Toolbox Talk: Fill Up Safely

We wouldn’t need this post if we could simply drive the crane or haul the compressor to the comer gas station every time it needed fuel. But on a construction site, nine times out of ten it’s not practical to bring the equipment to the fueling site. So you bring the fuel to the equipment. Since gasoline is specially manufactured to be one of the most explosive of all flammable liquids, that’s how it works in the engine, we need to take special precautions in transporting and using it.

Whether you are fueling fixed, semi-portable or self-propelled machines, the rules are the same: fuel while the engine is cold, shut off the engine, wipe up spills immediately, and no smoking. Fueling should be done in well ventilated areas, away from flammable surroundings or ignition sources such as sparks, heat, static electricity, or faulty wiring. The same sources we stay away from when using any flammable liquid. When large quantities of fuel are needed, self-propelled tank vehicles are the safest way to transport fuel. Portable tanks with hand operated pumps can be used in some cases, if the terrain permits.

These tanks should be positioned on stable ground and blocked and protected from rolling when fueling. They don’t need to be bonded or grounded if the metal nozzle is in contact with the fuel tank being filled. Take special care to avoid spilling. Drain the hose after fueling so fuel won’t be spilled in the next fueling operation. Never position the fueling tank so that the gas must travel through more than 15 feet of unsupported hose, or where the hose must be pulled tight to reach the tank being filled. When they’re not in use, park portable tanks out of the way of moving equipment, with wheels blocked, if the ground is not level. For smaller fueling operations, where fuel is in a hand carried portable container, be sure the container has a sturdy carrying handle with a flexible metal spark arrester spout small enough to fit in the tank opening and it is equipped with a spill proof sealable lid. The tank should be designed for this use and clearly labeled.

The most important thing to remember in fueling operations is to keep the explosion inside the engine where it belongs. Remember always shut off the engine and other nearby engines while fueling, fuel cold engines only, wipe up spills immediately, and stay away from ignition sources.

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Toolbox Talk: Stairs and Walkways

Stairways and walkways in all businesses can be the cause of injuries. These passageways do not typically get the maintenance they need, since they are “only” access ways and not production areas. Here are ten safety tips to help eliminate exposures at your company.

  1.  Always keep one hand free to use the handrails, both up and down the stairways.

  2.  Keep all stairs and walkways clear of debris and potentially slippery substances such as ice, snow, water, oil, or grease.

  3.  Keep passageways free of tools, equipment and other materials. Always practice good housekeeping in these non-production areas.

  4. When walkways and stairs are provided-use them. Don’t short-cut your safety to save a few steps or a few seconds. Hopping off loading docks or jumping over piping saves no time or money if you are injured and cannot work.

  5. Handrails can become loose and may need to be re-secured or replaced. Do not assume someone else will repair or report it. Immediately mention any problem to the right person, such as your supervisor, or take the time to fix it yourself.

  6. Where there are elevation changes in walkways, highlight the change so it is plainly visible. Distinguishing the change alerts those unfamiliar with the walkway to the hazard.

  7. Secure electrical cords and hoses so that they do not lie across walkways. If electrical cords must be laid across walkways, use approved cord covers whenever possible. Consider setting up a caution sign or flagging to alert individuals of cords or hoses in their path until a permanent “approved” solution can be put into place.

  8. Take small steps on wet and icy walkways. Use handholds to stabilize yourself when they are available. Asphalt and oiled surfaces can also be hazardous because rain water may produce an oil sheen and create slippery walking conditions.

Unlike some exposures, stairway hazards or slippery walkways can appear overnight. Take action to remedy the problem when you see it.

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Toolbox Talk: Knife Safety

Frequently we have a need to use knives and other cutting tools in our jobs, as well as at home. We cut bindings off boxes of paper. We cut seafood, meat or poultry. We open containers of all sorts. We cut ropes, cloth and various materials and adapt them to our use. But we don’t always do this safely.

Watch someone use a knife sometime and notice how often they risk being injured by cutting toward their body parts. You might see individuals hold a loaf of bread near their chest and cut toward themselves when slicing off a chunk. Sometimes when cutting a rope, we bend the rope into a loop and insert the knife into the loop facing upward. When the knife is drawn up through the rope, the force of the cutting action can bring it to the face or other body parts. This is not a good idea! An unwise but common use of box knives is to reach across the box and draw the knife toward you. This is foolish.

