Utility Contractor

SEP-OCT 2018

As the official magazine of NUCA, Utility Contractor presents the latest information affecting every aspect of the utility construction industry, including technological advancements, safety issues, legislative developments and instructional advice.

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36 Utility Contractor | September/October 2018 Employee Safety Training and Orientation E xcavation work is inherently dangerous. Prior to starting work at a jobsite, workers should be in- formed of the potential hazards that may exist in their work environment. In addition to knowing how to recognize hazards, workers need to know how to avoid unsafe conditions. OSHA and state safety regulations require employers to train and educate work- ers to recognize and protect themselves from hazardous conditions. After all, how can an employer expect employees to work safely if the worker is not aware of what constitutes an unsafe condition and/or what conditions exist? Even though one job may be similar to the next, conditions often change and workers need to be aware of those changes. For ex- ample, the last job may have been located on a back street where there was little traffic and the job starting tomorrow will be on a very busy street. Conditions will be different and the crew needs to be reminded about working safety around traffic. As a safety professional, I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have heard employ- ers, managers, foremen and crew leaders say that safety is just a matter of common sense. I agree to some extent, but when it comes to the unique hazards found around underground construction jobsites, I have to draw a line. Every worker in the industry should at mini- mum be provided with a safety orientation so they are aware of the hazards commonly found at jobsites involving excavations. With unemployment rates hovering at all- time lows, utility construction contractors are struggling to find and retain skilled workers to man pipe laying and cable crews. This has created a need to hire workers who do not have all the skills and safety training necessary for the underground construction industry. In addition, the underground construction industry is experiencing a grow- ing influx of Spanish-speaking workers, which can present training challenges for employers. The concentration of Spanish-speaking workers who per- form excavation and trenching activities are not limited to the South and U.S – Mexico border states. Today we are seeing a significant number of Spanish-speaking crews in the Mid- Atlantic, Midwestern, and Western states, and the trend north- ward is expected to continue. It is clear that there is an in- creased need for safety training in both English and Spanish. Statistics show that most accidents occur within the first six months of employment. Safety professionals believe that orientations are necessary to help ensure the safety of a new employee, especially workers who are new to the industry. However, new yet experienced employees should not be ex- cluded from training. Companies should design orientations around the assumption that new hires have no safety training. SAFETY MANAGEMENT

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