Teaching students how to use a scissor lift. Photo by Judy Bass.
By Judy Bass
CANTON – Occupational safety is always emphasized in the technical programs at Blue Hills Regional Technical School. Students are rigorously taught the proper use of tools and other equipment along with the importance of maintaining personal safety at all times.
In keeping with the school’s high priority on safety training, Consigli Construction and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) presented a lengthy and detailed demonstration on May 6 to students in several of Blue Hills’ technical programs about how to correctly use aerial and scissor lifts. (Consigli is currently working on an $84.7 million renovation project at the school that began in June 2018.)
Students in Collision Repair, Automotive Technology, Metal Fabrication, HVAC, Electrical, and Construction attended the presentation. United Rentals furnished the equipment that was used.
Instruction was also given in the proper use of ladders on May 7.
The event was part of OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction Week from May 6-10, 2019, according to a news release from the US Department of Labor.
The release went on to note that “The Stand-Down encourages employers to pause work voluntarily for one hour to conduct safety training on common hazards. The event will highlight the importance of fall protection and construction safety with the high school’s vocational education students. Other partners include Laborers Local 13, New England Regional Council of Carpenters Union Local 346, and the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators.”
“Fatalities caused by falls from elevation continue to be a leading cause of death for construction employees, accounting for 366 of the 971 construction fatalities recorded in 2017,” according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
“This is OSHA’s sixth annual National Safety Stand-Down Week, and the goal remains the same – we want to raise fall hazard awareness so we can prevent fatalities and injuries related to falls. OSHA is here because we want you to go home tonight and every night,” said Peter Barletta of OSHA’s Boston South Area Office.
Jim McFarland of United Rentals showed the students how to operate an aerial lift. He spoke to them about always checking the condition of the entire lift including the tires before operating it. He also showed them the basket where the operating manuals are kept on the machine and the machine’s inner workings.
In an interview the next day, Mr. McFarland said, “It’s extremely important to have the proper training prior to operating aerial lifts. It’s extremely important for the operator and everyone in the vicinity to comply with all OSHA and ANSI (American National Standards Institute) regulations. Lifts are very safe when used properly.”
That demonstration was followed with one that focused on scissor lifts. Sean Connolly of United Rentals told the students never to get on a scissor lift if they are fearful of heights or if they have any doubts about the soundness of the equipment they are working with. He demonstrated the right way to board and disembark from the lift and mentioned the safety label that is always affixed to it and must be clearly legible.
The following day, Alan Snow, an independent manufacturers’ representative who works with ladders, used different types of them to focus on ladder safety for the Blue Hills students. He explained that most ladder injuries come from three causes - sprains and strains from lifting heavy ladders, using the wrong ladder (for example, a ladder that is not the right height for the job), and over-reaching when a ladder is not quite tall enough. Injuries can also arise when people on ladders twist their body instead of facing straight ahead, Mr. Snow pointed out.
Mr. Snow mentioned that when climbing or descending from ladders, it’s very important to have three points of contact. He also brought different types of ladders and reviewed their uses.
“This is important for our students for a few reasons,” said Blue Hills Vocational Director Michelle Sylvia. “They are training in industries in which scissor lifts may be used. It is important that they know that there are safety procedures that should be followed in order to ensure their safety. Blue Hills does own a scissor lift, but all of our students do not get a chance to use it. Also, hearing this information from an industry professional is impactful.”
Electrical instructor Richard Mascarenhas said, “I think the students got to see some of the equipment that they learned about in the OSHA 10-hour course. They thought it was cool as well as fun. It ties in to the OSHA 10- hour course that the students took as well as being first-hand experience that they will use in the field as full-time electricians.
“By participating in this demo,” said Ms. Sylvia, “we are reinforcing to our students what we as a school value. We value their safety and we think it is important. All of our students obtain their OSHA 10-hour certification. Still others get specialized certifications in certain areas. I have my Hot Work certification along with many of our teachers so when our students are performing hot work, they can do so in an environment that mitigates fire hazards, etc. Safety is enforced and discussed on a daily basis.”
To wrap-up the week, a presentation was given featuring OSHA Braintree Area Director Jim Mulligan, who like the previous speakers during the week, stressed the crucial value of following proper safety practices all the time, not only to get a job done, but to ensure your personal safety and the safety of those around you.
“Be prepared and be ready,” he told the students. “Being on time means being 10 minutes early.” Wear safety equipment such as a hard hat and safety glasses to prevent injuries, he said, and always carry two pencils, a knife, and a pad of paper. Those might seem like simple tools, but they may definitely come in handy.
“At the end of the day, I need to be sure I take responsibility for myself,” Mr. Mulligan added. “I can’t think of a lonelier place to die than on a job site.”
Three employees from Consigli concluded the presentation – Preconstruction Manager Kristy Lyons, Project Engineer Chris Kavanaugh and Project Engineer Shane Farley. Each discussed their background and what they do at Consigli, tying it in with what is happening at Blue Hills on the renovation project taking place there.
Their message reinforced what the students had learned about knowing how to use equipment correctly, and Mr. Kavanaugh also noted the importance of effective time management skills, being proactive, and constantly communicating with other members of your team and your supervisors, especially on a big job like the one going on at Blue Hills.
The theme of the week resonated with the students. Jayda Sylvestre, a sophomore from Milton majoring in Collision Repair, said, “It was very educational. I learned how to properly use the lifts. The speakers were very good at explaining what they did and how they did it.”
Josh Michel of Randolph, another sophomore in Collision Repair, he enjoyed it and got something out of it. He said he has always been curious about machines, and liked the part of Mr. Snow’s presentation about new technology that is being used to make ladders safer and lighter.
Perhaps Blue Hills Vocational Director Michelle Sylvia said it best: “Safety is enforced and discussed on a daily basis [here]. I believe that one of the takeaways [from the week] is that safety cannot be over-stressed.”