By Mason Nichols
From initial concepting to design, production and transportation, safety is at the heart of all work performed at precast concrete manufacturing plants.
To help support worker safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires annual safety training across 14 distinct focus areas for employees in construction and general industry.
Abiding by OSHA’s annual training requirements allows facilities to maintain compliance with OSHA standards. But more importantly, it also helps establish the required foundation to support a strong safety culture. Be sure to check out NPCA’s free safety resources related to these topics at precast.org/safety.
Tips for training success
Safety must be the cornerstone of every company and woven throughout all processes.
“Engaging in OSHA’s required training will help remind your team members of what needs to be done at a minimum,” said Jason Brewster, safety and compliance manager at Atlantic TNG in Sarasota, Fla.
Establishing that baseline is important, because it sets a standard required for every job, especially when companies are short-staffed because of illness, vacations or labor shortages. A bedrock of safety throughout company culture ensures that regardless of staffing or production challenges, a team is always working with safety in mind.
To counteract this, Brewster said it is important to train workers on all 14 OSHA areas alongside any safety training measures and programming specific to a site or required by local jurisdictions. This leads to a well-rounded team that keeps safety top of mind every time.
“Each month, we cover one or two of the required annual OSHA trainings, but we will also conduct a few safety toolbox talks on additional topics,” Brewster said. “We have a revolving schedule each year that keeps us in compliance but also covers (other) areas that affect our team members.”
Brewster suggested auditing each work area within a plant to determine specific safety focus areas to stress during the onboarding process with new employees, as well as in ongoing annual safety training for current employees. Identify areas of potential safety issues within the plant, then devise training and training schedules to address each of them. It is important to keep records of all safety training for employees for validation. Also, keep in mind the need to provide safety training in a language the employee understands.
OSHA’s required annual training for construction and general industry covers 14 primary categories. The following is a summary of each topic.
- Occupational Noise Exposure (1910.95, 1926.52)
These standards ensure protection against the effects of noise exposure when sound levels exceed identified levels. An employer must institute a training program for all employees who are exposed to noise “at or above an 8-hour time weighted average of 85 decibels and shall ensure employee participation in the program.”
Additionally, employees must be informed of the effects of noise on hearing, the purpose of hearing protectors and how to use them and the purpose of audiometric testing.
- Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (1910.120, 1926.65)
Employers must develop and implement a written safety and health program for team members involved in hazardous waste operations. This program is intended to “identify, evaluate and control safety and health hazards, and provide for emergency response for hazardous waste operations.”
In general, employees must be trained annually on the names of on-site personnel responsible for site safety and health; safety, health and other hazards present on the site; proper use of personal protective equipment; practices to minimize risks from hazards; safe use of engineering controls and equipment on-site; and more.
- Respiratory Protection (1910.134, 1926.103)
In workplaces where respirators are necessary, OSHA requires the establishment and maintenance of a respiratory protection program. The program shall include required worksite-specific procedures and elements for respirator use.
Annual training also must be administered to ensure team members demonstrate knowledge of why the respirator is necessary; the respirator’s limitations and capabilities; how to effectively use the respirator in emergency situations; and proper care, inspection and maintenance procedures for the respirator.
- Crystalline Silica (1926.1153)
Respirable crystalline silica can pose a significant danger to workers at precast concrete plants. OSHA’s recently established standard on respirable crystalline silica reduces the permissible exposure limit to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over an 8-hour shift.
Precasters must provide annual training to ensure team members demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the health hazards associated with exposure to respirable crystalline silica; specific tasks in the workplace that could result in exposure; and specific measures the employer has implemented to protect employees from exposure.
- Portable Fire Extinguishers (1910.157, 1926.150)
When workplaces provide portable fire extinguishers for employee use during a fire emergency, annual training is required to help familiarize employees with “the general principles of fire extinguisher use and the hazards involved with incipient stage firefighting.”
This training must be provided when a new employee is hired and at least yearly thereafter.
- Mechanical Power Presses (1910.217)
Because of their use in high-production manufacturing and integral operator involvement, mechanical power presses present maximum safety hazards. To mitigate potential issues, employers must annually train both operator and maintenance personnel on safe and proper use.
