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Trenching Safety

Courtesy of State Compensation Insurance Fund of California A trench is a narrow channel that is deeper than it is wide, made below the surface of the ground. A trench can be up to 15 feet wide. An excavation is any man-made hole or trench that is made by removing earth. Trenching is recognized as Read »

Courtesy of State Compensation Insurance Fund of California

A trench is a narrow channel that is deeper than it is wide, made below the surface of the ground. A trench can be up to 15 feet wide. An excavation is any man-made hole or trench that is made by removing earth. Trenching is recognized as one of the most hazardous construction activities. The greatest risk is a cave-in. Even a small job can present serious safety hazards. The key to preventing this type of accident is good planning.

Each year trenching cave-ins result in more than 5,000 serious injuries and 100 deaths in the United States. Trenches are needed for the installation and repair of utility lines, water and sewer lines, television cable, to build roads, and many other uses. (The list of the types of workers that might be involved in working in or around a trench is too long to include here.) Anyone whose work requires them to work in or around a trench should be aware of the hazards so they are not involved in or cause an accident to happen.

Obtain a permit from DOSH if workers are required to enter an excavation that is five feet or deeper. Cal/OSHA requires a competent person to inspect, on a daily basis, trenches for possible cave-ins, failures of protective systems and equipment, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions. Refer to the Cal/OSHA Web site listed below for the complete list of the requirements of a competent person.

In trenching, soil is defined as any material removed from the ground to form a trench or hole. Soil can weigh more than 100 pounds per cubic foot. Most soil is thought of in terms of cubic yards. One cubic yard of soil may weigh more than 2700 pounds. OSHA classifies soil into four groups: solid rock, Type A, Type B, and Type C. Solid rock is the most stable, with Type C soil being the least stable. If you are unsure of the soil type, always assume it is Type C. Soil removed from a trench must be kept at least two feet back from the edge of the trench.

Safety Hazards

  • Cave-ins – can be caused by:
    • Vibration of nearby construction equipment or vehicle traffic.
    • Weight of equipment that is too close to the edge of the trench.
    • Soils that do not hold tightly together.
    • Soil that has been dug in before is not as stable as undisturbed earth.
    • Water weakening the strength of the trench sides.
  • Hazardous atmospheres – may be generated as toxic gases can be released by the digging, or accumulate in the bottom of the trench.
  • Underground utilities – the location of any utility services must be located before digging. Call 811.

Protective systems are methods of protecting workers from cave-ins of material that can fall or roll into an excavation/trench, or from the collapse of nearby soil structures. Protective systems include shoring, sheeting, shielding, sloping, and benching. For trenches between five feet and 20 feet deep, protective measures must be taken. It is up to the planners of the construction project and the competent person on site to determine which systems will work best. If an excavation is greater than 20 feet deep, a registered professional engineer must design the protective system.

Trenches deeper than four feet must have a way to get in and out (access and egress), usually a ladder, for every 25 feet of horizontal travel within the trench.

For information from Cal/OSHA, click here.


The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.

Housekeeping on Construction Sites

Courtesy of State Compensation Insurance Fund of California Picture your construction site in your mind. Construction sites can be busy and hectic with many workers and multiple contractors carrying on different yet simultaneous operations. What would happen if these groups never cleaned up after themselves? Trash and debris would pile up to become one large Read »

Courtesy of State Compensation Insurance Fund of California

Picture your construction site in your mind. Construction sites can be busy and hectic with many workers and multiple contractors carrying on different yet simultaneous operations. What would happen if these groups never cleaned up after themselves? Trash and debris would pile up to become one large hazardous obstacle course. Imagine how difficult it would be to maneuver around such a site. How would you dodge the falling materials thrown or accidentally pushed over the sides of the building? How you would find your tools and supplies if they were covered by debris from other workers? A construction site with poor housekeeping is not productive nor is it a safe working environment.

Although, the overall safety of a construction site is the ultimate responsibility of the general contractor who maintains the site safety plan and communicates its information to all of the subcontractors on site, every worker on the site is responsible for safety. It’s every worker’s responsibility to know and following the site safety plan, practice good housekeeping, follow recommended work practices, and promptly report and/or correct hazards at the worksite.

