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Masonry Safety

by admin on July 27th, 2010

Safety is crucial on any job site. An employer needs to think not only of the rising costs of workman’s compensation and safety violation fines but, more importantly, of the lives of his employees and the general public around the job site. A safety program is usually required on all projects by all contractors. The mere weight of the material can cause injury if lifted improperly or stacked in an unstable manner. It is important to always wear the proper safety equipment so that eyes and skin are protected from flying debris while cutting, ears are protected from loud noises, and airways are protected from damaging dust particles.

Safety has two basic principles on any job site. The first is to keep the job sight safe from accidents, thereby keeping job productivity up and downtime to a minimum. The second is to keep the general public safe from falling debris and other job-site hazards.

All safety programs should be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA), State Bureau of Workers Compensation and the general contractor.  A Hazmat program will also be required for all jobs with materials having data sheets.

Proper safety equipment should be worn at all times while on a jobsite. Such equipment includes hard hats, eye protection such as safety glasses or face shields, a respirator or face mask when working with chemicals or cutting, ear protection, and protective clothing such as gloves, long sleeved shirt, pants and boots. Additionally, personal fall arrest systems may be necessary or the use of safety nets or other equivalent protection. For additional information on safety equipment, got to the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsmen Website.

Jobsites should be prepared with caution tape and barricades or proper signage to mark off restricted or limited access areas. All masonry materials should be properly stacked on the ground to avoid overturning or collapse and proper lifting techniques should be employed. Be sure that your back is straight, legs bent, and the weight between your legs is as close to the body as possible. Also, avoid twisting at the waist while lifting or carrying materials. Use ladders or scaffolding when necessary so that you are working at a safe working height and not lifting masonry materials above your head. . When working with reinforced masonry, all protruding reinforcing steel or rebar, onto and into which employees could fall, must be guarded to eliminate the hazard of impalement.

If scaffolding is being used, it must consist of at least two 2″ x 10″ planks and must overlap by at least 6″. They must support a minimum of 25 pounds per square foot over a maximum span of eight feet. All scaffold platforms should have guardrails, mid-rails and toe boards along all open sides and ends. If using walkway systems is not practical, employees must wear personal fall arrest systems, or employees should be protected by safety nets or other equivalent protection. For additional information on scaffolding, please go to Environmental Health and Safety Online.

Great care should be taken to protect occupational health and environmental quality when using any potentially hazardous and toxic chemical grouts, sealers or other potentially harmful material. Any unknown substances should be treated as potentially hazardous and toxic materials. The manufacturer’s recommendations should always be followed.  If there is a chemical spill, consult Material Safety Data Sheet, (MSDS).

In order to keep employees properly informed in the case of an emergency, safety and health trainings (such as first aid and CPR) should be offered along with trainings on proper lifting techniques. Additionally, weekly tool box talks on common safety issues can be conducted at job sites. Many insurance companies offer seminars on job safety. Training programs are also often conducted by local safety councils, trade associations or employee assistance programs. Check to see if onsite consultation programs by safety and health consultants are available in your area. Fines can often be avoided if safety violations are found and rectified prior to OSHA or government inspections.  Limited access areas should be erected to keep out the general public and unauthorized personnel. Be sure to check all equipment in advance to make sure is it functioning properly and dispose of and replace anything that is unsafe. Lastly, be sure to keep the job site picked up and organized so that materials and tools can be easily found when needed and to minimize hazards to workers.

It is necessary to analyze the worksite prior to beginning any job to check for potential safety hazards. A limited access zone needs to be established whenever a masonry wall is being constructed prior to the onset of the job. The zone must be equal to the height of the wall being constructed plus four feet and span the entire length of the wall on the side of the without scaffolding; entry should be restricted to employees actively engaged in constructing the wall. The limited access zone must be kept in place until the wall is adequately supported to prevent overturning and collapse, unless the wall is more than eight feet in height and unsupported, in which case it must be braced. Bracing must remain in place until the structure’s permanent supporting elements are in place. Barricades should be erected and caution tape put up to keep the general public and unauthorized employees out of the area.

If scaffolding is not being used or if scaffolding does not meet OSHA requirements, it is necessary for employees to wear a personal fall arrest system. It must have proper anchorage and connectors, a body belt or body harness and may include a lanyard, deceleration device, lifeline or a combination of these.