2015 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 2015 award recipients. Read more about each safety innovation in the July/August 2016 edition of Asphalt Pavement.
Oldcastle Materials — Montana Cos.
Asphalt Drum Non-Entry Rescue System
Management at Oldcastle Materials—Montana Cos. was concerned about its employees who have to climb inside the asphalt drum to check, clean, and replace the damaged parts.
Often a considerable amount of time is spent inside these drums, inspecting and replacing the thousands of paddles, called flights, used to blend and mix the asphalt. Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules require a non-entry rescue plan to be in place when workers complete this confined-space permit work.
The current plan of rescue if something went wrong didn’t sit well with Skyler Willard, the company’s Safety Director. He decided there had to be a better way so he approached his co-workers — the very ones doing the necessary maintenance.
“We’re the experts,” he told them. “We can’t look to some outside consultant or engineer. You guys work with this stuff every day — what do you think?”
Josh Mix, the company’s Plant Manager, and his co-workers dabbled with ideas and experimented with a couple of the concepts and equipment. After a bit of trial and error, they devised the Asphalt Drum Non-Entry Rescue System. It costs $1,500 to make “and that’s on the high end,” Willard said. “A lot of items a hot plant will already have around.”
Items include a 17,000-pound bridge anchor; 3/8-inch wire aircraft cable with three wire clamps measuring 45-feet long; two 10,000 pounds turn buckles; three carabiners; cable grab; 4 to 1 rescue pulley; 55 feet of rescue rope; and a fall protection harness.
The system works by placing the cable overhead as a static line, or zipline, and anchoring it inside the drum to the burner collar and outside the drum to an anchor. The pulley system is then hooked to the employee’s back with the rope grab. If an employee suddenly became unconscious or unable to self-rescue in an emergency, the limp employee would be raised high enough by the rope grab to clear the flights instead of sliding on the zipline. The outside anchor then helps pull the person all the way out of the drum in a rescue effort, he said.
“The rope grab holds them in place while the pulley raises them up and gets their feet off the flight,” Willard said. “Then we release the rope grab and literally it’s just a zipline right on out in less than 30 seconds.”
To aid in a potential rescue, the exit doors have been widened from 18-by-18 inches to 48-by-48-inches, he said. The rescue system was employee-derived, so Willard said implementation has been simple and well received.
“It’s empowering our employees to come up with a solution,” Willard said. “Because it was their idea, chances of someone using it are 100 percent. Plus, it’s a very simple, easy installation. They didn’t want some cumbersome thing on their backs.”
Payne & Dolan
Lighted Spray Bar on the Tack Truck
One of Payne & Dolan’s workers came up with the idea to wrap the spray bar on his tack truck with an 18-foot LED light to help make the truck as visible as possible during night construction. The spray bar on tack trucks sits 12–18 inches off the ground and when the wings fold out, the 13-foot long bar protrudes from the end of the vehicle, said Mike Del Fava, the company’s Safety Manager.
“When they’re out and not illuminated, someone can very easily trip over that, be struck by it, or cause serious damage,” he said. “But more importantly, it can cause an injury.”
The tack driver hooked up an inverter to the vehicle’s battery and then ran an extension cord from the inverter to the LED light, Del Fava said. “It was one of those ‘aha!’ moments. It’s something so simple, so brilliant that we hadn’t thought of before.”
Del Fava said this inexpensive invention opens the door in preventing one of the greatest safety and tripping hazards by field crews performing night paving work. In addition to bodily injury, if another vehicle were to accidentally run into the spray bar it can cause significant delays and expense to the operation, he said.
“If these tack bars are bent or someone hits them, it completely shuts down our operation,” Del Fava said. “It’s an essential part of the task we’re doing, and it costs several thousand dollars to repair. So from a claims perspective, it can be quite expensive. You lose the whole night.”
Del Fava said the idea was originated at the beginning of the 2015 paving season and the company is implementing the lighted bar on all its tack trucks.
The employee who came up with the idea said he felt like his innovation was “no big deal” and he was simply doing the right thing, Del Fava said.
“I said, ‘Hey, I think you have a phenomenal idea here. I think it’s great for all aspects of what we do — it’s great for production, it’s great for safety — and I want to nominate you for an award.’”