If you’re a construction site worker, you must do your part to keep the worksite free of unnecessary clutter and debris that could cause an injury or accident. Try to limit the amount of materials and chemicals onsite to the quantities that you will need. As you go about your daily work, place trash and debris in the proper receptacles located conveniently throughout the job site. Remove combustible materials such as wood and paper from the site promptly. Keep form and scrap lumber with protruding nails cleared away from work areas, passageways, and stairs. Remove or bend over protruding nails prior to disposal and storage.

Keep storage, staging, and work areas, along with all stairs and walkways on the construction site, free of obstructions, and debris. Store tools and materials neatly and out of the way in storage bins or lockers and keep flammable or hazardous wastes in covered, segregated waste containers. Ensure that materials stored on roofs or at heights are secured. Never throw waste, materials, or tools from a building or structure. Debris chutes are a safe means of removing this material from an elevated work site. Guard the area where the material could fall and post signs around the workplace to wear hard hats and watch for falling debris. Place protective guards across areas where workers may could fall or could face an impalement hazard. And, control muddy areas using fill, gravel, boards and plywood, or other means.

You can do your part to keep the worksite a safer place for yourself and your coworkers, if you just remember to clean up as you go and at the end of each shift.

In the Blink of an Eye

Courtesy of State Compensation Insurance Fund of California In just the blink of an eye, an incident can injure or even blind someone not using caution or wearing the proper eye protection. However, eye injuries can be reduced if workers are trained to recognize hazards, follow safety practices, and wear recommended eye protection. Eye protection Read »

Courtesy of State Compensation Insurance Fund of California

In just the blink of an eye, an incident can injure or even blind someone not using caution or wearing the proper eye protection. However, eye injuries can be reduced if workers are trained to recognize hazards, follow safety practices, and wear recommended eye protection.

Eye protection such as safety glasses, goggles, face shield, or helmets must meet the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Warning signs should be placed near machines, equipment or process areas that require specific eye protection. In hazardous workplaces, street-wear eyeglasses should be only worn in conjunction with ANSI-approved additional cover protection.

In case of an eye injury, workers must know how to respond. Professional medical attention should be sought as soon as possible after taking initial first aid measures. Some of the more common causes are: foreign particles such as dust, dirt, metal flakes, wood chips, or an eyelash. These get into the eye from the wind or activities like chipping, grinding, sawing, brushing, and hammering from power tools, equipment, and machinery. Flush the object out with water. Never rub or try to remove objects embedded in the eye as this can cause damage. Loosely bandage eyes to stop movement, then seek professional care.

Bumps and blows to the eyes can be helped if a cold compress is applied for 15 minutes to reduce pain and swelling.

Cuts in or around the eyes should be loosely bandaged to stop any eye movement until professionally attended. Don’t rub, press, or wash the cut; this can cause further damage.

Chemical splashes from solvents; paints, hot liquids or other hazardous solutions can cause great damage. Go immediately to the nearest emergency shower or water source. Look directly into the stream of water. With fingers hold eyes open and flush eyes for at least 15 minutes.

Light burns can be caused from exposure to welding; lasers or radiant light. Their effect may not be felt until hours later when the eyes begin to feel gritty and become sensitive to light, then redness or swelling may occur. Keep eyes closed while awaiting medical attention.

Eye safety is no accident. Protect your eyesight from workplace hazards by wearing and caring for appropriate, approved protective eyewear. You’ll see the difference.

When Reporting Injuries, Timing Is Everything – And It’s the Law

State Compensation Insurance Fund For workplace injuries, California Labor Code Section 5401 starts the clock ticking right away, making you and State fund partners in time. For both of us the time is short to act, and it’s the law to do very specific things in specific time frames. One day – 24 hours – Read »

State Compensation Insurance Fund

For workplace injuries, California Labor Code Section 5401 starts the clock ticking right away, making you and State fund partners in time. For both of us the time is short to act, and it’s the law to do very specific things in specific time frames.

  • One day – 24 hours – is all the time you have to provide your injured employee with a claim form and a notice that he or she is potentially eligible for benefits.
  • Just 90 days is all the time we have to reject the claim, if appropriate. Failure to reject the claim within this period results in a presumption of compensability. In other words, without rejecting in time, we have to pay that claim, even if we later procure evidence to rebut the claim.

