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When would elevator pits be considered a confined space?

If you really want to be sure (and you should), you need to go through a full hazard assessment of the work site.

Ask yourself, “Does this elevator pit meet the definition of a confined space?”

Elevator pits are a confined space if:

  • a) It contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere and safety or health hazards.
  • b) It is large enough to get your entire body in the space, but isn’t designed for continuous occupancy.
  • c) It has limited or restricted exit and entry. Or, if you want to get fancy—egress and ingress.


If the space has any other hazards, it becomes a permit-required confined space.

Because of the very real dangers that exist in a permit-required confined space, only properly licensed and qualified employees should be working at the site.

More than one-quarter of work-related elevator deaths happened when workers entered elevator shafts to do their jobs. These deaths occurred when workers entered the space to repair elevators or to perform tasks such as maintenance, cleaning, welding and retrieving fallen objects.

The crazy thing is...confined space deaths are often preventable.

So in 2015, OSHA said enough is enough. They put out a notice that said elevator construction and maintenance companies have to follow new confined space regulations.

Elevator companies generate their own permits, not a government agency. That means employers must inform employees about the existence, location, and danger of permit-required confined spaces and provide a written safety program. It’s the employer’s responsibility to eliminate and/or protect against hazards before a worker enters the space. And, because emergencies happen— employers must have documented rescue procedures in place.

So, employers and workers better know a thing or two about confined space safety in elevator pits!

Workers must be trained on the hazards of a confined space. That means knowing how to detect hazards like dangerous gas and vapors, faulty electrical wiring and fall hazards. Other hazards that can be overlooked are excessive dust, spiderwebs, bees or other nasty things that could cause a worker injury.

Knowing how to detect hazards is one thing. Having the safety equipment workers need to protect themselves is another. Providing workers with the right fall protection, gas detection monitors and respirators is one way to be sure they’re ready for anything.

Guess what else is kinda important? Communication.

If half your crew doesn’t know what the other half is doing, that’s when someone gets hurt. Make sure everyone understands the confined space and how to protect themselves and other before they get to work. 

"When you think of an elevator pit, What comes to mind? Certainly not some bright, airy field of daisies. Yeah. Most times an elevator pit will be considered a confined space. "

- Bacon
questioning bacon

Who is required to lockout?

The person who’s responsible for the lockout or tagout of equipment is called an authorized employee. Affected employees are the ones who operate, service or maintain the equipment that’s being locked out. Employees that are in the vicinity of these areas are also considered affected employees.

Somewhere around 8-10% of elevator worker deaths are a result of electrocution while working on the elevator.

Many of these accidents happen from elevator cars and counterweights crushing workers below or workers caught between moving parts. One probable cause of this is that equipment is not being properly de-energized before service work begins.

When companies experience worker deaths by elevators, there’s usually a few big-time problems.

  • Lack of safety training
  • Lack of proper lockout/tagout program
  • Lack of permit-required confined space program

 

You’re probably asking yourself why. Why are companies failing to use the safety protocol that could save their workers lives?

Well, they may have programs in place. But, if workers are being rewarded for bypassing safety programs to complete jobs quicker—now, that’s an even bigger problem than noncompliance. 

Shortcuts aren’t always intentional.

Workers sometimes aren’t aware of the dangers that exist and make mistakes that can cost them and others dearly.

 

Avoid these Fatal Five Lockout Tagout Mistakes that Workers Make

  • Failure to stop equipment

  • Failure to disconnect from power source

  • Failure to neutralize residual energy

  • Accidental restarting of equipment

  • Failure to clear work areas before restarting

 

Listen. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a good lockout tagout (LOTO) program is one of the best safety tools in your arsenal. In fact, 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries are prevented by a good LOTO program every year! So, it just makes sense to train and retrain your crew to know when machines and equipment must be de-energized. Know when to re-evaluate your current program and make necessary adjustments when needed.

 

You should evaluate your LOTO program regularly as a routine part of your safety program.

 

 

smug bacon

"Anyone working on electrical or pneumatic equipment in the hoistway or machine room of an elevator."

- Bacon

Why would we use group lockout vs personal lockout devices?

You’re not selfish. You know that if there are multiple people in an area with de-energized equipment you need a game plan. You need a written LOTO program in place. You don’t want to rely on word-of-mouth when it comes to safety.

If you have to isolate energy and multiple workers in the area—you might want to consider group lockout tagout.

Some of the biggest safety fails happen due to miscommunication about what equipment is de-energized and when. This often happens during shift change and lunch breaks. Without a clearly written energy control program in place, there can be a lot of confusion. By using group lockout, workers don’t inadvertently flip a switch that could cause someone to get pinched, squished, cut or crushed by the moving parts of energized equipment.