The fact that this invention came from an employee is an important fact not to be overlooked, Del Fava said. It’s a simple idea that took years to come to fruition.
“It really is empowering when an employee comes up with an idea and then he’s recognized for it,” he said. “When that happens and then word spreads throughout the company, you get people who want to go after it now and they want to come up with their innovation.”
Superior Paving Corp.
McCav Air Brake Warning System
Superior Paving Corp. worried that many of its truck drivers weren’t using the safety brake when exiting their large, over 26,000-pound commercial vehicles.
So the company investigated the McCav Air Brake Warning System to help reduce and potentially eliminate truck roll-away incidents. The system works by visually and audibly alerting drivers to apply the air brake prior to exiting the vehicle. Superior Paving equipped the warning system on two of its trucks, one on a dump truck and one on a low-boy tractor.
“We told one of the drivers it was on it but we didn’t tell the second driver,” said Todd Atkins, Director of Safety for Superior Paving. “So about three days after it was installed, we got a call at the shop, saying ‘I don’t know what’s going on with this truck — what’s all this noise?’ So ultimately we figured out the product actually works and works effectively.”
The brake warning system was first brought to Superior’s attention by a local traffic supply store that had successfully used the product in the trash industry.
Superior decided this was worth the cost and installed the system on its entire fleet of trucks — 100 units to date — including its dump trucks, all-service vehicles, tack trucks, crash cushion vehicles, and low-boy tractors.
While the initial expense of installing the warning system into its fleet was steep, Atkins said Superior didn’t think twice about it.
“If we can avert one accident, it’s paid for itself,” Atkins said. “Our most important asset, obviously, is our folks, and we can’t replace them. We can buy all the equipment in the world but you can’t buy people.”
One common occurrence in which the McCav Air Brake Warning System truly comes into play is when haul trucks are lined up in close proximity to each other, waiting in line to begin an on-site paving job. Drivers tend to get out of their trucks to talk to each other, standing between their vehicles.
The fear is a roll-off would cause injury to multiple people, resulting in disaster. Atkins said the device works in preventing drivers from leaving their vehicles without applying the brake.
The system is designed to alert the driver in both English and Spanish, providing both an audible and visible alarm. “You won’t miss it,” he said.
Valley Asphalt Corp.
Transfer Slat Cat Walks
Valley Asphalt Corp. designed a “bolt-on” structure termed, a transfer slat catwalk, to help employees safely repair transfer slats at its plant. The company’s Asphalt Group Safety Committee used a hierarchy of hazard control steps to engineer a fix for the work area that meets fall protection needs in a more streamlined, efficient manner.
“It was designed to make the catwalks so they are free-standing,” said Chris Dittus, Valley Asphalt Corp. Operations Manager. “This eliminated the use of a harness, which was a huge benefit to the men and put them on a level plane with the transfer slats. These two things make it safer and more efficient when working.”
Prior to this invention, workers had to wear a full-body harness with a lanyard, and attach themselves to an anchor point or perform the work from a ladder. These solutions weren’t ideal, and employees sometimes found it difficult to maintain the necessary protection. The stability of the transfer slat catwalks gives the added benefit of increased efficiency and safety all in one, Dittus said.
“They’re not standing on a ladder that could kick out from underneath them at any time,” Dittus said. “When you’re on a ladder, you really just didn’t have access to the transfer slats the way that you needed to.”
Valley Asphalt Corp. takes employee safety seriously with the help of its Safety Committee, which meets twice a year to discuss and check safety issues at the plant. The committee was formed in 2010 and members serve two-year terms. “The neat thing about it is that it’s peer-driven,” Dittus said. “They’re keeping an eye on each other.”
All safety issues are addressed, and it was during one of these committee meetings that safety concerns over the transfer slats were first mentioned, he said. Transfer slats wear over time and if one breaks, the plant silo is shut down until the problem is fixed.
The catwalks cost about $6,000, including labor and materials Dittus said. The structure contains a standard top rail, mid rail, and toe board. It is constructed with square 1-inch tubing, flat stock steel, and extruded metal.
Dittus said employees have welcomed the improvement, which saves time and puts safety in the forefront of everyone’s mind.
“They’re able to complete the work faster, they’re able to do it safer, and it gives them total access to the transfer slat,” Dittus said. “You’re not spending extra man hours fixing it.”