How to Stop the Clock

  • Immediately report to us, regardless of the source of information, all alleged work-related injuries as soon as you are aware of the claim. An Employer First Report of Injury form 3067 will need to be completed.
  • Give your employee claim form 3301 right away and have them complete the form, or someone else on his or her behalf if they are incapacitated. The claim requires you to take immediate action and let us know about the work-related injury that resulted in lost time from work, or medical treatment beyond first aid.
  • Your prompt reporting gives us the time we need to conduct a thorough investigation to protect your best interests and ours. This timing is especially important when liability for the claim is uncertain. Any delay on your part not only could hinder our ability to properly protect your interests but also could require us to accept any disputed claims for medical and disability benefits.

Anytime – day or night – you can call our Claims Reporting Center at (888) 222-3211 for assistance. Your prompt response, upon receipt of a claim, benefits our business partnership and the entire workers’ compensation insurance industry as well.

Heat Illness Prevention

Courtesy of the State Compensation Insurance Fund Radiant heat from hot surfaces, heat from hot processes and the heat from the sun can all cause workers to endure mild to serious illnesses, and in extreme cases, death. The summer weather is in full effect and it is important for workers to understand the signs and Read »

Courtesy of the State Compensation Insurance Fund

Radiant heat from hot surfaces, heat from hot processes and the heat from the sun can all cause workers to endure mild to serious illnesses, and in extreme cases, death. The summer weather is in full effect and it is important for workers to understand the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses so they may take the proper preventive steps. Employees who work in a hot environment should be trained in the causes, recognition, prevention and treatment of heat related illnesses.

Environmental factors that contribute to heat stress include high air temperatures, high relative humidity, and little or no air movement. Individual factors that affect risk are age, sex, nutrition, physical fitness, hydration, alcohol, drug use, and certain conditions such as diabetes. The body regulates its temperature in heated conditions by sweating and by increasing blood flow to the skin, however when the body’s natural defenses are overwhelmed, mild to severe heat-related illnesses may develop. Through pre-employment or pre-transfer medical examinations, people with high sensitivity to heat or with pre-existing health issues, can be detected.

For each hour a worker sweats, up to a quart of water and important minerals may be lost in a hot environment. Sufficient water intake is not determined by thirst alone, workers should drink 8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes. Alcohol and caffeine consumption should be discouraged as they contribute to dehydration.

Clothing affects heat retention. Workers should be encouraged to wear lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing that promotes heat loss. When working outside, exposed skin should be covered including the head and neck areas by wearing a brimmed hat and neckerchief. Cooling garments and reflective clothing may also help to decrease heat buildup; however other type of protective wear may actually retain heat. Also, removing one’s shirt will actually increase the heat experienced by an individual.

Engineering controls, such as providing shades over work areas or shields between the radiant heat source and workers, can also reduce heat exposure. Good air flow increases evaporation and cooling of the skin, so general ventilation and spot cooling with fans or air conditioners in areas of high heat is vital. Since body heat increases when workers are more active, mechanizing heavy jobs may be necessary.

The process of acclimatization allows workers to gradually get used to the heat. This process can begin by limiting exposure and/or temperature. Acclimatization can be achieved setting up hot jobs during cooler parts of the day or cooler seasons of the year. It can also be done by allowing frequent rest breaks in cool areas, adding more workers to reduce workloads or reducing the overall workday.

Supervisors should monitor work areas hourly to check temperature, humidity, and workers’ responses to heat. Being able to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illnesses and implementing preventive and control measures will keep workers healthy and productive in hot environments.

Control Your Worker’s Comp Costs

State Compensation Insurance Fund State Fund works hard to keep claims costs down for its policyholders. But businesses can directly impact their workers’ compensation insurance costs by focusing on injury prevention and claims management as follows: Match workers’ skills and abilities to their job. Careful hiring practices can reduce the change and subsequent cost of Read »

State Compensation Insurance Fund

State Fund works hard to keep claims costs down for its policyholders. But businesses can directly impact their workers’ compensation insurance costs by focusing on injury prevention and claims management as follows:

