Know the NO Zone

 

Creating a Safer Environment for Crews on Site

By Douglas Smith, Regional Health & Safety Manager

It’s the height of construction season, and as contractors work to manage ongoing project demands on short timelines, they must also continue to make safety a priority. Your employees’ understanding of pitfalls and risks, as well as how to create a safer environment, is essential. From providing employees shade and hydration in warmer weather to ensuring everyone is using his or her safety gear properly, there are a variety of ways to keep work crews safe.

One area that needs close attention is knowing the “No Zone.” The No Zone refers to blind spots that surround large commercial vehicles, like concrete mixers and cement tankers, that create high-risk situations. These spots are out of the operator’s view and are unique to each type of vehicle.

In a concrete mixer, the No Zone creates particularly dangerous situations at the back and passenger side of the vehicle. In these areas, the blind spots are much larger, causing the driver to have a reduced or completely obscured view of pedestrian traffic. To put this into perspective, a driver of a cement mixer is unable to clearly see objects or people at ground level for 44 feet to the rear of the vehicle and for 29 feet to the right of the passenger side door.

Education and open dialogue are the best approaches for addressing these challenges. When crews are pushing to meet deadlines and schedules, they are more likely to not identify risks, particularly around the No Zone. Maintaining daily toolbox talks and pre-job risk assessments can help crews focus on the task at hand and better assess and control these hazards. An important reminder for customers to give their crews during these talks is that they should never control or operate any part of our company trucks, except when a driver has given specific authorization. Even in these circumstances, it’s important for crews to follow the driver’s careful instructions.

 

Common Pitfalls and Unexpected Hazards

In the ready-mix business, there are many risks that are top of mind for most workers. Slips, trips and falls are very common in the area around a working vehicle. These types of incidents can be the result of one of several situations:

  • Entering and exiting the truck
  • Climbing ladders
  • Uneven ground on jobsites
  • Wet or slippery washout areas near a vehicle

But there are some unexpected hazards many don’t consider around the No Zone. These risks include:

  • Fast moving chutes – Understanding how quickly these pieces of equipment can move and collapse is important because even an empty chute is heavy. In particular, there is a pinch point with a chute, so workers need to always keep a safe distance and be aware when an operator is dropping this equipment into position.
  • Rollovers – Truck tip-overs are far more common on the jobsite than often expected, especially when trucks are on the move. On unpaved roadways and in construction zones, the differing compaction of soil, soft ground and narrow access roads can create issues for ready-mix vehicles that have a high center of gravity.
 

High-Risk Jobsite Areas

Not all areas of a jobsite are equal – some, such as the No Zone and the operation of trucks, create more hazardous situations than others. Below are a few precautions drivers and construction crews can take when it comes to protecting against high-risk events.

  • On the move – Vehicle operators should be particularly careful when entering and exiting jobsites and be aware of traffic controls in place. As drivers leave the site, workers should assist them with directions and obstructions, remembering the blind spots that surround the truck.
  • Danger of pumps – Workers must stay clear of the area around pumps, which can be hazardous, especially when there is not enough room for trucks to back into these areas.
  • In reverse – Workers should remain alert to trucks backing up and listen for back-up alarms signaling they need to move. Always remember there is a particularly large blind spot behind these vehicles, and workers should not assume an operator can see them.
 

Not All Projects are the Same

In both outdoor and indoor projects, the work can be very tight with an abundance of equipment and people. It’s important for everyone on site to be aware of their surroundings and still take the precautions necessary to stay clear of the No Zone around vehicles, no matter how condensed the space.

In addition, it’s important to remember that lighting and visibility can be challenging for indoor sites in particular. Crews should be aware that they may not be able to see as clearly as in an outdoor site and should take the extra time to maneuver, particularly around vehicles. 

 

Reinforcing Guidelines

While not all worksites are the same, there are few tips you can provide to all employees to maintain a safer environment around the No Zone:

  1. Always maintain communication with vehicle drivers throughout the entire course of their presence on site.
  2. Do not pass nearby vehicles without making direct eye contact with the operator.
  3. Keep clear of areas that vehicle operators may not be able to see and be aware of the different blind spots that can occur for each vehicle type.
  4. Always wait for vehicles to stop moving before proceeding in your work.
  5. Do not touch, operate or climb on trucks as the operator may not see you – this work should be left to the vehicle operator who can make adjustments as needed.
  6. Keep your eyes open for those who may not be aware of these hazards and provide guidance as needed.

During the peak construction season, fatigue can start to set in, and an employee’s focus can falter. Everyone on a construction site needs to maintain their attention to detail. Crew leaders, foremen and superintendents can help by reinforcing No Zone guidelines.

 

It’s busy this construction season and knowing the NO Zone can literally save a life. Read this article to learn more about:

  • High-risk areas and unexpected hazards on the jobsite and around vehicles
  • Tips on how workers can avoid accidents and injury
  • How our teams can work together to create a safer environment