A Sharp Knife is a Safer Knife!

It takes less force to cut through an object with a sharp knife. This gives you greater control of the blade. When heavy force is applied, the blade often cuts deeper than intended–sometimes into your flesh. When someone tells you their knife is so dull it wouldn’t cut hot butter, don’t you wonder why they are still using it?

Hand and arm protection is also available for occupations that require the use of knives. Specialty gloves protect hands and arms from cuts and punctures. Smart workers wear this protection consistently.

The bottom line is to practice good knife safety:

  • Sharpen it or get rid of it!

  • Use the right knife for the job.

  • Wear cut-resistant gloves when appropriate.

  • Always cut away from you, and you’ll never cut yourself!

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Toolbox Talk: New Job- What Are the Odds For Injury?

Do you feel lucky ?

How many companies have you worked for in your career? How many different projects have you worked on? How many times have you changed occupations: from an oiler to an operator; from a laborer to a carpenter; or from a ironworker to a welder, then to a lead man?

Every time you have made one of these changes you’ve faced a higher probability of being injured on the job. Studies show that in heavy industries up to 25% of injuries, or 1 in every 4 workers, will be injured within the first 30 days of starting work. Think of that–the first 30 days!

The majority of you have years of experience, BUT you still fall into this category time and time again. In fact, every time you change companies or change jobs you play the odds, and fall into the 1-in-4 statistic. That’s because new-hires are not just green, inexperienced workers. They are also people who are new to their occupation, their job, or a specific work environment.

In your profession, you’ve learned the `tricks-of-the-trade’ that allow you to work safely and efficiently. How did you learn your trade and the methods that make you a valuable asset to this company? You probably had some formal training, as well as lots of on-the-job-training.

OJT means you learned your job from practice and from those already experienced in the trade. Now, as you work beside new-hires, it is your experience that must be passed on. Remember, it doesn’t matter whether this person is a 25-year veteran in the business who is simply new to this company, or if they are a green trainee who just bought their first set of tools. All of these people are playing the odds.

So, keep a helpful eye on the new-hires in your crew. Take the time to describe the layout of the project, the best method to access the work, or how to work a tool they have never used. Everyone wants to learn the best way to do a job. Someone probably showed you how to do things, so take the time to help out your partner. When you show your co-worker the safest and smartest way to do a job, it helps keep you safe as well.

Over 90% of all injuries are caused by an unsafe act–someone doing things the wrong way. How many of these injuries do you think happened because the worker just didn’t know the safest or smartest way to get it done, or didn’t want to ask for fear of being ridiculed?

You will be playing the odds a lot throughout your career. Reduce your chances of becoming an accident statistic by asking questions if you’re new to the job. Help someone else avoid being a statistic by teaching them the tricks-of-the-trade you’ve learned from experience. It’s a two-way street.

 Whenever you begin a new job, you are the rookie who is playing the odds. Work safely, ask questions, and go home every night without an injury. Beat the odds!

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August Newsletter Now Available!

The August Newsletter is here!

Click below to access the PDF version.

IEC Newsletter August 2016

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Toolbox Talk: Written Safety Progams

The formal safety program is a set of written documents that describe a company’s safety policies, priorities, and responsibilities. The program is designed to bring structure and consistency into a firm’s accident prevention efforts. Without a written document, you might as well have a construction crew without a blueprint, or a factory without a production plan.

However, just because a safety program is written, doesn’t mean it is always followed. To be effective, everyone on the management team must understand what is expected of them and safety must be an ongoing, essential part of production. This means the entire workforce must have an occasional reminder of what accident prevention is all about. Key safety program elements are:

1. Management’s Safety Policy – This is usually a simple but important statement, emphasizing that the safety and well being of employees is of the highest priority in the firm, and will be fully supported by top management.

2. Responsibilities of Management, Supervisors, and Employees – Safety responsibilities at every level of the organization must be clearly defined in writing and in training, so everyone has a fair and equal chance to live up to what is expected of them.

3. Safety Rules – A list of specific Safe Work Practices must be established for the safety of each individual and all co-workers. These “conditions of employment: can prevent accidents during production–but workers and companies often tend to forget them, unless they are enforced.

