Laboring in Mother Nature's furyContractors help Alyeska by digging trenches and re-coating pipeline valves. During the process, workers excavate the pipe and make sure its surrounding trenches are big and safe enough for them. Then, they remove pipeline coatings, sandblast the pipe, recoat and rewrap it. Alyeska supervisors inspect the pipe when the process is complete. More than 50 percent of contractor time is spent working outdoors around pump stations, says Heffner, which is when they face Mother Nature's fury the most. Alaska's bitter cold winters make slips, trips and falls a frequent injury, says Heffner. Loading materials at the Valdez Marine Terminal during high winds and snow storms is particularly challenging. At minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, workers are forbidden to operate hydraulic machinery because it could shut down. "If a hydraulic hose bursts and you have an oil spill, then you may have an environmental and a safety problem on your hands," says Heffner. When Heffner and his safety staff sat down with their contractors four years ago, they turned up ways of cutting down on climate-related slips and falls:
- First, footwear with spiked soles was offered to Alyeska and contractor workers to improve footing on icy surfaces [Vehicles with studded tires were also provided to facilitate driving on ice and snow],
- Next, back injuries, which stem from slips, trips and falls and an aging workforce, says Heffner, were addressed by providing written information to employees on how to prevent those injuries. Five back injuries sustained by Alyeska and contractor employees in 1997 concerned Heffner and his fellow staffers. To prevent more, stretching classes were also offered to operators of heavy equipment before each shift. And Alyeska is still looking for other ways of preventing back injuries. " Finally, Alyeska and its contractors jointly adopted a basic training program, focusing on PPE, hazcom, lockout/tagout and more. Alyeska, contractors, and unions,which represent employees,revise the manual annually. Most recently, the groups edited out copy about certain administrative procedures such as filing paperwork, because the material was unnecessary for contractors.
Another means of reducing OSHA recordables for both Alyeska and contractors is taking better care of equipment and tools. Heffner says less rework is needed if those items are cared for properly. In fact, he says that in the past three years, Alyeska has documented and seen direct relationships between overtime and rework rates in relation to equipment and tool maintenance.