September 26, 2012
Cones a safety reminder on bridge and highway megaproject
Bright colored cones topping pick-up truck antennae on hundreds of Kiewit Flatiron vehicles parked along the Port Mann / Highway 1 Improvement Project are serving as a safety reminder.
The cone is a visual cue for the driver to walk round their parked truck prior to leaving.
It’s an attempt to prevent metal-on-metal collisions, running over objects, injuries or fatalities, as well as spotting vehicle problems, said Lorne Caley, Section Two operations manager on the project.
“Construction sites are typically congested areas or trucks are parked along side of the highway barriers which are tight quarters,” he said.
Drivers have to place and remove the cones.
“The idea is that if you have to put a physical thing on the pick-up truck and then have to pull it off later, you are forcing that person to adopt a different behavior that hopefully will become routine,” he said.
Caley said that it is common for jobsite employees to feel a sense of urgency in needing to fulfill tasks.
It becomes easy to simply jump into the truck and not think about the vehicle check, which is a safety best practice for Kiewit Flatiron employees.
The cone program makes it difficult to bypass that check.
The cones, left-over blasting plugs from Kiewit Flatiron’s Sea-to-Sky highway project, also serve as a red flag if not removed.
A parked vehicle without a cone is another telltale sign.
Section Two general superintendent Justin Campbell came up with the idea in November 2011.
It worked so well that Kiewit Flatiron expanded it in August to all four highway improvement sections.
“We are always challenging our employees to come up with good ideas,” said Caley.
Jack Davidson, president of the BC. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association, said it is a clever idea.
“(It) is part of a change in the workplace culture and getting you to think about safety,” he said.
BC Hydro and Telus truck drivers employ a similar concept.
They take cones from the front bumper and place them in front of and behind a parked vehicle.
“This is a modification of that and it is effective and easy to do,” Davidson said.
Mike McKenna, executive director of the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance, said safety has evolved in four different stages.
The first stage was employees adopting safety gear, the next was employee training, followed by certification process and the concept of safety systems.
The fourth focuses on how the individual thinks and makes decisions.
He said it is the next frontier, as it gives insight into modifying human behavior to improve safety.
The cone program is an example of prompting behavioral change, not just in terms of a vehicle inspection, but in other areas, he said.
“There is the whole peer pressure thing,” he said.
The program prompts other employees to practice safety measures.
The cones are another layer of safety.
Caley said Kiewit Flatiron’s fleet of pickups use sensor monitors triggering an alarm if they back up close to an object.
As well, some of the heavy equipment and dump trucks are being equipped with rear-view cameras to prevent mishaps.
Three serious incidents involving dump trucks took place over the summer.
A 31-year-old flagger was run over by a reversing dump truck in North Vancouver and a 48-year old worker died when struck by a backing up dump truck on the South Fraser Perimeter Road project.
A third worker was crushed and killed at a concrete plant when a dump truck’s rear gate opened releasing gravel.
Dump truck operators are required to do a pre-trip inspection prior to starting their vehicles and their licensing test includes that inspection.
Greg Reeder, a former Flatiron heavy equipment operator and trainer from Fort McMurray, and now handling driver education for Valley Driving School, said dump trucks today come with beepers when backing up.
“But, on a busy construction site, you have so many beepers going off (from trucks and loaders and other equipment) that after a while it is ignored,” he said.
Reeder teaches truck drivers the precautionary step of two air-horn blasts before moving and another blast for every length of the truck as it moves backwards.
“It’s really hard to ignore an air horn,” he said.
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