  • Match workers’ skills and abilities to their job. Careful hiring practices can reduce the change and subsequent cost of injury.
  • Make safety a job priority. It’s less expensive to prevent an accident than to pay for one. State Fund’s loss control staff can help you with safety programs relevant to your business.
  • Fix dangerous conditions. When you become aware of a hazard, take corrective measures. Failure to do so could result in a “Serious and Willful Misconduct” suit against you and severe penalties you must pay.
  • Train supervisors. Workers’ comp law includes supervisors in its definition of “employer.” Make sure supervisors and managers know their responsibilities.
  • Report employee injuries. As soon as you’re aware of an injury, notify State Fund’s 24-hour Claims Reporting Center at (888) 222-3211 to complete the Employer’s Report of Occupational Injury or Illness (form 3067).
  • Provide claim forms. You must provide your employee with a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form (form 3301/DWCI) within one working day of learning of an injury. When the employee returns the completed form to you to sign and date, immediately forward the original to State Fund. NOTE: Signing the Employer’s Report and the Claim Form does not constitute acceptance of a claim.
  • Exercise medical control. Refer your injured worker to a State Fund Medical Provider Network (MPN) physician at www.scif.com, “MEDfinder.” And, post the name, address, and phone number of your medical provider so employees know where to go in case of an injury. If an employee has previously notified you in writing of his/her personal physician, the employee has the right to be seen by that physician.
  • Communicate with employees. Show workers you care about their well-being and stay in touch with injured workers throughout their recuperation period.
  • Consider a Return-To-work program. A Return-To-Work (RTW) program can help bring injured employees safely back to work as early as possible. State Fund’s RTW consultants can help you develop a program for your business.

Finally, maintain records. Personnel files can be of great assistance in handling some cases, especially with fighting disputed claims.

Flu Season Is Nothing To Sneeze At

State Compensation Insurance Fund The flu season is here and State Fund advises employers to educate all employees about flu facts, symptoms, and preventative measures and to prepare their business operations should a pandemic outbreak significantly reduce their workforce or disrupt their business operation. Generally speaking, the “flu” is a respiratory disease caused by an Read »

State Compensation Insurance Fund

The flu season is here and State Fund advises employers to educate all employees about flu facts, symptoms, and preventative measures and to prepare their business operations should a pandemic outbreak significantly reduce their workforce or disrupt their business operation.

Generally speaking, the “flu” is a respiratory disease caused by an influenza (flu) virus. Transmission of the virus from person-to-person usually occurs when infected people cough or sneeze the virus germs into the air or onto an object. Others may than become infected by breathing in the air-borne virus germs or by touching the virus-contaminated object then touching their mouth or nose through which the virus enters their body.

Symptoms of most flu strains include a fever (often high), cough, body aches, headaches, fatigue and runny or stuffy nose. Vomiting and diarrhea may also occur. If workers suspect they may have been exposed to or contracted the flu, they should see their doctor for advice and treatment.

The CDC recommends the following flu prevention measures: avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze (alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective); cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and then throw the tissue away; and if you get sick, stay home and limit contact with others.

To prepare for a possible pandemic flu outbreak in the workplace, employers should develop contingency plans for each business location. Identify essential employees and critical raw materials suppliers, sub-contractors, transporters, customers, and other logistics that keep their business functioning. Train employees on the contingency plan and consider cross-training workers as backup for necessary job activities. Employers may also wish to consider ways to decentralize the workforce with satellite worksites and at-home computer and communication links to the worksite to allow flexibility to employees that can work.

Visit State Fund’s website at www.scif.com to access the Loss Control Bulletin, “Preparing for a Pandemic Flu”. The bulletin recommends that businesses circulate a company hygiene policy; establish policies for exposed or infected employees; and create an infection control response and notification plan. From the website you can also download copies of precautionary safety sheets in English and Spanish (Standard Precautions, Airborne Precautions, Contact Precautions, and Droplet Precautions). To learn more about the flu or pandemic flu prevention, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/.

Keeping an Ear Out For Hearing Loss

State Compensation Insurance Fund Most of us take our hearing for granted, especially when we’re young. We assume that hearing loss is unavoidable and is part of the aging process. However people who live in other parts of the world without the everyday noises of our industrial society have little or no hearing loss as Read »

State Compensation Insurance Fund

Most of us take our hearing for granted, especially when we’re young. We assume that hearing loss is unavoidable and is part of the aging process. However people who live in other parts of the world without the everyday noises of our industrial society have little or no hearing loss as they grow older.

Hearing loss in older people is not due to aging but exposure to noises over a lifetime. These noises can come from TV, traffic, machinery, and other loud sounds. Earphones have been known to be very destructive to hearing. In industries such as construction there are many sources of loud noises, which can be from equipment, such as circular saws, grinders, compressors, lift trucks, transportation equipment, and air or electric power tools.

