Workplace exposures to environmental hazards, such as respirable silica, materials with known toxic and carcinogenic properties, and noise and vibration, present long-term health risks to workers, supervisors, and surrounding residents. While many of these hazards can be easily controlled through the application of best practices, such as using water to limit silica-bearing dust generation during concrete milling, the fact is sometimes countermeasures are underutilized or overlooked. Thankfully, many projects displace limited amounts of dangerous materials or are located in relatively unpopulated areas and present a low degree of risk, but occasionally a large scale project comes under greater scrutiny from the surrounding community due to the sheer volumes of dust, noise, and vibration being produced.
BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOR
Projects that produce highly visible and prolonged environmental impacts have always been the subject of heightened community reaction, but the sensitivity of residents and workers to these issues will continue to increase as awareness and personal costs of long-term health risks grow. With changes in living patterns caused by shifting demographics, more projects may need to place more importance on controlling safety and environmental health concerns.
Having a comprehensive Dust Control Plan is usually sufficient to meet local requirements and reduces the possibility of becoming the target of complaints from surrounding businesses and residents, but sometimes projects are sited close to extra-sensitive adjoining properties, such as hospitals, schools, luxury hotels, and mixed-use facilities that have little tolerance for noise, vibration, and dust emissions. These projects may call for some added protection in the form of continuous monitoring devices.
MONITORING FOR SAFETY
In the discipline of worker safety, personal sampling devices, such as Air Sampling pumps and noise Dosimeters, are used regularly in general industry, government, military, and other sectors, such as mining, to ensure workers are not being exposed to hazardous levels of asbestos, silica, lead (paint removal and sandblasting), noise, and toxic gases. The construction industry is subject to OSHA CFR29 Part 1926 “SAFETY AND HEALTH REGULATIONS FOR CONSTRUCTION,” of which Subpart D lists Occupational Health and Environmental Controls for a variety of known hazards, such as noise, radiation, gases, fumes, dusts, and mists. Subpart E lists the various forms of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that can be utilized to protect workers from these hazards while on the jobsite. Monitoring individual workers can be cumbersome, especially when they are working in tight spaces or doing a lot of climbing and movement. Also having to stop workers in the middle of a job to check results is inconvenient for the safety coordinator and the worker.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT
Recent changes to sampling technology allows for workers to be monitored remotely by using a tablet or smartphone that links up to the noise or dust monitor that they would be wearing for OSHA compliance purposes. These monitors are now available and take away the need for having to interrupt workers while on the job to get noise exposure data or physical samples of hazardous dust. Casella has developed the “Airwave App” to use Bluetooth 4.0 wireless communications on-site to allow these personal sampling devices to be started, paused, and stopped from up to 100 feet away, without the worker even noticing … and the sample data can be read out at the same time to ensure the sampling is being done correctly. For large projects, including civil projects like bridge and road construction, these new, remote monitoring devices make the safety coordinator’s job more efficient, saving time and money.
For environmental concerns, the issue is always, “How much of this stuff (dust, noise, vibration, etc.) is getting off the site and onto (and even into) someone’s nearby property?” This poses a much different set of challenges for a Safety and Environmental Compliance professional or consultant, especially in critical jobs where the work is time-critical, but sited next to a “sensitive” neighbor.
THE BOUNDARY GUARDIAN
An advanced solution for this problem has also been developed by Casella—the Boundary Guardian range of products were developed specifically for demolition and construction sites where continuous monitoring of dust, noise, vibration, and weather conditions becomes important. The device, which is built into a “plain” (so as not to attract attention from vandals or others) weatherproof enclosure, can be placed at various locations around the perimeter of a site. Simply power the units up and they immediately connect to a cell network to allow 24/7 continuous monitoring to be performed, unattended, with minimal to no maintenance, for weeks, months, and even years for large projects. The data is permanently recorded on a secure, hosted website; these archived records can be used to prove the contractor(s) were doing continuous monitoring and able to respond if levels got out of hand. This is done by sending a text alert to the contractor’s cell phone if and when noise, dust, or vibration levels are getting close to limits of concern, so the contractors can react quickly and get the site under control before any concerned parties become aware or take action. This reduces liability and provides a positive and proactive approach to situations where the work must be done despite the fact that sensitive properties (again, schools, hospitals, etc.) are nearby.
New technology, especially wireless and cellular enabled real-time dust and noise monitors, can provide real benefits that far outweigh the costs to those who are working on critical projects in highly sensitized environments. While these projects are not typical for most contractors, those who do take on this type of work have probably had to deal with residential and community concerns and are also aware of their responsibility to the workers on the site. Contractors are to ensure that their workers’ health and fitness is not compromised and that they can remain proficient and employed in their skilled trades throughout their lives without suffering from occupational diseases that are preventable. Safety, health, and environmental concerns will continue to grow in importance as each generation comes to expect corporate social responsibility from all business enterprises, regardless of what they make, build, sell, or provide. ■
For More Information: For more information about the advanced solution developed by Casella for continuous monitoring of dust, noise, and vibration, check out its Boundary Guardian range of products at www.casellasolutions.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions – March 2016
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