Summer Maintenance Projects

Summer is a good time for maintenance personnel at parishes and schools to take care of projects that have accumulated throughout the year. To ensure your safety this summer, below are some guidelines to follow when attending to items on your punch list.

Proper Lifting

Be good to your back by being mindful of proper lifting techniques. Assess the load. Lift only what you can handle. If the load is too much, do not do it alone; ask for assistance. Keep the load as close to your body as possible; do not lift the load above your head or carry it on your shoulder. Let your legs do the work. Straighten your back, lifting from your legs, not your back.

Tools and Safety Gear

Before beginning, make sure you have the right equipment you need to get the job done. Check to ensure that equipment is in good working order, that all of the proper safety guards are in place and that safety switches are operational. If the tool is damaged in any way, do not use it. Operate all tools according to manufacturer’s instructions, and always use the appropriate personal protective equipment.

Hand Tools

According to OSHA, the greatest hazards posed by hand tools result from misuse and improper maintenance. OSHA offers the following warnings:

  • If a chisel is used as a screwdriver, the tip of the chisel may break and fly off, hitting the user or others.
  • If a wooden handle on a tool is loose, splintered or cracked, the head of the tool may fly off and strike the user or others.
  • If the jaws of a wrench are sprung, the wrench might slip.
  • If impact tools such as chisels, wedges, or drift pins have mushroomed heads, the heads might shatter on impact, sending sharp fragments flying toward the user or other employees.
  • Cracked saw blades must be removed from service.
  • Knives and scissors must be sharp; dull tools can cause more hazards than sharp ones.

Power Tools

Power tools are extremely hazardous when not used properly. OSHA recommends that workers use the following precautions:

  • Never carry a tool by the cord or hose.
  • Never yank the cord or the hose to disconnect it from the receptacle.
  • Keep cords and hoses away from heat, oil, and sharp edges.
  • Disconnect tools when not using them, before servicing and cleaning them, and when changing accessories such as blades, bits, and cutters.
  • Keep all people not involved with the work at a safe distance from the work area.
  • Secure work with clamps or a vise, freeing both hands to operate the tool.
  • Avoid accidental starting. Do not hold fingers on the switch button while carrying a plugged-in tool.
  • Maintain tools with care; keep them sharp and clean for best performance.
  • Follow instructions in the user's manual for lubricating and changing accessories.
  • Be sure to keep good footing and maintain good balance when operating power tools.
  • Wear proper apparel for the task. Loose clothing, ties, or jewelry can become caught in moving parts.
  • Remove all damaged portable electric tools from use and tag them: "Do Not Use."

In addition, avoid the risk of electricity by ensuring power tools are properly grounded or double-insulated. Test all tools for effective grounding with a continuity tester or a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) before use. Do not use electrical tools in wet or damp conditions unless the tool is connected to a GFCI. Do not use tools with frayed cords.

Never leave tools unattended and within reach of unexpected visitors, especially when taking breaks. Always unplug power tools after use and be sure to lock all tools in storage area when done using. Always store electrical tools in dry areas.

Ladder Use

When using a ladder, make sure the ladder is sturdy and that all the rungs are in place. Select a ladder that is the proper size for the task and don’t use a ladder that requires you to stretch to get the job done. Wear slip-resistant shoes. Do not carry anything that prevents you from having a good grip on the ladder. Being overloaded with items when climbing can lead to slips and falls and can injure people in the area if the objects are accidentally dropped.

Proper Clothing and Safety Gear

Wear proper clothing and safety gear for the job, such as heavy work gloves, goggles, earplugs or respirator masks. If wearing gloves, make sure they fit properly. Gloves that are too large can cause you to lose your grip. Wear sturdy shoes and do not work in sandals or bare feet, especially when using power equipment. If working outdoors in the summer heat, try to wear lightweight, light-colored clothing that covers your arms and legs; otherwise, be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen to exposed areas.

Hydration

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heat kills 1,500 people on average yearly in the United States — more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning, or any other weather event combined. In cases of extreme heat and humidity, take more frequent breaks and be sure to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated in the hot weather is critical to avoid serious illness associated with heat. Avoid drinks with caffeine, alcohol or large amounts of sugar.

Gradually build up to heavy work and try to schedule the heavy work for the coolest parts of the day. Please note that people who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia or poor circulation, may be more adversely affected by extreme heat.

Stay safe this summer. If you have any workplace safety questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to speak to your supervisor.