This week we recognized North American Occupational Safety and Health Week—a topic that is close to my heart because there are so many potentially hazardous scenarios in the asphalt industry. At Blacklidge, we always put the safety of our team members above all else, and this week is a great time to think about some of the ways we can keep ourselves safe in the workplace.
When it comes to asphalt safety, personal protective equipment (PPE) immediately comes to mind. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the terminology, PPE can include boots, gloves, hard hats, heat protection, glasses/goggles and many other items as prescribed. It’s the stuff we wear every day to protect our bodies from injuries on the job.
Many of the injuries I have seen over the years have been burns. While hot asphalt can be a burn hazard—regardless of whether you are producing, shipping or paving with it—there are safeguards in place to prevent serious injuries. However, protective measures such as PPE are only effective if utilized properly.
For example, picture a long sleeve jacket coupled with a pair of heat resistant gloves. As you can imagine, if the sleeves are not over the top of the gloves at all times, there is an opportunity for hot asphalt to pool in the cuff of the glove and ultimately burn the worker. Another point of contact can occur when someone is working with their hands raised, creating a gap between the glove cuff and jacket in which bare skin or thin sleeves would be directly exposed.
These scenarios sound simple enough, but the most serious injuries I have seen come from instances that could have been avoided by simple precautions. At Blacklidge, we’re always working to mitigate exposure by creating specific safety policies. These policies might seem finicky, or needlessly strict, but we take the safety of our team members very seriously! We have a policy that requires glove cuffs to be inside protective sleeves at all times. Taking it a step further, we are implementing an additional protective sleeve to help cover the potential gap between glove and sleeve during all ranges of motion and job duties.
PPE is absolutely necessary to our and many other industries, but it can only take us so far. It’s the way we use the PPE that really matters. Making sure we take the time to keep ourselves and our teammates healthy, happy and going strong is the only way we can avoid the hazards of our work. This week and every week, keep an eye out for your teammates’ and your own health and safety!