8 Tips for Effective Group Lockout Tagout

  1. Have a written control LOTO program. Enforce it.
  2. Train workers on all steps of LOTO program.
  3. Create a shift change program for communication.
  4. Involve safety and production managers in program.
  5. Insist that group locks only removed by all affected users.
  6. Use color system for different users, shifts or processes.
  7. Share LOTO procedures with outside contractors and personnel.
  8. Remember to Test, Retest & Verify. 

 

Remember that clear and written communication is the only way to be sure workers stay safe. Make sure to have a program in place especially for emergency removal, transfer of locks or shift changes! 

"Do you want to protect everyone or just yourself?"

- Bacon
pissed bacon

What are the basics of ladder safety?

Let’s be serious for a second. It may be funny to scour the web and laugh at pictures of idiots using ladders. They do find some creative ways. But, look at the numbers of injuries and fatalities associated with that meathead kind of behavior. Falls from ladders are among the leading causes of occupational deaths and injuries. Want to hear some numbers? In the construction industry alone, ladder falls caused 5,900 cases of days away from work and 76 deaths in 2013.


There’s a few things you should ask yourself before using a ladder:

  1. Will you be holding heavy or bulky items?
  2. Will you have to use a long ladder that may be unstable?
  3. Will you be working at height for long periods of time?
  4. Will you have to stand on the ladder sideways?

If you find yourself saying yes, you probably don’t need a ladder. Maybe, just maybe, you need a scissor lift instead. Think about it. You match your tools to the job all day. Why should ladder safety be any different? If you want to stay safe, all you have to do is follow a few simple rules.

Here’s what OSHA has to say about ladder safety:

  • Follow all labels and markings
  • Avoid electrical hazards
  • Always inspect ladder before use
  • Maintain 3-point contact
  • Only use accessories meant for the ladder
  • Clear rungs of any slippery material
  • Don’t use a step ladder as a single ladder
  • Never use the top rung
  • Don’t place ladder on unstable surfaces
  • Extension ladders must reach 3 feet above point of support
  • Setup ladder at a 4:1 angle
  • Secure ladders to prevent displacement
  • Erect barricade to keep traffic away from ladder
  • Engage all necessary locks on ladder
  • Don’t exceed maximum load

 

Quad City Safety wants to add a few tips:

  • Don’t stand on a ladder in a windstorm
  • Wear real shoes that are slip-resistant, not flip flops
  • Use a tool belt or hoist rope to allow hands-free climbing
  • Don’t depend on your buddy to keep the ladder steady
  • Don’t stand on the top of the ladder
  • Make sure you inspect for damage or alteration
  • Don’t try to overreach. Keep your belt buckle square with ladder.

 

Bigger guys, hear this! The ladder you choose needs to be the right size for the job. The duty rating of the ladder must be greater than the total weight of the climber, tools, equipment, supplies and any other object placed on the ladder.

If you are using ladders in any kind of confined space such as an elevator pit, tank or vessel — fixed ladders are the best way to ensure maintenance personnel and inspectors have the safest exit and entry possible. Make sure both the top and base of the ladder are firmly secured. And, when climbing long or fixed ladders, use fall arrest equipment.

Elevator workers should frequently inspect for splits, shakes or cracks on side rails and rungs. Be sure to look for warping or loosening of rungs, missing hardware and any deformation. And, if you find yourself unsure, ask a safety pro (cough, cough...that’d be us).  

Hey, and one last thing. Anytime you’re working at heights, remember this old saying. ‘What’s goes up, must come down.’ So, you’ll want to protect against dropped objects. Don’t forget to rope off the area below and employ tool lanyards to avoid someone below getting a nasty blow to the head.

"Don’t act like you haven’t seen your buddies do some pretty crazy things on a ladder. Or was that you? Either way, you won’t want to miss these do’s and don’ts of ladder safety."

- Bacon
shocked bacon

We are having problems getting an anchor point in the Hoistway. Any Suggestions?

If you plan on working at heights more than 6 feet, you need to use fall protection. To do this, you need to place an anchor point before you can even begin to use the lanyards and harnesses you need to stay safe. Any time you have to place that first anchor point, you’re almost always putting someone in harm’s way.

So, how does a worker safely place an anchor point when they aren’t tied off?

1st Man Up: Yep. It’s their responsibility to install the first fall protection anchorage connector on the job. They have no fall protection and it’s a dangerous job. In an elevator shaft, the anchor point is usually the main beam in the hoistway—or the crosshead beam. Sometimes, there’s just no practical way to do it.

That’s why installing a fixed anchor in the hoistway will help workers avoid the risks that come with the first man up.

