April Showers bring…

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April showers bring May flowers!

At least that is how the saying goes. But April showers have the potential to bring a lot more than just flowers in May. With Spring having officially arrived it is time to Prepare for Spring Weather!

Depending on what part of the country you live and work in your “Spring Weather” can be vastly different from others, but one thing that is very likely regardless of your location is that it will be UNPREDICTABLE!

Flooding

As the temperatures start the rise the snows begin the melt. For those that live down river or down valley from the melt can be devastated by flooding. If the spring thunderstorms hit areas where the snow has melted, flooding is just as likely since the ground is potentially still frozen or is already saturated.

Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms are also quite prevalent in the spring as the warm and cool temperatures collide in the atmosphere. Strong winds can cause trucks to flip over while traveling. Strong winds can also pick up materials that aren’t properly secured and create flying debris hazards.

Lightning is another hazard that comes with Thunderstorms. If you work outside you need to make sure you have a great weather app that can alert you to incoming lightening storms. I personally recommend WeatherBug, but I am sure there are others out there that have similar features. When lightning is detected within a 10 mile radius of where you are working you should stop all outside work and take cover until the lightning moves out of your area.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes are the ultimate of the spring weather hazards. And while tornadoes are most prevalent in “tornado alley” they are possible throughout the US so it is important to be prepared.

For some helpful tips check out the following links from the CDC

Arctic Freeze – Stay Safe!

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Given the Arctic Freeze that America is in the middle of this week, it seems a great time to share some important information regarding Cold Weather Safety and what to do if you find yourself stuck in a Stranded Vehicle

Luckily, for those of us located in Texas for most of the year we don’t have to deal with the extremes of cold weather, but it is still important to make sure we dress appropriately for the weather and that our vehicles are properly stocked for any emergency.

Proper Attire

In the winter, layers are your friend. Especially in Texas where it is not only possible, but likely, to see a temperature swing of 40 degrees from morning to late afternoon. Without layers there is no way to adjust to the temperatures properly.

There are several synthetic options these days, but if you are looking for great natural options then consider wool and cotton. Wool, worn next to your skin, will naturally wick away the sweat so that you remain warm and not chilled. Cotton has some of the same abilities, but it doesn’t work as effectively.

My recommendation is to layer the cotton on top of the wool, followed by a jacket. This will keep you warm in the morning, and allow you to shed your layers through the day as it heats up.

Stocking your car

During the winter make sure your car is stocked with some extra warm clothing, gloves and blankets. While it may not be because of a crazy winter storm, there is always a possibility of being stuck in a stranded vehicle. If that happens you want to make sure you have the ability to stay warm until help arrives.

And if your travels are taking you far afield, make sure it is also stocked with some non-perishable foods and liquids.

Severe Weather and Safety

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As a company Jordan Foster has a dedication to establishing a culture of safety.  From our skill training and HCSS, to our weekly tool box talks and our stand downs, we are working very hard to create a culture of safety and to make everyone realize how essential they are to its success.

With summer and severe weather seasons, even thunderstorms, pose a serious safety risk to anyone working on or near a jobsite.  We all know how the effects of Hurricane Harvey destabilized Houston and the surrounding areas.  Some in the JFC Family felt the effects not only at their jobsites but personally at their homes as well.

Property damage from severe weather events can add both cost and time to a project. While it’s not possible to fully predict and react in a timely fashion to strong winds and storms, a documented and practiced contingency plan can help contractors prepare for the unexpected. Protect your site and project timeline by evaluating site specific risks, properly securing materials and equipment and anticipating alternate construction plans.

Wind Hazards

Wind damage to structures under construction leads to millions of dollars in damages and delays every year. At construction sites, wind damage primarily involves masonry walls, framework, forms and roof coverings. Evaluate your site’s wind exposures to eliminate or significantly reduce the risk of damage or delay.

  • Brace building components. Tilt-up panels, masonry walls and other building components should be braced and inspected according to engineering design or recommended manufacturer guidelines. Anchor roof panels on partially installed roofs, weld or secure decking each day, and consider covering large wall openings with tarp until windows, doors or glass curtain walls are installed.
  • Properly store and handle materials for windy conditions. Loose materials such as sand, topsoil and mulch may need to be covered with a tarp or sprayed with water to prevent erosion. Erecting temporary windbreaks also can help keep the stockpile from being blown from the job site. It is also important to secure larger materials (e.g. metal sheeting or plywood), which could become projectiles and cause additional damage. Closely follow crane manufacturers’ guidelines for when operations should cease, and secure all other equipment from impending weather events.

