drop. That s because with this mindset of care, employees tend to do things right the first time. This, of course, leaves you less re-work, which drives directly to the bottom line, he says. Today with workers comp, insurance and healthcare costs, accidents are hugely expensive. But luckily, safety and productivity are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I think they go hand in hand. EMPLOYEE MORALE It seems to be a law of nature: A productive employee feels good about himself and about his work, takes pride in it. By creating a safe work environment for him or her, you facilitate this feeling. It is hard to put a price on employee morale, but some would call it invaluable. EMPLOYEE LOYALTY A company that insists on a safety culture sends a very clear message to each and every employee: We care about you, your health and your family. And employees, being good and decent human beings in the main, gladly reciprocate by serving such employers as well as they can. Construction Health Hazards According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, although the fatality rate in the U.S. construction industry declined in 2008, our industry experiences more fatalities than any other industry in the private sector. 6 A construction work site is often a high-action, chaotic place. Workers rush about on foot and with machines, everyone focused on the task at hand. It is an environment primed for accidents. You may assume that all safety precautions have been taken, that co-workers have been properly trained, that the equipment is functioning correctly, and that you are not in danger. Then, why are tens of thousands of construction workers injured on the job each year? 7 In fact, there are roughly 150,000 construction site accident injuries each year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that about one in 10 construction site workers is injured every year. 8 Why such grim statistics? GENERAL RISK FACTORS Construction work is dynamic, diverse and constantly changing. This poses a great challenge in protecting the health and safety of employees as they are exposed daily to health hazards that can result in injury, illness, disability and even death. Factors increasing the health risk of your employees include the following: Constantly changing job site environments and conditions. Multiple contractors and subcontractors. High turnover and unskilled laborers. Constantly changing relationships with other work groups. Diversity of work activities occurring simultaneously. Exposures to health hazards resulting from your own crew s work as well as the activities of other crews. These construction health hazards can be grouped as chemical, physical, biological and ergonomic. 11

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15 There are roughly 150,000 construction site accident injuries each year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that about one in 10 construction site workers is injured every year. Several factors influence these levels: Type of equipment being operated. Condition/maintenance of the equipment. Other equipment running at the same time. Enclosed or partially enclosed spaces. High noise levels can be sporadic in construction. A key point to know is that effects from unprotected exposure are cumulative. Vibration While not common in our particular industry, whole-body vibration damage can occur from operating large mobile equipment, such as drillers, air hammers, pile drivers and other large machinery. Hand-arm vibration can result from using hand-held power tools, such as pneumatic drills and hammers, nail guns, sanders and disc grinders. Hand-arm vibration may cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that affects the fingers and hands. Over time, such vibrations can cause permanent nerve damage, which in turn can result in a loss of touch and dexterity. Working in cold and damp environments aggravates the harmful effects of hand-arm vibration. Temperature Extremes Extreme work environmental conditions can lead to stress or illness from heat or cold. If not treated in time, both heat and cold stress/illness can develop into life-threatening situations. Strenuous work in high temperatures can cause muscle cramps, dehydration, sudden collapse and unconsciousness. Cold temperatures can lead to fatigue, irregular breathing, confusion and loss of consciousness (hypothermia). Some of the effects from extreme temperature include the following: HEAT EFFECTS Heat Rash Fainting Heat Cramps Heat Exhaustion Heat Stroke COLD EFFECTS Frost Nip Immersion Injury (Trench Foot) Frost Bite Hypothermia Heat effects can occur from prolonged work under direct sunlight in summer; wearing impermeable protective clothing when doing strenuous work; or working in an enclosed area with a strong heat source, poor ventilation and high humidity. Cold effects can occur from cold air temperatures; rain, snow, sleet or other wet weather conditions; windy conditions, underground construction work or working over water and falling in. Radiation Ionizing radiation exposure includes X-rays and gamma rays from equipment used to gauge the density and thickness of pipes, to inspect welds, or for detecting weakness of metal structures; and radioactive isotopes from flow meters. Health effects include increased risk of developing cancer and genetic disease. Non-ionizing radiation exposure includes ultraviolet light from sunlight and welding; infrared radiation from torch welding and cutting; radio waves from radio transmission