Wednesday, March 28, 2012 0 comments

April is Safe Digging Month

The month of April is National Safe Digging Month. This is the month where an extra emphasis is made to promote awareness of underground utilities and of the need to work safely around them.

But every month, every day, and every minute should see an equal emphasis upon safety around underground utilities for utilities, locators and diggers alike. Always call before you dig - it's safer and cheaper than what could happen should you hit something below.
Monday, March 26, 2012 1 comments

"International Driver's License": Fake documents, very real threats to employers

Recently I was talking with someone who, like me, does human resources in the construction industry. They were asking questions that had arisen from a recent incident where an injured employee was taken to the hospital and presented a so-called "International Driver's License" as identification, wondering if they should allow that employee to continue operating a company vehicle. I did a little research to get to the bottom of this matter and learned that not only are these documents bogus, trusting those with such fake documents could expose employers to some major financial risks.

Someone who presents this kind of fake identification when being hired can present two major risks to employers: state and federal penalities for hiring an illegal alien, as well as considerable financial risks if they get behind the wheel of a company vehicle and get in a wreck. If a new hire cannot present a state-issued driver's license or ID card, employers should ask themselves how much of a risk they are willing to take to hire that individual before they proceed with bringing them onto their payroll.
Thursday, March 22, 2012 0 comments

Common Ground Alliance's Best Practices 9.0 released

The Common Ground Alliance released its Version 9.0, the latest update for standards for underground utility installation, locating and construction operations in the vicinity of underground facilities.

In addition to setting Best Practices to guide safe operations, they were used as one of the most important sources of guidance in updating South Carolina's underground utility damage prevention and safety laws last year.

If you're involved in these issues, go check out this important update.
Monday, March 19, 2012 0 comments

States now mandating E-verify use

Following the Supreme Court ruling (Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting) in which justices ruled 5-3 that the state of Arizona could mandate the use of the federal E-verify system as a means of screening new hires, other states are following Arizona’s lead to mandate it’s use.

Legislation sponsored by Berkeley County's State Senator Larry Grooms require South Carolina employers to use E-verify. In addition, three other states mandated E-verify usage beginning this year: Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.

For a first occurrence by a private employer, after July 1, 2012, of failure to verify a new hire through the E-Verify federal work authorization program within three business days, the Department of LLR must place the employer on probation for a period of one year, during which time the private employer must submit quarterly reports to the agency demonstrating compliance with the law. A subsequent violation within three years of the law’s verification requirements must result in the suspension of the private employer’s licenses for at least 10 days but not more than 30 days.

A private employer who knowingly or intentionally employs an unauthorized alien must have his licenses suspended by the Department of LLR on a first occurrence for at least 10 days but not more than 30 days.
Sunday, March 18, 2012 0 comments

Another reason for tougher work zone enforcement laws

For those who think enough is being done to toughen work zone enforcement, think again.

This took place in our I-26 work zone last night. The truck shown in the first photo entered the lane closure, reportedly traveling through about 1 1/2 miles of closed lanes after demolishing the arrow board shown in the second photo.

The first mile of a closure is ordinarily empty space, set up as a buffer zone with the understanding that some drivers will somehow miss two miles of advance signs, message boards, barricades, cones and flashing arrows.

But the next half mile had workers in it. Of three groups of workers, one was missed by mere feet.

Last time I looked, luck is not an OSHA-approved safety device, yet all too often, it's one of the few safety devices our workers have.

S.C. legislators were asked to support a proposal that would double penalties for moving violations in work zones and dedicate those proceeds just to defray the cost of work zone enforcement. Too often, our workers work with no active law enforcement because there is no money in the construction budget for additional police officers.

But why should money be taken from building roads to pay when offenders could pay? This also could give the additional benefit of being able to keep troopers employed after several years of budget cuts have hammered the Highway Patrol.

More discussion to come on this subject. Count on it ...
Saturday, March 17, 2012 0 comments

Common Ground Alliance: Advocates for safe digging

Safe digging is a shared responsibility between many stakeholders, including utilities, landowners, contractors, locators, public safety and regulatory officials. Getting on the same page is a continual challenge, so it's best to get ahead of the game.

If you're not already involved, the Common Ground Alliance is a non-profit stakeholder group in Canada and the United States which advocates best practices and partnerships, with local chapters in most provinces and states. It's Best Practices, currently in Version 9.0, is a set of standards for safe digging developed by consensus between representatives from member stakeholder groups. These standards were referenced often in last year's team efforts to re-write South Carolina's underground utility safety laws.

The South Carolina chapter holds its quarterly meeting Monday at 10 at the SC811/PUPS offices in Columbia. As the current Vice-Chair and one of the charter members, I encourage you to get involved.

Enhancing work zone safety with Type III barricades

On-ramp taper before
Type III placement

A major hazard in highway work zones is when cars enter closed-off lanes clearly marked off by cones. As this small percentage is either not noticing the cones, running them over for sport, or for whatever reason don’t think a closed-off lane is off-limits to traffic. Thus the answer seemed simple: try solutions that are bigger, more noticable and more difficult to get through in order to get their attention.

On-ramp taper AFTER
Type III placement

Type III barricades (the big three-tiered ones shown above) are more visible because they’re much bigger than the standard tall channelizing cones. We had some available from past use on the project. Rather than send them to the company’s storage yard, where they’d just gather dust, I experimented with placing several in areas which were most prone to run-through by motorists.

The areas where the problems seemed worst were just before exit ramps and where entrance ramps were re-routed through closure zones.

The results were immediately noticable: every area where the barricades were placed saw ZERO entry by motorists. Since then, I’ve had my traffic control personnel placing them in high-risk areas and the results continue to show a ONE HUNDRED PERCENT success rate whereever they’re installed.