Tornados

Tornadoes can occur with little or no warning. Taking precautions in advance of the storms, such as developing an emergency plan, learning the warning signs, and monitoring tornado watches and warnings, can help you stay safe if a tornado occurs in your area.

Tornadoes can occur anywhere and at any time during the year. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported throughout the nation. The most violent tornadoes may have wind speeds of 250 mph or more, and may last for more than an hour. Sometimes multiple tornadoes may occur at the same time. Tornadoes can appear rapidly, so it is important to be familiar with the signs in order to stay prepared.

Early warnings about a likely tornado can help save lives. Weather radar systems are used to detect air movement which could indicate that a tornado may be likely to form. Environmental clues may also suggest that a tornado is forming.

Here are some signs to look for:

  • Dark, often greenish clouds or sky
  • Wall cloud
  • Large hail
  • Funnel cloud
  • Roaring noise

Preparing for a Tornado

With wind speeds up to 250 miles per hour, tornadoes are capable of picking up large objects, including cars and machinery. For construction worker, it is crucial all tools and materials are properly stored away when tornado-like conditions appear. If possible, all tools and materials need to be stored inside a vehicle or container to prevent them from being swung around in high winds caused by a tornado.

What to Do During a Tornado

The safest place to be during a tornado is inside a sturdy building. Unfortunately, most construction workers won’t have sufficient time to make it into a sturdy building. If you can’t make it to a building, the safest thing to do is lie down flat and face down on the ground. Protect the back of your head with your arms. If possible, make sure you are far away from trees, vehicles, or other large objects.

If you are driving when a tornado touches down, the safest thing to do is lie down on the ground outside. If you do not have enough time to make it out of your vehicle safely, park, turn the engine off, make sure you are buckled up, and try to put your head down below the window. If you have a blanket or jacket, use that to cover your head. It is never safe to seek cover from a tornado under a bridge, in a mobile home, or in any portable building.

Preplanning

Writing out plans for emergencies for the construction site, including in cases of extreme weather, is an efficient way for everyone to know what they are supposed to do.

The following steps are recommended to help ensure the safety of personnel if a tornado occurs:

  • Develop a system for knowing who is onsite in the event of an emergency
  • Establish an alarm system to warn workers specifically for Tornado emergencies
  • Test systems frequently
  • Develop plans to communicate warnings to personnel with disabilities or who do not speak English
  • Account for workers and others as they arrive in the shelter
  • Take a head count
  • Assign specific duties to employees in advance; create checklists for each specific responsibility. Designate and train alternates in case the assigned person is not there or is injured
  • There are many dangers associated with working in the construction, but tornadoes don’t have to be one of them. With the proper precautions and planning, JFC workers can avoid serious injuries from tornadoes.

Hurricanes

Hurricanes can be destructive, but they can also be anticipated, which allows time for planning and preparation. If your job site is located in an area subject to hurricanes, have it surveyed to determine the potential exposure to high winds and flooding. Create a hurricane contingency plan to help prevent loss to the job site due to winds, flooding, mud deposition and theft.

  • Develop a preparedness checklist. Identify areas in need of protection, such as the field office trailer equipment files, tools, heavy equipment, generators, compressors, welding machines, cranes, cranes on barges, tugs, work boats, fuel tanks, permanent materials and forms.
  • Have a relocation plan. If the job involves work on or near bodies of water, make plans to relocate or protect all equipment and watercraft, including tugs and barges. Account for the amount of time it would take to complete any relocation.
  • Secure the necessary supplies in advance. When a tropical storm has been identified by the National Weather Service, make sure tie-downs, banding material, blocking, anchors and other necessary protection supplies are available and organized.
  • During a hurricane watch, prepare to take action. The project superintendent should review the preparedness checklist, formulate a plan to protect the job site, identify items to secure and consider moving material and equipment to higher, protected ground.
  • In a hurricane warning, prepare for the potential for hurricane-force winds within 24 hours. The project superintendent may need to implement all protection measures.
  • When landfall is predicted in the area of the job site within 24 hours, suspend all work activities. Complete the hurricane plan by assigning staff and timetables for completion and evacuate all personnel.
  • After the storm has passed, assess damage, take steps to prevent theft and begin clean up. Hazards may include unstable structures, downed power lines that may still be energized, and wet or damaged electrical panels. Secure the site, including any equipment or materials being permanently installed, and assess and document damage. Notify appropriate utilities and contact your insurance carrier for damage assessment.

