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Onsite damage: safety and reporting policies

  • SIMA
- Posted: October 29, 2013
By Scott Zorno, CSP

Onsite damage can cause unsafe conditions and harm equipment, but being aware of potential hazards and having a plan in place for when they occur can decrease chances of damage or injury. An incident I had last year demonstrates this:

I was plowing a new job for the second time with about 5” of snow and it was dark. On the 3rd long, straight pass I hit a manhole cover at a modest plowing speed. The cover was on a 2” riser that brought it just above pavement level, and was now partially displaced and could easily be a hazard.  Fortunately, I had access to safety cones and put them over the cover as a temporary solution.

Since this was a subcontract job, I came back right after daybreak and shot some pictures with my phone and sent them to the contractor with a brief explanation as to what happened. I called one of my loader operators who had a lot of experience with sewers and manhole covers, and together we removed the riser then put the cover in place. It was now recessed about 1.5 inches and safe to work with. 

Lessons learned from this incident are good takeaways for preventing and dealing with onsite damage:

Inspect sites for obstacles preseason.
Do a preseason walk-through, paying special attention to visible obstacles like tree islands, curbs and protruding manhole covers. Other obstacles to be aware of are speed bumps, handicap access ramps, loading dock guard posts and drain spouts that extend into plowing areas.  Make sure these obstacles get photographed and are included on the site plan.

Mark known obstacles.
Use fiberglass marker poles with orange flagging as a reminder of problem areas or obstacles, even if you cannot mark the obstacle itself.

Have necessary supplies on hand.
Immediately secure the area where damage has occurred. Every site should have some way to barricade or mark damage, whether it is cones, flares or another system. If necessary, leave a ridge of snow stacked around a dangerous spot and flag for things like sinkholes, roof slides and road washouts.

Communicate damage as soon as possible.
Communicate to property management when an issue surfaces, especially if there is a hazard to normal traffic flow. If necessary, park your truck to block the hazard and run your emergency lights or flashers until something more can be done. Also notify your owner or team lead, as they may have resources you do not know about.

Make sure employees know onsite damage procedures.
Every employee should know what to do when onsite damage occurs. Since damage can be potentially hazardous (ex. live wires from a downed light pole), a good process can ensure that employees aren’t afraid to admit to damage.

Have emergency phone numbers handy.
Make sure you have emergency numbers for the city you’re working in, including police, fire, water department, etc. These can come in handy if damage occurs to fire hydrants, light poles or other city property.

Scott Zorno, CSP is owner of Care Enterprises in Bailey, CO, and a member of the SIMA Editorial Committee.

Thank you to Snow Safety Week sponsors The BOSS & Progressive Insurance.
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