How to Be Safe

February 28, 2006
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Bruises, stings, hives, rashes, cuts, sunburn, frostbite, over-inhalation of toxic gases. Sound unpleasant? How about hearing loss, broken limbs, drowning, debilitation and death? More unpleasant? These are some of the risks field surveyors take every time they head out for a job. For some surveyors, it is the thrill of the outdoors that keeps them motivated. But this thrill often dissipates when surveyors are faced with the undesirable hazards mentioned-and more. Fortunately, these unwanted effects from the environment that field surveyors regularly work in can be reduced or avoided with proper safety precautions. The NSPS Foundation is setting out to train surveyors on how to do just that.

A Closeup on Content

The Foundation recently signed an agreement with Ron and Sandee Koons, co-owners of RoSaKo Safety, Middletown, Ind., to develop a video-based safety training program to assist surveyors in their safety compliance efforts. This program will include three separate components. The first will include all general aspects of workplace safety for surveyors, both office and field personnel. The other two components will include sections on Permit Required Confined Spaces and roadway work zone safety.

"Surveyors are technically oriented," says Ron Koons, who along with his wife Sandee will write, produce and direct the video. "They are so geared toward using technology and how it can benefit their company that they don't realize that safety can tremendously affect the bottom line of their business. My idea for selling this project was for surveyors to have a couple of hours of training, which is more than most do now." Koons hopes the video will give all field employees and office employees a background in safety for surveying. Subjects requiring further education will need to be broached by individual firms according to their needs. "The training program will include as many aspects of surveyor safety as possible within the time constraints. If this program is successful, we can look at further programs down the road that will build on what is already in place."

The first component for the video, loosely titled "Woods, Field and Water Safety" will include precautions to take while performing general surveying work, along with working on all-terrain vehicles, bridges and railroads, and working around or in water. Personal Protective Equipment, including safety glasses, hard hats, footwear and clothing for certain conditions will be discussed briefly as well as other general aspects of workplace safety. Since it is estimated that one-third of workers' compensation cases are related to ergonomics, the video will not overlook office personnel. Topics such as electrical safety and storing flammable items may also be covered. A short workbook will accompany the video and real-world surveying crews will demonstrate how to safely accomplish daily tasks.

In the Permit Required Confined Spaces section of the video, definitions of such spaces will be covered and direction on when to have protection near them, what type of protection to have on hand, and how to enter a manhole and other such spaces. The video will also include alternate ways for surveyors to avoid entering confined spaces.

The roadway work zone safety section of the video will include instructions on efficient flagging techniques (including using a Slow/Stop paddle), the various vests required for particular projects and how to set up effective temporary traffic control, "whether it's a two-lane road or a six-lane highway," Koons says.



Photo courtesy of SECO.

Support and Input

In January, the NSPS Foundation sent out fundraising letters to state affliliates requesting monetary donations for the video. Another letter will be sent to a lengthy list of vendors requesting input on the video's content, contributions of equipment and monetary donations. The Foundation seeks input and contributions for all aspects of the profession and from all regions of the country.

The estimated 60-minute video will first utilize volunteer firms in the central Indiana area where the video will be shot. To make the video more comprehensive, NSPS is requesting input from individuals and groups in other parts of the country, including mountainous regions, and coastal and arid areas. Curt Sumner, LS, executive director for NSPS and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), plans to solicit input as he travels across the country this year. "It may be the first time anybody has done anything like this [in the surveying profession]," Sumner says. "I hope that it will put safety uppermost in the minds of surveyors on a regular basis; we want the surveying community to be aware more than [they] are." Sumner adds that many surveyors have an attitude of familiarity in their work where "even if you're aware of the dangers, you're less likely to be safe and follow safe practices.

"[In] all the years I have worked in surveying, very little time is spent in general having a discussion with surveying crews-and office people for that matter-about safety. It's usually just assumed the person in charge is going to instruct or guide the people in the right things to do. But too often surveyors are seen in the road without signs or vests. It's really ironic how little [safety] is [practiced]."

Although few concrete numbers exist specifically for surveyors' accidents and fatalities while on the job (maybe someday the U.S. Department of Labor will recognize this profession appropriately), a quick look at the most dangerous jobs in the country and the job activities with the highest death rates points to the work many surveyors do. These include construction accidents, drowning, exposure to substances (assuming these are chemical and toxic), highway collisions, assaults/violence (think: property owners!), or being struck by just about anything from flying objects to vehicles.

"I have surveying crews out there, and I shudder [to think] that they're doing things that they shouldn't be doing," says John R. Fenn, PLS, president/founder of Fenn & Associates of Shelby Township, Mich. "I think a lot of surveyors think they are superhuman." Fenn is a past president of NSPS and will oversee much of the fundraising for the safety video project.



Basic criteria under the MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices), Part VI must be followed at all times. This worker should be wearing high visibility apparel at a minimum.

Reality Training Needed

Since safety hasn't been a priority for many surveyors, neither are the lessons passed along within crews, firms, society chapters, states or across the nation. "We don't know how to [be safe]," Fenn says. "We haven't been educated, and by not being educated, we can't teach others. I don't think there are any [surveying] schools that teach safety." The NSPS Foundation hopes the safety video will improve safety education in the profession.

"Each day before a crew leaves, they should discuss what needs to be accomplished that day and make certain they have all of the safety items that may be required. Periodic tool box safety talks must be held with all personnel," Koons advises, adding that the benefits of establishing company safety policies or adding appropriate addendums to current policies will also fare well to clients and insurance carriers. "Surveyors can inform potential clients upfront that their employees have received safety training. Safety training, along with effective written safety policies, will help sell even the toughest of clients. In fact, many large developers and contractors now require proof of a surveyor's safety efforts."

"One of the reasons we eventually hired a full-time safety person here is because we have some critical clients who require specific safety procedures not only for the jobs we do for them, but for our overall company," says Gary Kent, LS, director of Integrated Services at The Schneider Corporation in Indianapolis. Kent was president of ACSM in 2001 when Koons first proposed the video project for the surveying profession. "There is a lack of overall consciousness on this issue and I think the video will be well-received."

Company owners and operators may also see benefits from safety practices in their pockets. The fewer workplace injuries and fatalities a company has, the more its costs for workers' compensation may be reduced. But many firms and individual surveyors are unaware of how to apply safety into their daily work. The NSPS Foundation hopes to answer this call with the safety video. "Nobody has addressed this [issue] for surveyors only," says Joe Dolan, PLS, president-elect for NSPS who will oversee the video project. "Many people realize they are not compliant with OSHA standards. Usually they're not small injuries that we have in the surveying profession, and anything you can do to cut [those events] will be good. [The video] will certainly benefit the industry as a whole and improve the safety aspects for the whole profession."

To contribute funds to the NSPS Safety Video project, contact John Fenn at 23505@msn.com; Joe Dolan at 609/344-2648; or Pat Canfield at pat.canfield@acsm.net. Solo surveyors are especially encouraged to provide input to the project.

Look for complete details on the NSPS Safety Video in a future issue of POB.

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