Monsoons and Heavy Rains

Water is one of the leading causes of damage to buildings under construction. Heavy rains can flood a site when drainage systems aren’t complete. These same rains can enter the exterior building envelope through unfinished window and door openings. If roof drains are obstructed, the rising water may find another drain path or try to settle across a level surface.

  • Identify potential for flood and evaluate site drainage.Permanent and temporary drainage systems should be installed, maintained and inspected to ensure they are free of obstructions in the event of heavy rains or flooding. Delay installation of high-value subgrade equipment, such as electrical switchgear, until drainage systems are in place and operational.
  • Avoid installing finished product, until window and door openings are closed, roof is secured and the building is watertight. Use temporary coverings if necessary to protect finished work.
  • The location and construction of temporary roofs should be part of the construction planning process or where installation of the permanent roof is delayed.
  • Have a site-specific plan in place, including emergency response, clean-up kit and trained personnel, to assist with mitigating the damage.
  • It is important to remember that while construction jobs are vulnerable to severe weather, having processes and procedure in the event of severe weather at every job site does not only prepare and reduce the risk involved but it allows for Jordan Foster Employee’s to have knowledge that can help in any situation.

 

Temperature and Humidity… Why they matter.

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The Heat Index is related to both the Temperature and the Relative Humidity. That is why it is common to hear people say “yeah, but that is a dry heat!”. Yes, it is true that at some point “hot” is “hot” no matter what, but the “Heat Index” is how that “hot” feels and how it ultimately can impact your physical condition, particularly when you are not  acclimated to the climate.

Take a look at the chart to see how the humidity can play a significant role in the Heat Index.


Heat Index

 

Heat Stress: Construction Safety and Health

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After the cool temperatures of spring slowly pass, the energy draining temperatures of summer are ready to descend on us. For anyone working outdoors, or work in heat-producing environments, heat is not only uncomfortable, but it can also be very  dangerous.

Heat related sickness affects thousands of workers every year and more than 40 have lost their lives because of it. Unfortunately, about half of these deaths occur in the construction industry. Heat can make anyone sick, but people, who are overweight, have high blood pressure or heart disease are at increased risk. So is anyone who takes allergy medication, decongestants or blood pressure medication.

Heat stress can induce a series conditions and illnesses ranging from rashes and cramps to heat exhaustion and life-threatening heat stroke. However, construction laborers are particularly vulnerable to heat stress and illnesses because of the heavy climates they work in.

Why is heat a hazard to workers?

When working in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain its stable internal temperature. It is able to do this by circulating blood to the skin and through sweating.

If the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, the process of cooling of the body becomes more difficult and the blood that is circulated to the skin cannot lose its heat. Thus, sweating becomes the main way the body cools off. However, sweating is only effective if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation, and if the fluids and salts that are lost are adequately replenished.

Remember, if the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will then store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate will also increase. As the body continues to store heat, the person will begin to lose concentration and will have difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and many times will lose the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.

How to know when it’s too hot:

  • Temperature rises
  • Humidity increases
  • The sun gets stronger
  • There is no air movement
  • No controls in place to reduce the heat imitated from equipment that radiates heat.
  • Protective clothing is work
  • Over all work is strenuous in nature.

Symptoms Heat Illness:

  • Working in high temperatures and humidity, direct sun exposure and no breeze
  • Engaging in heavy physical labor
  • Wearing waterproof clothing

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, fainting
  • Weakness and moist skin
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Upset stomach, vomiting

Symptoms of Heat stroke:

  • Dry, hot skin with no sweating
  • Confusion, loss of consciousness
  • Seizures or convulsions

Heat Exhaustion

What can you do to help prevent and protect workers from Heat Stress?

