2014 Asphalt Operations Safety Innovations
This award recognizes companies that develop innovative ideas or achieve practical outcomes leading to improved worker safety in a roadway, plant site or quarry environment, and whose safety practices are above and beyond normal safety practices. Congratulations to NAPA's 2014 award recipients. Read more about each safety innovation in the September/October 2015 edition of Asphalt Pavement, or read below about the two winners: Payne & Dolan's Break Away Paver Guide Bar and Lakeside Industries Inc.'s Custom Fitted Hearing Protection.
Making sure your employees are protected while on the job is something all asphalt companies consider a primary concern. But making sure the workers — and by extension, their families — have the same protection while at home is what helps set Lakeside Industries apart in the safety department.
Lakeside Industries has taken a bold approach when it comes to protecting the hearing of its workers while on the job and off. The company first began baseline audiogram testing in 1996 and has continued the annual practice each year since. Last year alone, 551 permanent and temporary Lakeside employees were tested.
“We describe safety as a core value … rather than say ‘safety is our top priority,” said Cal Beyer, Director of Risk Management for Lakeside Industries Inc. “The distinction is priorities change. Core values don’t.”
Beginning in 2011, the company began offering dB Blockers™, custom-fit hearing protection for its field employees, including asphalt paving and grade crews, asphalt production and plant maintenance crews, commercial drivers, mechanics, and miners. In all, roughly 470 employees have been fitted, and the program was recently expanded to cover seasonal employees as well.
Beyer has worked at Lakeside Industries less than one year. When he first arrived he “was blown away by the commitment Lakeside had, and how much effort and money the company invested to do the right thing.” He added that sharing this best practice sends a message that safety solutions can engage employees rather than making it a battleground.
“Ultimately, it will have an impact on the health and welfare of employees, which in the long run will have a direct impact on the bottom line,” Beyer said.
“We do it to reach the hearts and minds of our employees, to engage them in taking care of their own hearing,” Beyer said. “We are trying to educate employees who have noise exposure at work, at home, and at play.”
The dB Blockers operate by removable vents that allow ambient background noise to enter in but filter out harmful noise. The vents can be changed to control the amount of noise exposure, while offering a consistent level of noise reduction. Workers are still able to hear traffic or directions from colleagues about paving equipment being moved, Beyer said.
“Our employees have embraced this form of hearing protection more than any other form of hearing protection,” Beyer said. He said many employees praise its ease of use, effectiveness, superior quality, and comfort.
Over the years, Lakeside Industries had tried numerous hearing protection devices that weren’t custom-fitted. Many employees said they never fit properly or allowed too much background noise to come in, so they would end up wearing no hearing protection, Beyer said.
“It’s very empowering to have people understand our expectations for safety,” Beyer said. “We educate, equip, and empower them so they do their own enforcement; we don’t have to be safety cops, but more like safety coaches”.
While Beyer said financial gain or benefits is never the goal of Lakeside Industries when it comes to safety, he said it never hurts for the general public to see the company truly taking care of its own.
“Safety is the number one commitment on Lakeside’s mission statement,” Beyer said. “The general public sees our employees properly attired, wearing the protective equipment.”
Beyer said the company’s subcontractors have taken note, making statements to the effect: “Wow, you even have an emphasis on hearing protection. Your company cares about your people.”
Lakeside Industries hopes the company’s mantra about hearing protection will extend to their employees’ families as well. Beyer said many Lakeside employees engage in recreational activities that involve loud or excessive noise, such as shooting guns, motocross, ATVs, or wood working.
“And they are doing so with their children,” Beyer said. “We are teaching our employees to give their children proper hearing protection so they can avoid excessive exposure.”
Beyer said he feels sharing this best practice with the industry is a win-win.
“We want to say, ‘Look, if you get creative with your safety solutions and you engage your employees to take away the obstacles, safety innovations will work and will have an impact on employee health and welfare,” Beyer said.
Working in the trenches provides asphalt employees the unique opportunity to not only follow safety guidelines for themselves but also their colleagues working right beside them.
Two years ago, a Payne & Dolan employee was working adjacent to an asphalt paver as the operator was backing up, repositioning for the next pass. The paver guide bar, which sits about a foot off the ground on the paver and is not always visible to workers, struck the employee. He was knocked to the ground and dragged several feet, severely injuring his leg.
Coworkers immediately started thinking of a solution as to how this guide bar could be built to break away when it strikes a person or object.
“We are an employee-based company,” said Doug Swan, Safety Manager with Payne & Dolan. “The guys out there are living it and breathing it. We want them to be part of the solution and come up with these ideas.”
Swan said in addition to the risk of bodily injury, these guide bars in the past have clipped a building or another piece of equipment, causing property damage. The final product, the Break Away Paver Guide Bar, has proved a success to Payne & Dolan in terms of a potential reduction in personal injuries and property damage.
“From an employee standpoint as well as property damage prevention, the cost invested in making this enhancement will definitely be offset by having the added benefit of it breaking away,” Swan said.
A typical guide bar is used by the paver operator to hold a true line while paving. At the end of the bar is a chain that hangs and the bar can be extended to a maximum distance of about six feet. The standard original equipment manufacturer bar is a steel rod, which is inserted into a steel pipe on the front of the paver and is adjustable based on need. When workers need to approach the front of the paver, the bar presents a tripping hazard or a more serious injury if the paver is in motion.
“Initially, we thought it would be pretty simple,” Swan said. “Put a wood dowel there, at least it will break when enough pressure is applied. But it would not withstand the day-to-day paving operations nor have enough rigidity to be productive.”
Through more trial and error, the current version of the Break Away Paver Guide Bar proved successful. It is made of steel and has a spring loaded mechanism that allows the bar to "break-away" if it strikes an object or person.
Swan said raising awareness will help reduce probability of injury, which is immeasurable in terms of financial benefit to the company and the industry as a whole. “It’s all about injury prevention,” Swan said. “If our company sees a value in this modification, then others can hopefully adopt this for their own use and in turn prevent injuries across the paving industry as a whole.”
When the workers present their ideas on how something can be prevented or fixed, Swan said it’s an added benefit.
“Not only do they have a lot of great ideas and expertise but when they’re part of the solution it’s a lot easier to implement than just pushing something at them,” Swan said.