Bridge Answer Man: How everybody stays safe |

Bridge Answer Man: How everybody stays safe

Safety gear and certifications are required of workers on the Grand Avenue bridge project.
Klaus Kocher |

Safety incidents and injuries cause a ripple effect. They affect our crews, the injured worker’s family and friends and sometimes project timelines. The Grand Avenue bridge team practices a safety culture — meaning we make safety personal, and we take it seriously.

Personal protective equipment, known in the construction trades as PPE, refers to the clothing, hard hats, safety glasses and other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury, that must meet minimum requirement to enter the project job site. New employees are given an extensive safety training and receive the specific PPE that is required for their work on the project.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has different PPE standards for many facets of industry. CDOT and the RLW/Joint Venture are required to meet the minimum requirements, but often go beyond the minimum for the safety of our team. In construction, employees are required to have foot, head, hearing, eye and hand protection at all times. When working at heights, any employee working six feet or more above the ground must maintain 100 percent continuous tie-off harness with a lifeline and lanyard.

Crews on the bridge project are required to wear closed-toe boots with a defined heel. In addition, everyone on the team is issued a hard hat, safety glasses and work gloves. Hard hats are labeled with contractor logos and the employee’s name to identify the employee in both day-to-day task and emergencies. Wherever it is not feasible to reduce noise levels or duration of exposure to noise (above 85 decibels), crews must wear ear plugs. This can include working in close proximity to equipment, generators or trains.

Crews are also issued high visibility orange safety vests that meet Union Pacific Railroad safety standards because of the project’s proximity to the railroad. Flaggers are issued high visibility yellow safety vests because they meet typical Department of Transportation standards on a state level.

Unique to the bridge project, all team members must pass a contractor orientation course through Union Pacific. This certification, as well as proper PPE and steel-toed boots, gives the crew access to the causeway, near the railroad through Glenwood Springs.

Because of the project’s proximity to the Colorado River, employees who are working over or near water are provided U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests. Ring buoys with at least 90 feet of line are stationed on both the south causeway and north wirewall, readily available for emergency rescue operations.

In safety training, everyone is asked to give the safety manager, Ashley Jacobs, a photo of the reason they work safely. All crew members have this photo on their vests to remind them of why they work safely. Our goal as a project team is to go home the way we arrived every day. Safety is at the core of everything we do; our people are our most valuable asset.

I’ve talked about what we do as a team to stay safe around the work site, but the project also has the responsibility of keeping the public safe when they are walking or driving around construction areas. We provide barricades, signage and flaggers to help you navigate safely, but I encourage you to help by being mindful of what is going on as you pass by or through a work site. By mindful, I mean be attentive and aware of your surroundings. Being mindful of the situation will enable you to react quickly to potential safety risks that, despite our best efforts, could occur at any time.

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