4. Disciplinary Policy – When any individual fails to follow established safety rules, the entire work team may be at risk. And when rules are ignored by many, the idea of consistent safe work practices “goes down the tube.” The disciplinary policy defines how safety rules will be enforced fairly and consistently. The typical policy is a form of “Three Strikes and You’re Out.”

5. Safety Meetings – Responsibilities and safety procedures are rarely followed by everyone without an occasional reminder. Like the vaccinations we got as kids, we all need booster shots for a good “take.” Most worksites have a variety of hazards to discuss, and safety meetings provide this opportunity. Many hazardous industries hold them weekly. Remember, though, you needn’t wait for a safety meeting to correct a potentially hazardous situation.

Why a written safety program? As workers we need to know what is specifically required of us, to perform our job safely. As supervisors we need the tools and guidance to help us manage a safe production process. As management, we must continually protect our greatest asset–the workforce.

 Safety is a teamwork effort. Let’s everyone remember the important part they play!

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Toolbox Talk: Cuts and Burns

Nicks, cuts, scratches and burns. Minor injuries that can occur to any one of us no matter how careful we are. Minor injuries to the skin that are often ignored. But it must be remembered that skin is a vital organ; one that should not be ignored. Not only is skin the largest bodily organ, it also keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. So what do you do when you get a minor injury? If you are like many, you realize a doctor’s visit is not necessary and try to treat the injury yourself. How do you know when to seek professional treatment? How do you treat injuries that do not require a doctor’s visit?


Cuts require immediate professional attention if:

  • There is severe bleeding, especially arterial wounds, which literally pump blood from the body.
  • Puncture wounds, such as those caused by a rusty nail or animal bite. These will require a tetanus booster shot.
  • Cuts more than one half inch long and one quarter inch deep, which will require stitches.

To treat any cuts, first stop the bleeding and then treat to prevent infection. Place a sterile gauze (or if you do not have any gauze, a clean cloth) over the wound and hold it until the bleeding stops. Apply pressure continuously. If the gauze or cloth soaks through, simply place another cloth over the first and resume the pressure. When the bleeding has stopped, wash the cut with soap and water, followed by a disinfectant. If the bleeding does not stop, get professional treatment. After the cut is clean, look for any foreign object(s) in the cut and remove them. If you do not, a threatening infection may set in. To aid in keeping the wound clean while it heals, you can cover it with a bandage. However, if you use a bandage, remember it will need attention too. Change it twice daily and use an antibiotic cream to prevent further infection. Keep in mind that wounds exposed to air heal faster. But it is also very important to keep a wound clean and dry to prevent infection. Treatment for a scrape is the same, except you do not have to worry about stopping blood flow as there is very little.


Burns are classified as first, second, or third degree. A first degree burn causes redness. Blistering is caused by a second degree burn. Charred, blackened or blanched skin are signs of a third degree burn. Furthermore, burns can be caused by heat (thermal burns) or by contact with chemicals. Seek professional,medical treatment for:

  • All third degree burns.
  • Second degree burns involving more than one fifth of the body or if the burn has affected the face, hands, feet, or genitalia.

First aid treatment for a burn involves relief of pain, infection prevention and treatment or prevention of shock. If a burn begins to blister, cool it by placing your hand or foot in cold, still (not running) water. You will need to use an ice pack on any other part of the body. Gently clean the burn and cover the area with sterile, non-stick gauze. Change the dressing twice a day. Never puncture a blister. This just opens the door for infection. Never use butter, oils, or petroleum jelly on burns.

If the burn is due to a chemical exposure, flush the burned area with running water for at least 15 minutes. While you flush, remove any contaminated clothing, especially clothing in the area of the burn. Check the first aid instructions for the chemical. These are found on the container and/or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Treat as specified. Cover the burn with a clean dressing and call a doctor.

If a third degree burn is involved, get professional medical treatment quickly. Call an ambulance first. While awaiting professional help, make sure any fire is out and/or remove the victim from the burn source. DO NOT REMOVE ANY CLOTHING OR APPLY ANY DRESSINGS. Treat for shock and make sure the victim is still breathing.

Use common sense in all situations. Maintain a well stocked first aid kit and be familiar with first aid procedures. Being knowledgeable and prepared may be the smartest first step of all.

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