devices; and lasers used for aligning, ranging and surveying, which are usually low-powered but can cause eye injuries if directly viewed for extended periods of time. Health effects include skin cancer, eye damage, premature skin aging and burns. BIOLOGICAL HAZARDS Diseases or illnesses can occur from biological sources such as microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi and molds). This includes West Nile virus, Lyme Disease, Histoplasmosis (fungus in bird droppings) and Hantavirus. Exposure may occur during demolition, renovation or other construction work from contact with contaminated or disease-carrying soil, water, insects (mosquitoes, ticks), bird or bat droppings, animals and structures. Although not generally a major hazard during new construction, the biological angle should not be overlooked during renovations. ERGONOMIC HAZARDS The hazards the wall and ceiling contractor encounters most frequently are ergonomic. They can and often do lead to painful and disabling injuries to joints and muscles. These injuries are caused by heavy, frequent or awkward lifting; repetitive tasks; awkward grips, postures; using excessive force or overexerting yourself; using the wrong tools for the job or using tools improperly; using improperly maintained tools; and hand-intensive work. These ergonomic hazards can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and other injuries, including strains and sprains the most common injuries in our industry; tendonitis; carpal tunnel syndrome; low back pain; and fatigue. 13

16 Although the construction worksite could be considered a field day for accidents, there is no reason to go along with the idea. Construction Health Hazards Never overlook the truth that most, if not all, accidents and injuries are preventable. What are the different types of injuries our industry suffers the most, and where do they tend to happen? Robert Aird, Trips and falls are the most common, and the opportunities are many: leading edges of concrete pours, missing handrails in stairways under construction, roof work, scaffold work all present challenges for addressing the safety of the workers. When I first walk a jobsite, the factor I first look for is how clean and organized the site is. If there is debris, materials, and equipment strewn everywhere, and power cords across walkways and through rooms, I see a jobsite ripe for injury or death. There will also be diminished productivity because the workers are continually stepping over and working around unsafe clutter. Lee Zaretzky of Ronsco, Inc. in New York agrees: It s all about housekeeping. Most avoidable injuries are due to jobsite clutter. FALLS Statistics indicate that, annually, nearly 300 deaths result from construction site falls, nearly one-third of total annual construction fatalities. A survey of some of our contractors confirms this: of 25 different accidents, 11, or nearly enough half of them, were falls of one kind or another (see table below). TYPE of ACCIDENT # Contractors SCAFFOLD INJURIES It is estimated that 65 percent of the construction industry frequently works on scaffolds. A recent study found that 72 percent of construction workers injured in scaffold accidents blamed planking or supports giving way, or the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object. These are circumstances that should not occur if the site is up to OSHA standards. In fact, most scaffolding accidents can be avoided through proper training and preventative measures. ELECTRICAL INJURIES It is estimated by OSHA that nearly 350 construction workers die every year from electrical accidents. These include electric shock, electrocutions, steam accidents and power-line contact. INTEC s O Connor concurs: Electrical injuries are fairly common. They are one of the top four categories of construction fatalities. LIFTING INJURIES In construction, 25 percent of injuries are back injuries. In fact, construction has the highest rate of back injuries of any industry, other than trucking. Every year, a back injury causes one in 100 construction workers to miss at least seven days of work, sometimes as long as a month. Most back injuries are sprains and strains from lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing and pulling materials. You are at higher risk of low-back injury if you often carry heavy loads, must twist while carrying heavy loads, or work a lot while bent over or in other awkward postures. As one AWCI member contractor pointed out, The number one issue we have is back strains acquired when workers try to pick up a load with their back. We try to teach our people to use their legs to lift, and to ask for help when they need it. Failing to place their legs under a load increases the strain on the back tenfold. If a hammer tumbles from above and strikes you on the head, and now you have trouble seeing, could it be you re not wearing a hard hat? Falling from scaffolding or ladders Back injuries from improper lifting 11 5 EYE INJURIES When things that do not belong in the eye end up there, nine times out of 10 unless you re very lucky you wind up with an injury. Sprains from tripping, etc. 4 Lacerations from metal studs 3 Skewered hands 1 Dehydration 1 And in 99 cases out of 100, the eye that is hit is unprotected. LACERATIONS Metal lacerations are an issue for some contractors. A California contractor spoke for the others when he said, We see a lot of palms sliced open when workers slide the sharp edges of metal framing across their hands. We re 14 Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