What’s the difference between sound and noise? Noise, is unwanted sound. It’s unwanted because it can cause hearing loss; keeping you from hearing people talk or hearing emergency sounds. It can also disrupt job performance and cause stress-related problems, like cardiovascular changes, fatigue, irritability, and tension.

When is noise too loud? It’s too loud, if:

  • You have to raise your voice to be heard.
  • You can’t hear someone less than 2 feet away without shouting.
  • Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after you leave a noisy area.
  • You have ringing in your ears after exposure to noise.

Both the amount of noise and the length of exposure affect its ability to damage hearing.

Hearing loss can happen so gradually that people may not notice their hearing is being affected until it’s too late. By then, even a hearing aid may not help. Protect yourself; don’t risk losing some of your hearing when it can be easily protected. You may be unable to prevent noise but you can minimize hearing loss by following established safety procedures and using appropriate hearing protection. Use earplugs or earmuffs when noise levels are high. Silence is not always golden, especially when it’s permanent.

Pace Yourself

“Courtesy of the California State Compensation Insurance Fund” You’ve heard the expression, “Haste makes waste,” but hurry and haste can lead to accidents and injuries, when speed becomes more important than safety. In fact, hurrying is a common factor in many accidents. Any time you’re about to climb a ladder, drive a vehicle, pick up Read »

“Courtesy of the California State Compensation Insurance Fund”

You’ve heard the expression, “Haste makes waste,” but hurry and haste can lead to accidents and injuries, when speed becomes more important than safety. In fact, hurrying is a common factor in many accidents.

Any time you’re about to climb a ladder, drive a vehicle, pick up a heavy object or use a potentially dangerous piece of machinery, give a thought to your safety. Make a mental note to do the task at a safe and steady pace. This is especially true if you’re about to start a new job or use equipment you’re not familiar with.

Sometimes workers, especially new ones, work at a fast pace in order to impress their boss. While that kind of attitude is appreciated, it won’t be appreciated if it results in an accident or injury. For an employer, the cost of the accident could more than wipe out the profits from the job, but what’s more important is the pain, worry, and the financial loss to injured workers and their family.

There’s also another expression, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Work at a safe pace. The job will get done and everyone will end up winners.

Take Care With Hazardous Substances

Sometimes, in the course of your work, it may be necessary to use substances that have potentially hazardous properties. The hazards may take different forms (mist, vapor, liquid, dust, fume or gas) and affect workers in different ways. The type of substance, the way it’s used, and the form it takes determines its effect and Read »

Sometimes, in the course of your work, it may be necessary to use substances that have potentially hazardous properties. The hazards may take different forms (mist, vapor, liquid, dust, fume or gas) and affect workers in different ways. The type of substance, the way it’s used, and the form it takes determines its effect and what must be done to avoid harmful exposures. But, there are some basic safety precautions to take when working with or around any hazardous substance.

Labels and material safety data sheets (MSDSs) for substances clearly state their hazards and describe the precautions to take for their safe use. They will also tell you what to do in case of exposure or injury. If you don’t know the hazards or precautions for a substance, don’t use it until you check with your foreman or supervisor.

Always wear the recommended personal protective equipment, such as glasses, gloves or respirator. If your skin or clothing becomes contaminated by the substance, shower or wash the exposed skin areas and change or decontaminate the clothing. Engineering controls, such as exhaust ventilation, may be necessary when using certain substances. Obey any posted signs indicating areas requiring particular caution, no smoking or the necessity for personal protective equipment.

When working with or around chemicals, never take food into the work area and always wash your hands thoroughly before eating. If necessary, shower and change your clothes before going home. Don’t take contaminated clothing home to be laundered, you could expose your family to the contaminant. Properly dispose of clothing designed for single use.

Keep the work area clean so there is less risk of contamination and store substances according to label directions. Because some substances react violently with one another, you must be careful where you store them and which substances you mix together. If there’s a substance leak or spill, keep away from it unless you know what it is and how to safely clean it up and dispose of the cleaning material.

You should also know what to do in case of a substance-related emergency. Know where wash stations are located, where to find and how to use emergency protective equipment, fire extinguishers, and first aid supplies. Also know where to quickly locate the numbers of local medical, fire, and hazard response personnel. You can work safely with a hazardous substance by reading its label, following safe handling procedures, and using recommended protective equipment.

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