Safety Tips and Risk Management for Power Sweeping

If there is someone in America who knows safety and risk management in the construction fields, it’s John Meola. Currently the Safety & Risk Management Consultant with Invincia Insurance and The Louis Berger Group, Meola has been the safety manager for a variety of organizations. In addition, from 1993 to 2011 was President of the American Society of Safety Engineers. Through the years, John Meola has provided a number of general safety-related articles for In this instance, he consented to writing an article tailored specifically to the safety needs of power sweeping contractors.

Because our industry requires a somewhat unique set of safety controls, most of which do not appear in OSHA or State safety codes, we present these safety tips for our Members to adopt into their daily work activities. These are practical tips and techniques, and represent Best Safety Practices for sweeping professionals.

 Top Ten Safety Tips for Power Sweeping

by John Meola, CSP, ARM

1)    Buy good quality hardware/vehicles and use the new rigs for the toughest applications. New machines will have the latest safety features and improvements, and will generally be more reliable and easier on the driver. The strobe light lenses will be brighter and reflective materials more visible.

2)    Replace and add DOT conspicuity tape. Then, keep it clean.

3)    Make sure the fleet is equipped with high intensity strobes instead of rotating beacons. Strobes are 5 to 7 times more visible under all lighting conditions. Make sure the lights are visible from all sides of the vehicle and not obstructed by attachments, sheet metal, hoppers, etc. The number one statement on crash reports is ‘I never saw them.’ Do what it takes to make sure you are visible.

4)    Daytime Running Lights (headlights) should be used on ALL vehicles, including sweepers, pickup trucks, and any other company vehicles. As previously noted, the number one statement on crash reports is “I never saw them!”

5)    Backing Safety: whenever possible, a spotter should guide the driver when backing. However, if possible, position your rig to avoid the need to back. Then, put out a cone when parked.

6)    High visibility apparel should be worn by all drivers and ground crews. Wear Class E (full body) visibility gear at night. Specify minimum Class II vests for anyone outside the cab during daytime.

7)    Emphasize Three-Point Stance — stencil this logo onto ladders, steps, grab rails, anyplace where an employee will climb. Getting in & out of the cab is a leading cause of injury. NEVER jump down! (If you do not know what a 3-point stance is, it is simple. You must keep three of your four limbs in secure contact with the truck at all times. Two hands and a foot or two feet and a hand.

8)    Check your Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It is recommended to use good quality wrap around safety glasses when we have cab windows open because, as you know, stuff blows around. Be careful when using tinted lenses because they can impair vision and limit your peripheral vision. Do not over-use tinted lenses. For a good overview of PPE guidelines, check out this link at the Department of Labor website.

9)    Look around before exiting the cab. Look for obstacles, obstructions, debris, snag hazards, etc. Even stepping onto a curb the wrong way can turn an ankle. Wear proper work boots because they offer better foot support, especially when climbing.

10) Extra caution at NIGHT, when the taverns and bars are closing. Whenever practical, plan your sweeping route to avoid congested areas until the latest possible hour.

Bonus Tip: Practice advanced defensive driving techniques and use Blue Light (police vehicles) on interstates and busy local roads. Intersections are the scene of a high percentage of crashes. Always protect your work zone with advance warning signage. This will also give you some grounds to defend yourself in a court case that will allege you were operating negligently. Two-lane roads are highly dangerous, so when sweeping them be sure to ramp up your work zone safety.

Summary: Very often, sweepers fall into the category of ‘Target Vehicle’ when operating on public roads. Most motorists view the presence of a sweeper as a nuisance. At the same time, they often mis-gauge the speed of a sweeper, as well as the width (especially when operating with two gutter brooms). It doesn’t take much longer to operate safely, and the long-run benefits are enormous.

We have linked a podcast John Meola did with Ranger Kidwell-Ross at an American Public Works Association Congress & Exposition. Especially if your company does street sweeping, you will find it to be an information-filled, 35-minute audio interview on assessing safety situations when on the job sweeping. It emphasizes ways to assess and mitigate safety risk.

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