17 Injuries happen for a reason. That reason could be negligence, equipment malfunction (which can sometimes be traced back to shoddy maintenance), stress, distraction or outright stupidity but there is always a reason. shifting to Kevlar gloves. There was some resistance to the idea until we cut off the fingertips of the gloves so the men could still pick up screws. MOTOR VEHICLE ACCIDENTS O Connor says, Motor vehicle accidents are up there, especially for contractors who have people out on the road. Often overlooked, this is a major category of injury. OSHA Rules OSHA s primary purpose is not as one might easily assume in the flurry of getting things done on schedule to make life as miserable as possible for the contractor. It is to keep your workers healthy and productive and, yes, alive. Also, OSHA rules are not the arbitrary whims of wicked bureaucrats; they are the result of too many accidents and/or deaths in the category the rule addresses. O Connor expands on this: OSHA regulations are borne out of accidents. They did not come to the conclusion that fall protection was needed at 6 feet by pulling a number out of the air. OSHA examined the history of falls, fatal and non-fatal, and identified that when such falls reach 6 feet, the ensuing number of deaths increase dramatically, to a point where it becomes unacceptable. That s what they based that regulation on. Every OSHA rule becomes a rule because there have been significant numbers of deaths or accidents associated with the lack of such a rule. Why Injuries Happen Statistically, injuries happen in certain numbers in certain situations. This, however, is not to say that they have to happen. Injuries happen for a reason. That reason could be negligence, equipment malfunction (which can sometimes be traced back to shoddy maintenance), stress, distraction or outright stupidity but there is always a reason. LACK OF TRAINING Familiarity, training and skill go hand in hand. Many accidents and resultant injuries stem from unfamiliarity with either tools or procedure. As Dave Lanza, regional safety manager at Performance Contracting, Inc. in Arizona, points out, If a guy wants to cut his fingers off with a [circular] saw, he ll cut his fingers off. The machine can do that. But it s a tool, and you learn how to use it. We have to get the job done. You can t tell a carpenter that he can t use his hammer because he might hit himself in the thumb. They don t hit themselves in the thumb, you know well, they do it once as an apprentice, and that s it. LACK OF SAFETY MEASURES/EQUIPMENT It might be too obvious to point out, but when the boat won t leave the dock no matter how much you rev the engine, you might want to check whether the mooring lines have been cast off. If a hammer tumbles from above and strikes you on the head, and now you have trouble seeing, could it be you re not wearing a hard hat? If safety procedures and equipment are not in place and in use, you re simply inviting accidents and injuries. LACK OF WARM-UPS Stretching cold muscles and limbering up helps keep them supple, helps increase joint range of motion, enhances flexibility, improves coordination, increases body temperature and heart rate, increases blood flow to muscles and, most importantly, does help prevent injuries. Unfortunately, this is not generally viewed as the manly thing to do, and many a rock-hanger and carpenter scoffs at the idea as being too wimpy to stoop to. Still, a significant number of injuries could be prevented through proper stretching and muscle warm-up. Skanska Every morning at Skanska s construction sites scattered throughout the country, Skanska employees and subcontract workers begin their day the same way with a 10-minute exercise routine called stretch and flex. Dressed in hard hats, neon reflective vests, safety glasses and work boots, groups as large as a few hundred come together to participate in exercises to stretch and warm up their bodies in preparation for the day s physical activities. A nationwide initiative, stretch and flex is one component of Skanska s Injury-Free Environment (IFE) culture, created in 2005 as a commitment to the 15

18 safety, health and total well-being of all individuals on a job site. Since the inception of IFE, employee losttime accidents have been reduced by 24 percent, and in addition to contributing to the safety consciousness among workers, stretch and flex has proven to reduce soft tissue injuries common to the trade. Warm-ups are not wimpy, but savvy. TIME PRESSURE/STRESS So is not succumbing to time pressures. Kathy Coffey puts it well: I see other subcontractors jeopardizing safety due to production stresses, and they don t really know how to approach the GC about the resulting problem. These subs need to be upfront about safety going into the contract, telling the GC that they will not jeopardize safety for production woes. Another contractor adds, It s the sheer pressure of working in the construction industry these days, with trades on top of each other, that s partly behind accidents. A Colorado contractor agrees: Everybody wants to go so darned fast that they don t have time to do a good job and do it safely. When we arrive on a job, the project is already two weeks behind. That s a lot of stress to be under, which results in more mistakes and accidents. OTHER TRADES/MESSY WORKSITE As time pressures build and deadlines loom, more often than not different trades will work the job site at the same time, getting in each