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Perhaps the best tool to come along in industrial construction (at least as far as safety is concerned) is the Field Level Risk Assessment or Job Hazard Analysis. Whatever you call it, this is a tool that makes everyone stop and think about the different risks associated with the task. The same principle of these risk assessments can be done in our shops. Simply take a four-second “reset”. Take four seconds before starting some new familiar task. 

This four second reset was first instituted on CN Rail. This was part of a strategy to reduce the number of very serious incidents they were having including many amputation injuries. What they found was that their employee knew the rule or procedure to do the job without getting injured but were simply not focused. Even well rested employees were getting caught up in the routine of the day and found themselves daydreaming or thinking about other things. 

This act of refocusing has been shown to reduce the probability of an injury incident by more than 90% versus not taking the four seconds. How hard is that? You may have done the task you are about to perform thousands of times before. In your mind, you know that you could do it with your eyes closed. It is usually not the task itself but some small thing you did not anticipate that causes the incident. You did not notice the debris in front of the tool you were going to pick up. You did not notice somebody placed something on the part you were about to pick up. You did not realize how heavy a piece is that you were asked to help carry. It is easy to imagine the different activities we do every day and how this applies. For example, getting in a forklift and having a quick look around. We change our thinking from where we are going to focusing on the area, road conditions, other vehicles and so on. This is the “reset” we are talking about. 

Believe it or not, four seconds is all it takes. Get in this habit of taking four seconds and it significantly reduces the chance of injury. We highly recommend this four second “reset” as an excellent way to refocus on the job at hand, and we believe that this is one very effective method to prevent injury on and off the job. 

Guardrails serve to protect against falls that can seriously injure or even kill, but the amount of protection guardrails provide depends on how they are constructed and maintained. 

Most guardrails are built of strong materials and are usually fairly solid when first constructed. However, guardrails are often abused, weakened, broken, and removed without being replaced. Weakened guardrails are sometimes more dangerous than no guardrails at all because they give a false sense of security.

3 Ways to Engage in Guardrail Failure Prevention
  1. Fix It. If you discover a weakened or missing rail section, upright or toe board, correct the situation if you can. 
  2. Report it. If you can’t immediately correct the situation, report it to someone who can so that the hazard can be eliminated
  3. Check It. If you bump a rail with material or equipment, check back to see if it is weakened and then fix or report any needed repairs.

You can help keep you and your co-workers safe by getting into the habit of checking guardrails. Finally, use caution when repairing or replacing guardrails, as you are exposed to the very danger that you are trying to protect against.

William Powell III, or Billy as he as known to most, is a Regional Safety Manager for Donley's, Inc. 
Learn more about Donley's safety program.

Our third and final post in our It’s Electrifying series focuses on electrical cord maintenance. Follow these inspection tips to ensure electrical cords are safe to use.

  • Only 3-prong extension cords with correct rating may be used. 
  • Check your cords rating AND the equipment’s amps to ensure the cord is compatible with the equipment.

  • Tools and cords should be inspected on a regular basis to ensure everyone’s safety. Questions to ask during inspection include:

    1. Is there any insulation showing?
    2. Is there any twisting of the wire inside the extension cord?
    3. Is there proper strain relief?
    4. Is the cord wired correctly?

  • Damaged cords or cords showing insulation should be removed from service and tagged, “DO NOT USE” 
  • Tools or cords tagged "DO NOT USE" should be repaired or disposed of immediately.
  • Flexible cords should always be used in continuous lengths without splicing or taping. This means NO ELECTRICAL TAPE should ever be used to splice two lengths together
  • Hard service flexible cords No. 12 or larger may be repaired, if repaired by a designated Competent Person and the cord is repaired back to original quality.

Taking a few extra moments to inspect the cords on your job site or at home may just save a life.

William Powell III, or Billy as he as known to most, is a Regional Safety Manager for Donley's, Inc. 
Learn more about Donley's safety program.

Over the next few weeks, we will be focusing on electrical safety and what to look for when inspecting tools, cords, and other sources that carry electrical current. We start our series by focusing on the basics: electrical terminology.


Voltage - electrical pressure (water pressure)

Resistance - restriction to electrical flow (pipe friction)

Amperes - electrical flow rate (gallons/min)

Watts – amount of electricity used.



