Obnoxious Safety Equipment And Other Construction Tales Of Woe

I was lying prone on the table, blissed-out in the middle of my massage, when it began. The backup alarm on a construction vehicle began to sound – beep – Beep – BEep – BEEp – BEEP! I know the alarm must have been sounding at a constant level, but it was so aggravating that is seemed to be escalating with every repetition. Oh well, it’ll stop soon, I thought. But no, on and on it went.

From the sound of the alarm it was obvious that the vehicle had to be in the side street, which is only a block long. Even if it was crawling at 5 mph, there is no way it could have been backing up that long. Either the driver sat in one place with the vehicle in reverse or the alarm got stuck in the ‘on’ position.

Later, I did a little research. According to the Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America, 16 percent of all work zone fatalities are caused by backing equipment, primarily dump trucks. In many of those cases, the vehicles involved in the fatalities were equipped with back-up alarms, but that apparently was not enough of a warning. According to LHSFNA, “This is because work zones are very noisy places. Not only are there many construction vehicles operating at once, there frequently is a loud line of heavy traffic passing nearby. The elevated background noise desensitizes workers and renders them unable to quickly distinguish a sounding back-up alarm.” The organization is pushing for truck manufacturers to employ more safety equipment, such as rear view video, sonar or radar devices to prevent backing injuries, as well as the use of human spotters during all backings.

Surely there must be some documentation out there proving the detrimental effects of these high-decibel alarms to human hearing. So I wonder. If LHSFNA convinces OSHA that all construction vehicles should be outfitted with rear view video, sonar, or radar devices, will we be able to dispense with the alarms? Wouldn’t that be wonderful; I’d be able to enjoy my massage in peace.

Of course that wouldn’t address the crew that was jackhammering at 6:45 a.m. one morning last week, in direct violation of city ordinances that mandate quiet hours prior to 8 a.m. I finally gave up trying to sleep and marched out into the street in my pajamas, demanding to know what they were doing at the crack of dawn. They explained they were tearing up the street so that the new Planned Parenthood building could “get their cable.”

Oh. Well then. That’s OK. After all, it’s an emergency.

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