But, if that’s not an option here’s a few tips:
  • If possible, use scaffolding, man lifts and guardrails
  • Use equipment specially designed for overhead installation (telescoping pole and adaptor tools)
  • Make sure you immediately tie off to that anchor once it’s installed.
content bacon

"Fixed anchor points can keep more people out of harm’s way over time."

- Bacon

Can you use an SRL in combination with a rope grab on a vertical lifeline?

Let’s go over OSHA’s definitions for these components. Ya know, just so we have an idea what the heck we’re talking about.

Rope Grab is defined as a deceleration device that travels on a lifeline and automatically frictionally engages the lifeline. It then locks to arrest a fall. Most rope grabs on a vertical lifeline are meant to be worn in close proximity to the body. It’s not uncommon to have an integrated 18” connection point.

Fixed: A fixed rope grabs allow workers a fixed length of lifeline in a locked position that does not move with a worker.  

Traveling: An adjustable rope grab allows the rope grab to move up and down a lifeline when moving about a work area.


Self-retracting lanyard (SRL) is a deceleration device which contains a drum wound line. The line may be slowly extracted from, or retracted onto, the drum under tension. After a fall, it automatically locks the drum and arrests the fall.

The main reason you shouldn’t combine the two devices because they aren’t tested as a system. Connecting the SRL into the rope grab can have an effect on the effectiveness of the fall arrest. When you bounce off of the fall arresting force of the SRL, it can cause the rope grab to disengage. The pressure is taken off of the rope grab and you may not actually stop. And, that would make for a very bad day.


So, don’t try to be MacGyver, unless the manufacturer specifically states that the two will work together.

"That’s a big fat no… unless the manufacturer says otherwise."

- Bacon
annoyed bacon

What is the difference between buckle types on a harness?

You should always pick the right buckle that offers you the most protection, ease of donning and is comfortable to use. Here’s a few descriptions of harness buckles:

Tongue (TB) Buckle: Pretty much resembles a belt buckle and is the type most people are familiar with. To adjust, just pull strap through the buckle and lock it into place by connecting tongue through a grommet.

Pass-Through (PT) Buckle: Also called a mating buckle. It’s very easy to use and workers tend to prefer using it. It has two metal, rectangular plates. Just pass the smaller rectangle through the big one and create a secure connection.

Quick Connect (QC) Buckle: Many workers like this type of buckle because it’s the most efficient. It has multiple points of release, but it’s as easy to use. Just snap it into place and go.

Roller Buckle: Also called a friction buckle. It may remind you of the straps on a backpack. This is used to adjust harness webbing. All you have to do is pull webbing through a metal plate and friction keeps it locked in place. After use, always check to see if the buckle needs to be readjusted for proper fit.

hanging bacon

"You might think a buckle is a buckle. Not so fast. Different buckles provide different benefits."

- Bacon

When using drills or power tools in a control room or hoistway do I need PPE?

There are actually quite a few pieces of equipment you should have when working in these applications. Think about it for a minute. The first question you should ask yourself is what are you drilling into? Is it asbestos? Is there the potential to inhale crystalline silica? If there is a potential for being exposed to these substances, you’ll need respirators and cartridges designed specifically for those hazards.

Are you using a GFCI when plugging in your tools to avoid shock? One way to enhance your safety is to also wear safety gloves that can prevent dangerous electric currents from reaching your skin.

What other risks can you think of in these situations? 

There’s always the risk of falls. So, fall arrest systems may be a necessary part of your PPE program. There are also risks associated with confined spaces. You may want to have access to two-way radios and gas detectors to ensure worker safety in these dangerous environments. 


What about dropped objects? Are you worried about old man Jim dropping a tool on your head? You may want to invest in some tool tethers and head protection.

"The better question might be what kind of PPE don’t you need in this application?"

- Bacon
questioning bacon

How do I calculate Fall Distance when using a vertical lifeline?

It’s not really much different than that of traditional fall distance calculations. Oh, you want a refresher on what that is? Check out this easy equation:

Required Fall Clearance Distance:

LL + DD (3.5 ft.) + HH + C (2.5 ft.) = RD

Simple right? Not so much? Ok, let’s break that down a tiny bit.

TD: Total Distance from anchor to nearest obstruction
RD: Required Distance must be less than TD or splat happens
LL: Length of Lanyard being used
DD: Deceleration Distance is the elongation of the device when deployed (typically 3.5 feet)
HH: Height of suspended worker from feet to D-ring (account for worker height as well)
C: Safety factor is the distance from obstruction after a fall. (You must include 1.5 ft. for required clearance and an additional 1 ft. for D-ring movement and material stretch, totaling 2.5 ft.)