There are four main hazards associated with electricity:

  1. Shock
  2. Arcing/Sparking
  3. Explosions
  4. Fires

Shock: A shock can be defined as an electrical current travels in closed circuits; occurs when a part of your body becomes part of an electric circuit; or when an electric current enters the body at one point and exits the body at another

Arcing or Sparking: Arcing or sparking occurs when high-amperage currents jump from one conductor to another

Explosions: Occur when electricity provides a source of ignition for an explosive mixture in the atmosphere

Fires: Electricity is one of the most common causes of fire

Check back for more… Our next "Its Electrifying" posting will focus on rules to follow when using electrical equipment.

William Powell III, or Billy as he as known to most, is a Regional Safety Manager for Donley's, Inc. 
Learn more about Donley's safety program.
The tool belt is the mark of a tradesman, a hard-working person who knows how to get the job done.  Even if you don’t use one at work, chances are you use a tool belt for home maintenance and renovation work.  Using a tool belt correctly will help ensure safety while working. 

Some major do’s and don’ts are:

Tool Belt DO’s
  • DO choose the right belt assembly to keep implements safe and secure
  • DO make sure the tool belt is made of a sturdy material
  • DO keep tools in correct sized pockets, pouches, and slots
  • DO balance the weight of a tool belt so the weight is equal on each side (the average tool belt should weigh 15-20 pounds)
  • DO guard all sharp tools with scabbards or sheaths
Tool Belt DON’TS
  • DON’T pack around excess supplies causing unnecessary weight
  • DON’T use the tool belt as a safety belt when working from heights
  • DON’T hang tool belt on nails, hooks or other protruding objects
  • DON’T wear belt repeatedly causing chronic discomfort and back problems
Carrying tools on a belt keeps hands free for tasks and work; just always make sure to follow the do’s and don’ts of tool belts!

Quick Quiz - Where is the nearest fire extinguisher right now? Where is the closest portable fire extinguisher to your work area?

It is very important that we are aware of the locations of portable fire extinguishers because if a fire were to occur, in the panic of the moment seconds count.

More importantly, when is the last time you actually looked at the portable fire extinguisher in your work area?

  • Is it charged fully?
  • Is it damaged?
  • Is it the proper type for the hazards in your area?
  • Is it hung properly?
  • Is it blocked?
  • Has it been hydrostatically tested in the past 5-12 years?

In the construction industry, fatalities have been known to occur because corrosion build-up on the bottom of the fire extinguisher was serious enough that the extinguisher case ruptured when it was activated. The parts struck the employee in the chest.

 A similar incident occurred in 1988. This fire extinguisher had a rubber boot or cap to protect the bottom of the cylinder case. Moisture had seeped in between the rubber and outside cylinder wall and caused the cylinder to corrode inside the boot.


Over time, this corrosion weakened the cylinder and it ruptured when the internal CO2 cylinder was activated. Other extinguishers of this type have been found to have the same type of corrosion underneath the rubber boot.

These stories remind us of the importance of In-depth inspections and routine testing of these devices. Especially if your fire extinguishers have rubber or plastic boots or caps and are located in potentially corrosive environments such as:

  •  outside, unprotected from the weather
  •  wet or damp environment, or
  •  near marine facilities or other waterfront buildings, especially those located near salt water

Many contractors have a third-party service inspect fire extinguishers monthly or on another periodic schedule. However, we also recommend taking personal responsibility because safety is everyone's responsibility. Have you looked at the extinguisher in your work area? Are you sure it has been looked at recently? Are you sure it wasn't missed during the last formal inspection? 

We urge you to take a moment today and take a look at any extinguisher in your area. Let your superintendent or supervisor know if you see signs that it is damaged or uncharged so it can be taken out of service and a replacement installed... it may just save a life.

Setting a good example is not a put-on. It's simply working safety into your daily routine at home and on the job. When we all work safely, everyone's job is safe and their future more secure.

New employees certainly benefit by seeing operations conducted the safe way. As you all know from experience, people new on the job take a while to adjust and to discover who they are in the overall set-up of the plant. New employees who have never held a job before or were employed by a firm that had a weak safety program probably will need considerable safety instruction. We will attempt to give it to them, but naturally, they also observe and seek advice and information from fellow workers. These early impressions of you and of safety operations will be at least partially formed through these contacts and observations.

On the other hand, newcomers formerly employed by a firm that emphasized safety will probably think more of you personally if you measure up to the caliber of people they are accustomed to working with.