other s way, stepping over each other s debris and generally making the area unsafe for each other. This, Joe O Connor agrees, is a major hurdle to job site safety: But more importantly, what the contractors need to know is that they are not only responsible for the hazards they themselves create on the job site, but also must be aware of those created for their employees by other trades. It is quite possible that the hazard was created by another trade at the site say an electrician but if you expose your employees to that hazard, you also are responsible. The bottom line is that if housekeeping isn t performed by whatever trade you now have a hazardous work environment. A Maryland contractor underscores this: The falls are usually the result of debris and materials lying on floors from earlier trades. It s a never-ending problem. Preventing Injuries COMMON SENSE A Colorado contractor told us, My last hire started as an apprentice 12 years ago. My guys are now experienced, and they all display healthy common sense. In fact, they do not need to be told a lot about safety. An Arizona contractor says, The challenge is getting people to use common sense, as most accidents that happen seem to be a violation of just that, common sense not paying attention. Common sense cannot be stressed enough. Perhaps anyone who has the slightest doubt about the safety of what he or she is about to do should stop, count to 10 and reflect: Does this make sense? People, as a rule, are smart. They can see cause and effect if they look, that is. Making them look is the challenge, but if you succeed at that, you ve taken a big step toward worksite safety. SAFETY AWARENESS A company s safety record reflects that of its leadership, and pushes beyond the idea into the real world by insisting and demanding the same of all employees. There is no cute way of saying this: It s up to the owner to foster a safety culture. SAFETY EQUIPMENT Safety equipment is a given. The company must invest in whatever equipment is needed to protect workers, or insist that the workers bring their own, such as hard hats, safety goggles, gloves and ear protection. The right equipment, used, will do more to prevent injuries than any other factor. The Key Equipment The best safety equipment is a skilled, aware and focused worker. Gary Elledge, operations manager at Brady Company in Los Angeles, could not agree more: The best safety equipment you can have is a trained and focused employee. In fact, that s one thing we focus on. I employ a group that we call safety partners who walk the jobs and coach the workforce daily. That s the only way to bring about a trained and focused employee: a lot of coaching. Although the construction worksite could be considered a field day for accidents, there is no reason to go along with the idea. 16 Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

19 The bottom line is that if housekeeping isn t performed by whatever trade you now have a hazardous work environment. Gerry Golt of Precision Walls in North Carolina sees eye-to-eye with this as well: In fact, we also focus on training to create skilled, alert and focused employees. Reluctant Employees What about those employees who can t be bothered with safety? Tim Wies has run into a few: I find this to be an age issue. The younger guys know that if they are to move up in this industry, they have to accept safety as a part of it; while the older ones a few years from retirement don t want to put up with the inconvenience of hard hats and glasses. To them it s an aggravation. For the younger guys, safety is just the way it is. Shelly Sigurdson at Expert drywall in Washington has seen them too: I m really strict with things like safety glasses, hard hats: If they don t use them, I ll write them up. I don t mess around. Amen to that. EQUIPMENT TRAINING It s back to common sense. If you know how to properly use the equipment, you will not hurt yourself with it if you don t, you will. An employee who never truly got the hang of the nail gun is, on some level, afraid of it. He ll use it tentatively, which is an accident waiting to happen. Ensure that every single employee is fully trained to use is in fact a master at using each tool and piece of equipment he or she will use during the day. Establish training programs as needed, including drilling on practical use. Certainty and proficiency is the immediate target, zero injuries is the goal. PROCEDURES There is a right way to do all things, safely. Developing work procedures should be a shared responsibility of the leadership and the safety director. If there is ever a conflict between the faster way and the safer way, choose the safer way. A Colorado contractor gives a good example: We alternate jobs in order to use different muscles and avoid repetitive motion injuries. Elledge says, We put little books together that we call training-grams, covering subjects like ladder safety. We ll take a ladder, set it up, and show each individual how to set it up properly, how to use it properly. We have training-grams for chop saws, nail guns, scaffolds, you name it; subjects we put together over the years to be able to coach and train our people better, to make them experts. That s how we keep their safety-awareness up. TOOLS BETTER AND SAFER As with procedures, if there is ever a choice between a tool that works faster or works safer, you always choose the safer one. HOUSEKEEPING Les Kanyuk, safety director at San Francisco based Anson Industries, weighs in on housekeeping: In the past, our