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New Year's Resolutions For The Pallet Manufacturer
Eye on Safety: New Year's Resolutions for the Pallet Manufacturer - Deal Constructively with Winter's Burdens

By Don Rung
Date Posted: 12/1/1999

The transition of your operations from the more benign conditions of spring, summer and autumn to the more punitive weather of the winter months requires more than just a change in wardrobe. There are hazards inherent in this seasonal change which if unanticipated, can expose your business to the potential for property loss, liability claims and the interruption of your operations.

• Keep Boiler and Furnace Rooms Clean

All too often, during "non heating season" months, boiler and furnace enclosures can become collection areas for miscellaneous storage. More often than not, most of this storage is combustible and can potentially be ignited if in too close a proximity to boilers, furnaces or hot water tanks. In similar fashion, stock storage on racks and shelves can end up too close to suspended gas or oil unit heaters and can be subject to ignition. Make sure furnaces, boilers, water heaters and suspended unit heaters are provided with adequate clearance to any combustible material.

• Keep Your Heating Units in Sound Operating Condition

A significant number of fires originating in heating devices are directly attributable to maintenance related defects. Annual cleaning and service of heating units contributes not only to extending the life of the heating unit, but reduces the potential that the heating unit will serve as a source of ignition for a fire. Inspect chimney connectors, vents and smoke pipes regularly for signs of deterioration, loose joints and/or inadequate clearances to combustible materials. Special care should be taken with wood burning heaters to ensure that heaters and their chimneys do not deteriorate, that chimneys are kept clean and that ample clearance is maintained to combustible material, including fuel.

• Regularly Drain All Dry Pipe Sprinkler System Low Point Drains

The piping in dry pipe sprinkler systems is filled with compressed air. Moisture from the compressed air condenses and collects in low point drain areas, designed into the system to serve as collection points for this moisture. Ideally, these low points should be equipped with a "drum drip" assembly which is filled with a mixture of anti-freeze to prevent freezing of the condensate water. Drum drips should be drained and filled half way with fresh antifreeze. Systems with low point drains not equipped with anti-freeze drum drips should be fully drained of all condensate and regularly drained throughout the winter months. Failure to properly attend to these low point drains can lead them to freeze and crack, typically resulting in flooding of the entire system with subsequent freezing and damage to piping and water damage to stock.

• Protect Against Hazards of Vehicle Block Heaters

Vehicle block heaters are a necessity in colder climates. It is important, however, to recognize that these block heaters and the electrical circuits serving them have caused fires and electrocution. Ideally, block heaters should be plugged directly into a "hard wired", permanent circuit provided with ground fault interruption protection. If flexible cords must be used to power block heaters, it is critical to ensure that the cord is adequately rated for the amperage of the block heater and in sound physical condition with no damage to insulation. Given the frequency with which the employees plugging in or unplugging these block heaters are standing in moisture and/or have moisture on their hands, ground fault interruption protection is a vital way to reduce the potential for shock or electrocution.

• Respond to Snow and Ice

Improper attention and response to snow and ice can have a direct negative impact on your Worker’s Compensation. Assignment of specific responsibilities for salting or sanding of ice accumulation areas is a vital step in reducing your exposure to this type of loss.

• Keep Vehicles Winter Ready

Trucks and private passenger vehicles should be prepared for winter driving. Condition of tires and wiper blades should be regularly evaluated and replacements made as necessary. Windshield defrosters should be in functional condition and all vehicles should be equipped with an ice and snow brush. Employees should be regularly reminded throughout this period of the need for extra caution in driving, the importance of maintaining a speed appropriate for conditions and the hazards inherent in climbing up to and down from cargo areas on trucks.

• "Buddy Up" for Safer Material Handling

The combination of the less secure footing created by ice and snow and the physical restrictions imposed by winter outer garments effectively reduce the capacity of any individual employee for safe manual material handling. Encourage employees to assist each other as much as possible in manual material handling tasks during winter months to reduce the potential for injury.

• Ensure that there is adequate Interior and Exterior Lighting

Inadequate lighting is a significant factor in interior and exterior tripping and falling accidents. The early onset of darkness during winter months can make this a far more common hazard during operating hours than is the case during summer months. Make sure all interior and exterior lights are operational, replace bulbs as necessary and provide additional lighting if needed.

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