"Don't do as I do; do as I say" is a pretty tired expression, and it got tired because we all have repeated it many times not just verbally but through our actions; and actions speak louder than words. When we leave our safety glasses resting on our foreheads rather than in place over our eyes, or when we kick an empty milk carton under a bench rather than pick it up, we're selling safety but it's a useless soft sell. Our actions are saying, "I believe in wearing eye protection but not in protecting my eyes; and I know trash can cause a tripping accident, but it isn't important enough to make me pick it up." 

There's another angle to setting good examples. Too often people dress to impress others with their good taste rather than their knowledge of safety. Wearing rings, bracelets, and other ornaments is dangerous around machinery and in many other jobs where it's possible for jewelry to be caught by moving parts of machinery, thus cause injury to the wearer. Long sleeves, floppy pant legs, and long hair can be hazardous on some jobs, too.

So we should always dress for the job. Our image as a fashion expert may suffer, but it will give way to the more important and more beneficial image of safety.

Maybe some of us feel we are already setting good examples for safety, but maybe this self-image isn't too accurate. Think just for a moment isn’t it strange that we always think about having the nice things happen to us and when we think about an accident, it's usually happening to someone else?

Accidents are a reality. Make your personal safety just as real and you'll have a good chance of not becoming the other person to whom accidents are always happening.

We also might remember that our children someday will be entering the work force. And they, like the newcomer on the job, can benefit by our actions that exemplify safety consciousness.

Most of us try to demonstrate to our kids how to cross streets or how to light matches when they're of age. If, through the years, your kids learn from you how to use a ladder correctly, or that it's good practice to keep tools in their proper places or that there's a right way to lift things, you've given them an additional opportunity for the better life the future promises.
Over the past few weeks we have been discussing some of the chemistry of hazardous materials; today I am going to expand our science curriculum into combustion.  Any program on fire prevention and safety is based on a clear understanding of how materials ignite. In order for a fire to occur, three elements are required; Oxygen, Heat, and Fuel. These elements are frequently shown as the "fire triangle."

The elements of combustion are very similar to the construction of a triangle in that all sides must come together before a fire can occur. Therefore, the goal of a fire safety program is to keep these elements apart. Since oxygen is present in nearly all industrial work situations we must separate or control the heat and fuel sources to reduce the chances of fire.

Take a look around your work areas today--and everyday--where both heat and fuel sources may be found. And remember housekeeping is important. Keep your work areas clean and organized. It is also important to know your evacuation route in case of a fire, as well as the location of the nearest fire extinguisher.

Lemons are great in ice tea but not so great when they accidentally come in contact with your skin or eyes.  Lemon juice has a ph level of 2.4.  This is why it can burn when you come in contact with it.  pH is a numeric scale used to specify the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. 

Last week, I explained some of the hazards of portland cement and the caustic nature of this white powder.  When mixed with moisture, portland cement becomes highly caustic (pH > 12).

It is important to know the pH of substances because they may be corrosive or react with incompatible materials. For example acids and bases should not be stored or used near each other as their accidental combination could generate a huge amount of heat and energy, possibly resulting in an explosion.  pH is also important to know in case you spill the material on your skin or in eyes. 

The pH values of some common substances are given in the table below.


Typical pH


Typical pH


Typical pH

Stomach acid (gastric juices)




Pure water




Baking soda


Lemon juice


Household ammonia




Household bleach




Portland Cement

12 - 13

The pH scale is logarithmic. That means each change of one in pH value is 10 times more acidic. Therefore, a substance with a pH of 2 is 1000 times more acidic than one with a pH of 5!

On any given day, there are numerous ways that we can come in contact with site particles.  Whether through the air or from direct contact, these materials can be very dangerous.  Today I share some of the hazards of portland cement and the caustic nature of this white powder.

When mixed with water, or when in contact with moisture such as in eyes or on skin, portland cement becomes highly caustic (pH > 12) and will damage or burn (as severely as third-degree) the eyes or skin.


  • Exposure to airborne dust may cause immediate or delayed irritation or inflammation of the cornea.
  • Eye contact by larger amounts of dry powder or splashes of wet portland cement may cause effects ranging from moderate eye irritation to chemical burns and blindness.




  • When engaged in activities where portland cement dust or wet portland cement or concrete could cement products could contact the eye, wear goggles or safety glasses with side-shields.
  • In extremely dusty environments and unpredictable environments, wear unvented or indirectly vented goggles to avoid eye irritation or injury.
  • Contact lenses should not be worn when working with portland cement or wet portland cement products.



Seek medical attention immediately and flush eye thoroughly with water. Continue flushing eye for at least 15 minutes, including under lid, to remove all particles.