By following a few precautions you can help prevent Heat Stress

Precautions:

  • Know signs/symptoms of heat illness; monitor yourself; use a buddy system.
  • Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for workers new to the heat or those that have been away from work to adapt to working in the heat (acclimatization).
  • Provide cool water to drink (five to seven ounces) every 15 minutes.
  • Require rest breaks in a cool, shady spot and with fans available.
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest time of the day.
  • When possible, assign work that can be done in the shade.
  • Rotate workers when working in the heat is unavoidable.
  • Suggest workers wear lightweight, light-color clothing.
  • Schedule additional rest breaks for workers who wear protective clothing and check their temperature and heart rate.

If a worker has symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Call 911
  • Move him/ her into shade
  • Provide cool drinking water, if able to drink
  • Wipe skin with cool water
  • Loosen Clothing
  • Fan with cardboard or other material

Working in extreme heat is many times unavoidable when working in construction; however it doesn’t have to be unendurable. With preemptive planning, proper training and investment in cooling systems for workers, construction  laborers can work safely when temperatures are high.

Additional Resources for Information on Heat Stress

If you are looking for additional resources on Occupational Heat Exposure there are two specific ones that we recommend.

OSHA-NIOSH Heat Stress (Heat Safety Tool)

The OSHA NIOSH Heat Stress Tool is a free app for your mobile devices. This app allows you to calculate the heat index for your work site (yes, it is GPS enabled so your information is specific to your actual project) and based on the heat index will display the risk level to the employees that are required to work in the environment. With a simple click you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to adequately protect the worker.

OSHA Heat Stress

CPWR

CPWR also provides additional training materials from OSHA, NIOSH, as well as  materials they have created. (Working in Hot Weather)

 

Cold Stress – How Cold is Cold? Let’s Not Find Out.

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Any worker exposed to cold temperatures can be put at risk of cold stress.

It could take anything such as wind speed increases, which causes the cold air temperatures to feel even colder, to cause a worker to be at risk of Cold Stress.

The most affected are those who work outdoors on a daily basis: recreational workers, snow cleanup crews, construction workers, police officers, and firefighters to name a few.

The risks involved in being exposed to Cold Stress are:

  • Wet or damp clothes.
  • Being dressed in appropriately for the weather conditions and exhaustion
  • Certain health conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism and diabetes.
  • Poor physical condition.

The most common types of cold stress are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot, also known as immersion foot.

When most people think of hypothermia, they think of sub 0゚ temperatures or blizzard like conditions.  Most people would be surprised to learn that hypothermia actually occurs more often in the spring and fall rather than in winter.

The four factors that contribute to Cold Stress are:

  • Cold temperatures
  • High or cold winds.
  • Dampness
  • Cold Water

During extremely cold temperatures the cold environment forces our bodies to work harder to maintain normal body temperature of 98.6゚F

Cold air, water, and snow all cause heat to be drawn from the body. So while it is obvious that below freezing conditions combined with inadequate clothing could bring about cold stress, it is also very important to understand that it can also be brought upon by temperatures in the 50’s, especially, when you add rain and wind as factors.

The combination of air temperature and air movement creates wind-chill. The dangers of working in a cold work environment increase with increased wind speed and lower temperatures.

Prevention:

The best defense against getting colds stress is always planning for the weather that you’re going to work in. Wear protective clothing – wool is better than cotton.   It is important to remember that cotton a great insulator when dry, loses all insulation properties when it gets wet. A great alternative would be to wear wool, which keeps its insulation qualities even when went wet.

  • Protect all your extremities, including your head.  Body heat can be lost from any exposed area, and one of the most forgotten areas to protect is the head.
  • Wear insulated boots and other footwear which is sized appropriately. This allows for proper blood flow.
  • If you get hot while working, open your jacket but remember to keep on your hat and gloves.
  • Always keep a change of dry clothes available in case that your work clothes become wet.
  • It is always better to wear loose clothing since it allows better ventilation.

Work Practices:

Remember to always drink plenty of liquids and stay hydrated. As tempting as it is, avoiding caffeine is recommended.

Take appropriate breaks to warm up as needed.  This may include anything from simply stepping into a sheltered space out of the wind to taking a short break in a warmed environment, whether that is an office or vehicle.

Use the buddy system that we talk about often.  By working in pairs you can keep an eye on each other and watch for signs of cold stress.  There many times where victims of hypothermia may not even recognize the symptoms.

It is important that all employees and supervisors take the time to be trained to detect early signs of cold stress.