The safest asphalt paving and production operations are those in which everyone in the company is committed to safe practices. That is certainly the case with the 2005 winners of the National Asphalt Pavement Association’s (NAPA) Asphalt Operations Safety Innovations competition, which NAPA created to recognize companies who have used innovative ideas to improve worker safety in a roadway, plant site or quarry environment.
The employees of these companies have created better workplaces for themselves and their co-workers by identifying problem areas and by taking the initiative to develop and implement creative solutions to overcome them.
Safety problems made visible
Tilcon, New York’s Oldcastle Materials division, won the NAPA award for an Innovative Safety and Hazard Awareness plant built at the company’s Mount Hope, N.J., location. This site also serves as Tilcon’s location for confined space, fall protection, trenching, fire extinguisher, traffic pattern, forklift and crusher jam training.
The outdoor training facility features scenarios of safety hazards that can occur in mining and production operations. The idea was to go beyond traditional safety lectures and audiovisual presentations and let employees see safety problems first hand so they would better remember them, according to the company’s safety director, Eric Kechejian.
“Previously, we would take our new mine and asphalt employees into the field to look for hazards. But as we improved our safety as a company, we were limited as to what we were finding. So we came up with the idea of making a mock plant where we could set up the hazards the way we wanted so that people could see them,” Kechejian said.
The cost to the company for setting up the plant was minimal. Kechejian and other company employees volunteered their time to get it completed by building the displays with materials recycled from the company’s operations. They constructed a course for safety trainees to follow through the mock plant site, including 150 examples of unsafe acts or unsafe conditions that can occur in quarry, asphalt and recycle operations.
The Tilcon volunteers constructed eight workers from PVC pipe and mannequin heads, posing them in various places to model unsafe operations. Their safety infractions ranged from wearing a hard hat backward to being tied off at an unsafe height while on a ladder. Other types of violations include everything from having a combustible can near a heat source to improper securing of a ladder to damaged electrical wiring. At four locations a “fatalgram” depicted a fatality that occurred within the surface mining industry during the past year. The painted body outline at these sites served as a reminder of what can happen when safety is compromised.
When trainees going through the course spotted a problem area, they marked it off on a checklist. The problems ranged in difficulty to allow both newly hired and experienced workers to benefit from the course experience.
“People have never experienced a training class like this,” said Kechejian. “Once they’re finished with all the classroom training, they go out on the course and try to find the hazards themselves. It gives them an opportunity to show what they’ve learned, and the fact that it’s real life makes it easier for them to remember. It’s not just pictures on a screen; they can actually see it.”
Making safer repairs
The Performance Leadership Team at Staker and Parson Cos. of Ogden, Utah, a finalist for this year’s Safety Innovation award, is constantly on the lookout for ways to improve the company’s performance. That includes identifying activities that have a high safety risk.
The cross-functional team found that one of the biggest risks in the company’s operations involved the raising and securing of trucks’ dump beds during maintenance. They calculated that employees were exposed to approximately 800 jacking and blocking risks per day. The team was unable to find any existing tool within the industry that would reduce those risks, so they developed a tool and a safety campaign that has reduced employees’ exposure to jacking and blocking risks by 50%.
The jacking and blocking problem had not gone unnoticed by company employees; one had already attempted to develop a prototype for a better jacking and blocking bed stand.
“Our team took that design and worked to improve it,” said Chris Kinnersley, the company’s corporate safety and health director. “Then they had its safety certified by a structural engineer.”
Staker and Parson began using the improved jacking and blocking bed stand in 2004. Made of aluminum and weighing only 15 lb, it can hold up to 79 tons. Employee reaction to the new stand has been very positive, Kinnersley said.
“People just love it. It’s light, handy and purposely overbuilt to hold weight.”
To ensure that employees benefit fully from the new blocking stand, the Performance Leadership Team also developed a standard operating procedure for using it. In addition, they posted signs in work areas that encourage proper behavior and discourage short cuts.
Traffic control is a major concern for Virginia Paving Co., a large asphalt contractor and producer in northern Virginia. The company regularly performs milling and paving operations throughout the night on the Washington Beltway—the I-95 corridor from D.C. to south of Fredericksburg—and on other primary routes in the region.
To control traffic along this heavily traveled route, the company had used a traditional approach with employees placing traffic cones, barrels and signs from the tailgate of a pickup truck or flatbed truck; however, it was not working any longer.
“We noticed over the years that it was becoming more and more difficult to be efficient with traffic control and reduction,” said District Manager Mark Schiller.
To solve this problem, Virginia Paving took the suggestions of its workers and designed and built a special traffic-control truck that made the job easier and safer. The new vehicle has specially sized and strategically located racks for the devices required to set up any type of traffic pattern. Platforms where workers can stand to place or remove traffic cones from the roadway are recessed along the center of the body of the truck in front of the rear axle, and the platforms can be folded up and out of the way when not in use. A chain across the platform’s openings prevents workers placing cones from falling off the truck, and an intercom and buzzer in the platform area allows them to notify the driver if there is a problem.
The truck has a rear-mounted camera with a monitor in the driver’s compartment that operates only when the vehicle is backing up. The truck has a standard backup alarm, but it also features a sensor that activates another alarm when it detects an object 15 ft behind the truck. Work lights are mounted on the rear of the truck to improve its visibility.
Other features of the vehicle include hinged side panels that swing open to allow easy access for loading or unloading the traffic-control devices. There also are storage compartments for flares, flashlights and spare parts for stands.
“We tried this truck out first at one of our plant locations and it has proved so successful that we now have six like it,” said Schiller.
“There’s no question that the people in the field appreciate this truck, especially those who remember the days of riding in the back of a pickup truck when you could easily fall out and get hurt,” he added.
Not getting hurt is the point of all these safety projects recognized by NAPA. Although quite different from each other, the winning entries are alike in the way that they are the products of many people. Employees at every level of these award-winning companies have shared their creativity, ideas and labor to create a workplace that is safer for everyone.