Many of the operations in surface fabrication can generate significant noise levels. OSHA requires you to assess noise levels, and when acceptable limits are exceeded, you must take action. First you must utilize feasible engineering controls, such as enclosure and insulation, to reduce noise exposure. When these controls fail to reduce sound levels to acceptable limits, the right hearing protectors must be provided. The employer must administer a continuing, effective hearing conservation program, which includes an audiometric testing program for early detection of hearing loss. Employees must be trained on their risks, symptoms of hearing loss and your protection program.
Ergonomics And Safe Lifting
While there are no specific ergonomic regulations for this industry, the OSHA General Duty Clause requires you to protect your employees from all recognized hazards. Because of the weight of the sheet and/or slab goods, this would certainly include developing ergonomically safe work procedures and training on safe lifting techniques. Lift assist equipment should be used whenever possible. Also, reduce the size of objects that must be manually lifted as much as practical. Some fabricators tend to make their tops in one piece to avoid a field seam on-site. This can result in back injury. Limiting length and width of tops to make them easier to handle and install on-site can actually be less expensive in the long run, and most importantly, can minimize employee back injuries.
Machine And Tool Safety
Surface manufacturing requires a number of work processes that involve hand and portable tools. These include cutting, grinding and polishing materials, and the use of power and pneumatic tools. OSHA has identified areas that require special attention with regard to use of portable power tools such as those used in the surfacing industry. Supervisors must ensure that all employees have received the right training.
Key points include:
- Keep all tools in good condition with regular maintenance.
- Use the proper tool for the job.
- Examine each tool for damage before use, and do not use damaged tools.
- Operate tools according to the manufacturers' instructions and with the guards provided by the manufacturer.
- Use the correct personal protective equipment recommended by the tool manufacturer.
Electrical powered tools and pneumatic power tools each have their own specific OSHA requirements with respect to use and guarding. You must assess which tools you use and understand OSHA requirements for each. Some basics include:
Electric power operated tools must either be of the approved double-insulated type, or grounded in accordance with OSHA regulations.
Never use electric cords or pneumatic hoses for hoisting or lowering tools.
Pneumatic power tools
Must be secured to the hose or whip by some positive means to prevent the tool from becoming accidentally disconnected.
Never exceed the manufacturer's safe operating pressure for hoses, pipes, valves, filters and other fittings.
Should not be used for cleaning purposes.
New equipment comes with adequate guards. Leave the guards on at all times! Discipline employees who remove or bypass guards. You must assess older equipment to ensure that it is properly guarded. If not, you must provide adequate guards, or discard the equipment.
If equipment is serviced on-site, you must have a Lockout/Tagout program. Lockout/Tagout injuries, such as crushing or amputations, tend to be very severe. The purpose of a Lockout/Tagout program is to control the unexpected release of hazardous energy when servicing or maintaining equipment. When unplugging equipment alone cannot prevent such a release, all sources of energy must be identified and controlled. You must have a written procedure for shutting down and locking/tagging out each piece of equipment to be serviced. You must provide the appropriate locks and tags, periodically inspect your procedures and, most importantly, train employees on their role in the program, even if it is just to recognize tags and leave the equipment alone. A formal written program is required.