ASK THE EXPERTS is presented in partnership with PLANET’s Trailblazers On Call program. Trailblazers are industry leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to give back to the industry.
Q. Has anyone heard of a new regulation requiring safety vests to be worn by employees?
A. The question is fairly complex and is one where the answer is subject to interpretation. If we were dealing strictly with “flaggers” (workers assigned to traffic control) in highway construction zones, then OSHA Standard 1926.201 would apply, and rightfully so. Work zone deaths to flaggers are tragic and occur all too often.
While living in Chicago, I often heard of instances where during interstate road construction projects, especially in overnight work zones, the flaggers were at increased risk of injury and death. A close friend of my parents in Pennsylvania was flagging a work zone on I-80 and was tragically killed when an inattentive driver plowed into an active work zone that had been well marked and signed, and all the workers were wearing approved safety vests.
The standard has been expanded and now applies to some construction sites that are in close proximity to roadways or have considerable construction zone vehicular and equipment traffic. The interpretation lies in how an OSHA inspector looks at landscape construction areas. I would predict that an inspector would exercise a strict interpretation if the landscape construction area was in close proximity to roadways with vehicular traffic. The general duty clause may also kick in since employers are required to provide a safe workplace, free of “recognized” hazards.
If I were managing landscape construction work sites near roadways, I would first identify all potentially hazardous work conditions and respond accordingly to eliminate or reduce workplace hazards, including my workers’ exposure to vehicular traffic. With more and more drivers paying less and less attention to their driving, workers in close proximity to the traveled surface are placed at a higher risk for injury and death. Safety vests that meet safety standards for color and durability are not very expensive. They range from $5 to $15 for a good quality safety vests. I would also include landscape maintenance personnel who are mowing center island turf areas and those working between curbs and sidewalks. It would be money well spent to provide that extra measure of visibility and protection for the workers.
Several other issues enter into this discussion. If the weather is warm, the safety vests should be constructed of a mesh type material that breathes and does not increase the opportunity for overheating the workers. In addition, if safety vests become the company policy for worker protection near vehicular traffic, management must make sure that exposed workers are wearing the vests, and wearing them properly. This becomes the responsibility of the on-site crew manager.
Sam Steel, PLANET Safety Consultant, Pennsylvania State University
Q. What would you recommend as far as soil for a cast stone bowl that is approximately 22 inches high and either 3, 4 or 5 feet in diameter? These bowls will be outside year-round in Lexington, Ky., and contain perennials, annuals and shrub material.
A. The bowls must have drainage, so make sure each has at least three holes in the bottom that are a good ½ inch wide.
First, fill the bottom of the bowl with 2 inches of aggregate 3/4 inch in size, or even broken pot shards hammered down to a small enough size.
Then, place landscape fabric over the top of the stones to stop soil from migrating down into the stone.
I like potting soil for bowls as it won’t compact and is usually pretty good quality. I’d also recommend that you get some Pro-Mix, if found locally, and mix it 60/40 with topsoil (with the Pro-Mix as the 40).
Richard Heller, Landscape Industry Certified Manager & Technician, president, Greener By Design
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