The Cost of Safety
The only thing constant is change. We all know this, but human nature sometimes dictates that we also fight it. Change just for the sake of change is generally not beneficial, but change for a good reason quite often generates positive results. When new products are targeted toward members of the surveying profession, company owners owe it to their practices and their employees to become acquainted with them. As an example, for a period of time I was in the restaurant business. I can vividly remember attending the National Restaurant Show in Chicago and viewing the neatest thing they had—an instant mashed potato machine. The operator is to put a special little cup under the nozzle and then simply push a button. The cup was filled with mashed potatoes in the blink of an eye. There was a rubber bladder in the cup that allowed the potatoes to come out of the cup in a perfect round scoop. From a management standpoint the idea was fantastic. Unfortunately, during trials we found one major flaw—our customers hated it! It took quite some time for the supplier to work out the taste problem, but they eventually did and the mashed potatoes flowed 24 hours a day. The new technology made our business more efficient and on the “cutting-edge,” but only after the initial kinks had been ironed out.
Surveyors have also been introduced to much change and many new products over the past few years. My wife and I started our safety consulting business 10 years ago. During my first visits to surveyors’ offices, I saw drafting boards, Brother word processors and ammonia-based blueprint machines. Today’s surveying offices house equipment from total stations and GPS receivers to computer networks that allow a technician to complete a full set of drawings without even using a pencil! New products are constantly being put on the market for the surveyor. Following is a description of a few new items available for the surveyor to work more efficiently—and more safely.
A Tool for Confined SpacesThe safety profession is no different than any other in this modern world. It seems like every day I open the mail to find information about a new product that claims to help make workplaces safer. While some of these products may be high-tech, others are essentially low-tech ways to keep employees from getting injured. During confined space training classes, we always emphasize that the best way to deal with a confined space is to avoid entry. Unfortunately, when engineers need pipe inverts and diameters, entry—often by surveyors—must be made. That is, until now. ChrisNik Inc. in Ross, Ohio, is marketing one of the best confined space tools I have seen in years. After being marketed for about a year, the product has been improved to reflect suggestions from field personnel.
ChrisNik’s Pipe Mic allows field crews to obtain inverts of entry and exit pipes as well as the diameter on most configurations up to 20'-25' deep. The Pip Mic works quite simply. It attaches to the end of a Crain SVR leveling rod (Crain Enterprises, Mound City, Ill). (Research and development is now in progress to make this product adaptable to other rods.) The rod is then lowered into a manhole. (The Pip Mic’s 24" extension arm can be extended to 36" for those hard-to-reach pipes.) The measuring point is moved into the pipe and placed on the invert, and a reading is taken. That reading acts as the invert and the lower reading for the pipe diameter. The rod is then raised until the rod stops on the top of the pipe. By subtracting the two readings, a pipe diameter can be obtained. Although this may not work in all situations or at extended depths, using this product can eliminate a vast majority of confined space entries. The list price is $149.95. Keep in mind that even though an employee may not be entering a manhole, basic confined space safety procedures should always be followed.
Vests for Traffic SafetyAnother new product, this one from Service and Materials (St. Charles, Mo.), is a low-tech product with high-tech origins. The company’s LED Flashing Safety Vest is perfect for the times crews work in less than ideal lighting conditions. In April, I observed several employees working on a project at night on Interstate 69. The crewmembers performing the paving operation were in a well-lit area and their normal vests were adequate for visibility. However, there were several employees at different locations away from the well-lit areas of the main activity. Had they used the Service and Materials’ LED Flashing Safety Vest, their visibility to drivers would have been much greater.
And remember, a reflective vest only works when light is shining in its direction. This lighted vest works whenever the switch is on and the batteries are good. Service and Materials Company claims the vest will work for more than 400 hours of intermittent use when a fresh set of 2 AA batteries are installed. It is available in either a front-closing vest style or poncho style. The battery pouch is water-resistant, allowing use in even less than ideal conditions. The switch allows an option to either constantly glow or flash. This product is certainly not for every situation. I don’t recommend its use during daylight hours and even during some night work; a regular Class III vest might be best. However, when working in situations where there isn’t light to be reflected, this product might be the best option. Either style should be available from your distributor for $40 or less.
Proper Protection From InsectsThe West Nile Virus took the country by surprise last year. Documented cases of human infection were reported in 40 states during 2002; Illinois led the nation with 879 cases and 60 deaths1. The virus spreads very quickly; the first case wasn’t even reported until June 2002 and then the figures jumped quickly. It is best to be prepared this year and to require certain crewmembers to have proper protection as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 1946, the U.S. Army developed DEET, an EPA-regulated product that has been in use since 1957. There are several different strengths of DEET-based products available. Some have as low as just a few percent of DEET in their overall compound. Tec Laboratories Inc. produces a product known as 10 Hour or Repel. The one thing that makes this product different from many others on the market is that it contains 95 percent DEET. Tec Labs claims that this product will last for 10 hours even considering perspiration. This product is not normally marketed toward consumers and can be found through a commercial distributor. A side benefit of Repel is that it will also help control bees, ticks and many other insects. A two-ounce size of Repel sells for $5-$8.
Keeping abreast of technology and what it can do is important to all of us, whether we are entering confined spaces, working in traffic at night, working in the woods, or even ordering a nice scoop of mashed potatoes. Keep it safe!
ChrisNik Inc. www.chrisnik.com
Service and Materials Company
Tec Laboratories Inc. www.teclabsinc.com
1 For more information on West Nile Virus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site at: http://www. cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/ index.htm.