The employer “shall train and instruct the operator in the safe method of work before starting work on any operation” and “ensure by adequate supervision that correct operating procedures are being followed.” Employers also should maintain a certification record to track this training through time.
- Bloodborne Pathogens (1910.1030)
OSHA defines bloodborne pathogens as “pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans.” Annual training in this area must include a wide variety of components, such as a general explanation of epidemiology and the symptoms of bloodborne diseases; an explanation of the modes of transmission of bloodborne pathogens; an explanation of the employer’s exposure control plan and the means by which an employee can obtain a copy of the written plan; an explanation on the basis of selection of personal protective equipment; and more.
Additional requirements are outlined in OSHA 1910.1030.
- Lockout/Tagout (1910.147)
This standard requires that procedures be developed, documented and used “for the control of potentially hazardous energy” when employees are engaged in a variety of activities, such as the use of heavy equipment or machinery.
Employees must receive annual training to ensure they have proper knowledge and skills required for the safe application, usage and removal of energy controls. Training should include lockout/tagout procedures, responsibility for lock out/tag out equipment and processes.
- Heat Illness Prevention
While no specific OSHA standard guides appropriate measures for heat illness prevention, steps must be taken to ensure employees know the risks.
The OSHA website features a landing page dedicated to heat illness prevention that identifies specific dangers of working in extreme temperatures. The page also includes areas of focus for training, such as identifying the types of heat-related illnesses, the importance of providing first aid to affected workers, procedures for contacting emergency medical services and more.
- Hazard Communication (1910.1200, 1926.59)
These standards ensure that employers provide team members with “effective information and training on hazardous chemicals in their work area” when initially hired and whenever a new chemical hazard is introduced.
Annual training must cover, at a minimum, methods and observations that may be used to detect the presence or release of a hazardous chemical in the work area; specific hazards associated with the release of chemicals in the work area; measures employees can take to protect themselves from these hazards; and the details of the hazard communication plan developed by the employer. Additionally, chemical-specific information must always be available through labels and safety data sheets (SDS).
- Emergency Preparedness and Emergency Drills (1910.38, 1926.35)
A wide assortment of incidents in a precast plant may lead to an emergency. Annual required training in this category helps ensure that team members are adequately equipped for response if one of these emergencies occurs.
OSHA 1926.35 specifically notes that an emergency action plan must be developed that covers “those designated actions employers and employees must take to ensure employee safety from fire and other emergencies.”
The employer must also designate and train a sufficient number of staff members to assist in the execution of the emergency action plan.
- Ladder Safety (1926.1060, 1926.1053)
Ladders commonly are used in precast plants to access areas at height, such as the top of tall forms. Employers must provide annual training that allows team members to recognize hazards related to ladders and stairways and the steps that must be taken to mitigate those hazards.
This includes the nature of fall hazards in the work area; the correct procedures for erecting, maintaining and disassembling fall protection systems to be used; the proper construction, use, placement and care in handling of all stairways and ladders; and the maximum intended load-carrying capacities of ladders used.
- Walking and Working Surfaces (1910.30)
Walking-working surfaces include horizontal and vertical surfaces such as floors, stairs, roofs, ladders, ramps, scaffolds, elevated walkways and fall protection systems.
Annual training in this area is intended to protect workers from serious injuries resulting from working in these areas and must at a minimum include the nature of fall hazards in the work area and how to recognize them; the procedures that must be followed to minimize those hazards; the correct procedures for installing, inspecting, operating, maintaining and disassembling fall protection systems; and the correct use of such fall protection systems.
- Fall Protection (1926.503)
Falls can occur in a variety of places around the plant – from forms, ladders, elevated structures and more.
To protect employees, OSHA requires that employers provide annual training that covers the nature of fall hazards in their work area; the correct procedures for erecting, maintaining, disassembling and inspecting the fall protection systems to be used; the use and operation of fall protection equipment and systems; and more. In addition to annual training, periodic retraining may be required due to changes in the workplace or modifications to fall protection systems and equipment.
The National Precast Concrete Association, in conjunction with NPCA’s Safety Committee, has developed materials to help you establish and execute the safety training required for your team members. To access these tools and other important resources, visit precast.org/safety. PI
Mason Nichols is a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based writer and editor who has covered the precast concrete industry since 2013.