Association News

Safety Equipment for the Commercial Environment

July 22, 2003
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For commercial contractors and building owners, the most important reason for having safety guidelines and equipment is to keep workers and customers out of harm’s way, thereby minimizing the possibility of liability.

Many safety products are available, from the most obvious, such as safety signage and caution tape, to those that are taken for granted, such as back-up beepers on a scrubber or sweeper. All are important to reducing the risk of injury.

No matter what type of safety equipment is utilized, the product must pass rigorous design standards to make the product as safe as possible. Bright colors, easy-to-understand operation instructions and a lack of sharp or dangerous edges are some of the things considered making sure a product is safe.

Martin J. Mobeck, president and manager of North American Safety Products Inc., says his company’s most popular product – the Versa-Guard portable, expanding barricade – was designed to provide an “effective visual warning to keep people away from hazardous situations.”

Whether these situations arise from a wet area due to stripping or scrubbing, forklift operation, activities going on overhead, or a simple store spill, the Versa-Guard was designed to make people wary of crossing the barricade, according to Mobeck.

“Appearance is very important in safety,” Mobeck says. “This product sees usage all over the place – at hotels, theaters, factories, car washes – so we offer custom colors. We also give the product a high-gloss powder coat, so it looks nice and can be seen easily.”

The Versa-Guard was designed with no sharp edges, Mobeck says, and can be outfitted with flashing hazard lights, caution flags, signs and casters.

Tom O’Brien is general manager of A.R.P. Safety Products, the designer of the Handy Cone floor sign. Both configurations of the sign, with heights of 18 and 31 inches, can be folded up and stored in a molded tube mounted on a wall or janitorial cart.

“Since signs are stored at the site of use, they can provide a quick response to a spill,” O’Brien says. “And when they’re not needed, they can be folded up quickly and stored away. They’re a way to inconspicuously have a floor sign on the selling floor.”

The fold-away design of the Handy Cone is patented. It folds out into a pyramid shape so that it can be read from three sides.

“It’s to get customers to realize that, ‘Hey, there’s something going on out here, I’d better watch out for a wet floor,’” O’Brien says. “The colors – orange, yellow and lime – jump out visibly.”

Some of the safety features on The Tennant Co.’s brand of rider-scrubbers include overhead roll cages, back-up beepers and flashing safety lights, according to communications specialist Chris Fox. On walk-behind scrubbers, a red blinking light in front is a standard feature.

“There are also safety stop buttons on all of our scrubbers, rider-scrubbers and rider-sweeper-scrubbers,” Fox says. “Models also come with breakaway squeegees.”

The breakaway squeegee works like this: if a squeegee becomes trapped or bent at too great a degree, it simply breaks away from the machine. It can be put back on once the machine is a safe distance from a wall or obstruction.

“It’s safer for the machine, safer for the operator, and safer for the environment, because you don’t need to replace the squeegee if it breaks away,” Fox says.

Minuteman International recently released its SCV (Surface Cleaning Vehicle) 28/32 rider-scrubber. According to Dick Girman, director of training and marketing manager for Minuteman, the machine can be fitted with interchangeable 28- or 32-inch decks, and cylindrical or disc heads.

It also features a number of safety standards, including headlights for safety (“a lot of the time a contractor is working in the dark or with the lights cut down,” Girman says), a back-up beeper and horn, and a safety seat.

“If an operator is in the seat, they’re fine,” Girman explains. “But if they lean over or get out, the machine shuts down. Even if they just get up on their feet, it will shut down the system.”

The machine is grounded against static. It does not feature a roll bar, as it has a low center of gravity and therefore won’t tip, according to Girman. By the same token, the machine features double cross-hatched tires for a safety grip intended to prevent slipping or sliding.

The SCV 28/32 also comes standard with an LCD that will display readout codes for any malfunctions the machine might experience, to keep operators from having to dig around looking for the problem, Girman says.

There are also four brakes on the machine – dynamic, plugging, automotive and electro-magnetic. The machine can be turned on via one switch, as the machine’s different functions are interfaced with one another.

“Liability from injuries is a biggy,” Girman says. “The cost of insurance is just skyrocketing. The key problems today with contractors are accidents and cost of repair. “With all this in mind, we’re trying to look at how to solve a problem before it happens – hence the safety features – to prevent possible accidents. With a machine of 1,500 pounds, you sure don’t want it rolling,” he adds.

Tennant’s Fox thinks one of the largest liabilities in high-traffic areas is slip-and-fall accidents. “That’s the biggest deal in injuries,” Fox says. “A high-traffic area needs to be cleaned, and you need to rope that area off, put out safety signs. Hospitals are a good example of this. A place that’s open 24-7 – 2 o’clock in the morning and people are still coming in there. You have nurses, patients, doctors and visitors, and a slip and fall injury is a big deal.”

North American Safety Products’ Mobeck says that he realizes the cost of outfitting a company or corporation with safety equipment may seem large at first.

“This requires a big, corporate investment,” Mobeck says. “But the loss prevention people understand the cost, and the importance, of preventing a potential injury or fatality.”

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