people used to climb over debris to do their work. They don t have to do that anymore because good housekeeping by the guys themselves and also by scrap boys or utility men often apprentices keeps the floors clean so everyone can produce much faster. Poor housekeeping is the source of 40 percent of job-site injuries. So it is a key focus in our safety program: We demand all our floors be swept clean and as a result, we ve had hardly anybody slipping or tripping, no back injuries. It makes a difference, and it doesn t cost that much to implement. Increased production from proper housekeeping alone is between 25 and 35 percent. DRUG/ALCOHOL FREE WORKPLACE Another dose of common sense: Inebriated or intoxicated employees will injure themselves, if not others. It s not a question of if, it s a question of when and how severely. A no-drugs, no-alcohol in the workplace policy must be established and enforced ruthlessly, taking absolutely no prisoners. Long-Term Exposure Some worksite hazards like asbestos and noise work cumulatively. You may not notice the adverse effect the same day, or the same week, or the same year. But 20 years down the road, you wish you had known (or done) things differently back then. NOISE When it comes to hearing and earplugs, Gerry Golt tells them this joke in class: One of the guys in the back raises his hand and says, You know, I had a problem hearing, but I bought a hearing aid and now I can hear 17

20 perfectly. It cost me $7,000, though. Seven thousand bucks, I say. That is a lot of money. What kind is it? To which he replies, Oh, it s about a quarter to five. Basically, noise is unwanted sound. It is a pollutant and a hazard to human health and hearing. In fact, it has been described as the most pervasive pollutant in America. People who study acoustics define noise as complex sound waves that are aperiodic, in other words, sound waves with irregular vibrations and no definite pitch. 9 Both the amount of noise and the length of time you are exposed to the noise determine its potential to damage hearing. Noise levels are measured in decibels. The higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered hazardous. Warning Signs You must raise your voice to be heard. You can t hear someone 2 feet away from you. Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after leaving a noise area. You have pain or ringing on your ears (tinnitus) after exposure to noise. HEAVY LOADS/LIFTING AND SHIFTING Lifting heavy materials while moving and installing drywall or panels can cause injury to the muscles, discs and ligaments of the lower back. Repetitive lifting can lead to low back strain, muscle strain, ligament sprain, a bulging or herniated disc, nerve damage or other back problems. 10 However, Robert Aird has observed that if a person keeps him/herself in good shape stretching before the day s work and retains some muscle tone, then any risks of lifting weight is diminished. AWKWARD POSTURES If a load is too heavy, or the height of the load is too low, or if the back is twisted during the lift, or the load is held in an awkward position, this can cause back injury. 11 Also, workers may kneel or squat while moving and installing drywall or panels, which can put excessive pressure on the knee joint. Frequent kneeling or squatting can lead to musculoskeletal disorders of the knee. Installing suspended ceiling system often requires working with the hands at or above shoulder height. 12 Overhead work can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as tendonitis of the shoulder, and lifting can cause MSDs of the back and shoulders. The worker may also experience neck pain or injury, because the neck is frequently in an extreme position during overhead work to allow the worker to see what he or she is doing. MSDs are the most common injuries in the construction industry, accounting for more than onethird of all lost workday injuries and about half of all compensation claims. Aird says, The long-term outcome of lifting drywall or any heavy object is less important than the one time one lifts wrongly and torques his back or some muscle group and injures himself. And then in our macho world instead of taking care of the injury properly, he continues to work and exacerbates the injury, potentially causing a career-ending injury. There is a right way to do things, and training employees in the proper ways to lift are simple and extremely valuable in the long term. PLASTER DUST Construction dust generated by mudding and sanding drywall joint compound, in combination with other dust exposures, can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is suspected when someone has a regular cough with phlegm for at least three months a year for two consecutive years. Emphysema is a long-term, progressive disease of the lung that primarily causes shortness of breath. In people with emphysema, the lung tissues necessary to support the physical shape and function of the lung have been destroyed. It goes without saying that respiratory protection is a must in dusty environments. VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUNDS (VOCS) VOCs are compounds that are readily released in the form of a gas from building materials. These gases are associated with a variety of health symptoms such as eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system. It goes without saying that respiratory protection is a must in dusty environments. 18 Foundation of the Wall and Ceiling Industry

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