Of course, you want to take into account where the anchor point is secured. It should always be above the dorsal D-ring.

Here’s what you don’t want to overlook: Don’t forget to remember the stretch component of the rope. There’s more chance of stretch with a synthetic rope than there is with a wire one. So, to avoid miscalculating the splat zone, you always need to take that into consideration.

"Better get this right— so you don’t miscalculate the splat zone."

- Bacon
smug bacon

When working around equipment where there may be an electrical arc how should I proceed?

If you’re working in a situation that has the possibility for an electrical arc flash to occur, you better proceed with caution. An arc flash happens when an electrical arc leaves its path and travels through the air from one conductor to another. The result? A possible cataclysmic explosion.

Arc flash can happen at any time. Dust, asbestos, corrosion, crossing of wires, condensation, operator error or faulty installation can be just a few of the causes.

Just check out a few of the fun side effects of an arc flash incident: 

  • 1,000 lbs./sq. ft. pressures
  • 700 mph projectiles
  • 30,000° + temperatures
  • Sound pressures over 160 dB
  • Body burn

 

The first thing to do is speak with your safety manager and confirm the presence of potential electrical arcs. 

If possible live equipment needs to be de-energized. Most times you aren’t doing live work, but if it is energized you better be prepared. 

If it’s you versus an arc flash, you need to have the right gear on. We recommend you have arc-rated (AR) clothing. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 70E) recommends that employees make sure all body parts that may be exposed to the blast is covered. That includes coveralls, suits, fire-resistant gloves, sleeves, face and non-conductive eye protection and/or balaclava. 

Here’s some nerd talk: Based on the National Elevator Industry Inc. (NEII) Arc-Flash Hazard Analysis, the arc flash boundaries for elevator controllers ranged from 3” to 16” from exposed components. And, the incident energy was calculated at 0.062 Cal/cm to 0.95 Cal/cm2 at 18 inches. 

Real talk: All that nerdy language says is that arc flash hazards to employees are primarily to the hands and arms. That being said, minimum protection is probably not your best bet. You want to have the most protection you can when working in those situations. 

Don’t forget about the nasty sound dose and projectiles you may be exposed to. So, make sure you also protect your ears with adequate hearing and your baby blues with eye protection. In other words, always proceed with caution.

annoyed bacon

"With caution...and a suit of armor (Arc-rated armor that is)."

- Bacon

When roping an elevator what kind of glove should I use?

When you think about elevator rope, what do you see? Usually it’s a bundles of pretty small wires wrapped up tight. It’s incredibly strong and incredibly sharp. So, it only makes sense that you use a safety glove that is deemed puncture-resistant.

A good choice for a puncture-resistant glove is leather-palmed gloves or puncture-resistant gloves like Alacore, TurtleSkin or HexArmor. They’re specially designed to prevent sharp items from puncturing the skin. You’ll want to avoid the synthetic gloves for the most part. Most are poly-coated and don’t really offer much in the way of puncture-resistance. Just remember all hand protection is not created equal. So, don’t grab any old glove out of your toolbox.

"One that grips, grabs and keeps your hands from being mangled. "

- Bacon
shocked bacon

When using power tools what are some safety concerns I should think about?

First, you need to know what the heck you are drilling or cutting into. Are there water or electrical lines behind the wall or surface? Are you putting yourself at risk for shock? Is there a chance your hand could slip and be caught, pinched or crushed in equipment?

Think about what would happen if you’re standing in a bit of water. Next thing you know, you cut right through some electrical wires behind the wall. It’d probably be wise to make sure your drills, sanders or saws are plugged into a GFCI. You want to make sure that electric current gets shut off as soon as the device detects electricity is flowing on an unintended path. You’ll probably want safety shoes and gloves that offer insulation from accidental electrical contact. Depending on the risks, you may need hand protection that offers back of hand protection to avoid your fingers being crushed.

Other things to consider are the kinds of debris you will be kicking up when you use your power tools. Do you or nearby workers need protection like respirators, eye and hearing protection?

It doesn’t have to be acute risks that you should worry about. Sometimes, it’s the chronic ones that need attention too. How long are you using power tools like impact drills, grinders or your reciprocating saw? Is the constant and forceful vibration causing damage to the nerves and muscles of your hands?

There’s a name for the damage it does: Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Anti-vibration gloves help to absorb and dampen the vibrations put out from tools.

It’s not always as easy as looking at the hazards right in front of your face. You need to be aware of all the hazards that are present on the jobsite. Make sure you perform a thorough hazard assessment. That way you can be prepared—no matter what comes your way.

pissed bacon

"How about every single hazard you’re dealing with?"

- Bacon

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