Family gatherings and festive celebrations are hallmarks of the holiday season, but home safety concerns are also very characteristic of this time of year. Holiday lights and decorations brighten our homes as the days get darker, but they can also pose fire hazards.
Since travel, holiday events and shopping take us away from home more than normal, here is a quick safety checklist to help keep your home and family safe during the holidays.
- If you have a lot of packages delivered while you away, consider installing a doorbell security camera.
- Inside your home, keep your gifts in a safe place that is not easily visible from the outside, so it is not an easy target for burglars.
- If you plan to spend the holidays away, ask a friend or neighbor to watch your home and request the post office to hold your mail.
- When you are away from home overnight, consider putting your lights on timers set to your normal living pattern.
Lights and Other Decorations
- Inspect the wiring on all holiday lights. If they are worn or frayed, throw them away to avoid any potential fire hazards.
- Use no more than three light sets on any one extension cord, don’t run electrical cords under rugs and turn decorative lights off before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Candles are a top cause of fires during the holidays. Place candles and other open flames away from decorations, never leave burning candles unattended and always supervise children and pets around candles. Better yet, use battery-operated candles instead.
- Place trees a safe distance from radiators, vents, fireplaces and any other heat source that may dry the tree. It is also important to inspect and water your tree daily.
- Do not block doors or hallways with your larger decorations.
Keep a fire extinguisher near your tree and make sure your family has a fire emergency escape plan.
With the holidays right around the corner, it is safe to say that the majority of families across the Upstate are in the process of planning celebrations for their guests, as well as many homeowners planning last-minute DIY home projects.
According to HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau, these homeowner do-it-yourself (DIY) projects account for nearly 40 percent of all home remodeling projects. While they may look manageable at first, many homeowners fail to consider the “real” cost of their project.
Remodeling can be complex and full of surprises, even for experts like an Approved Professional Remodeler. It is therefore important to take into account the hidden costs, safety risks and time delays before attempting a DIY home improvement project. Before beginning, please consider the following:
Although many products purchased for the DIY market are designated by a name brand, they are not always the same quality available to contractors. It is also important to verify the terms of the product warranty since many warranties are voided by improper installation.
Without the proper training and preparation, a DIYer can, and has, landed in the emergency room. Unfamiliarity with new tools and techniques can lead to life-threatening accidents. A good rule of thumb for any homeowner is to avoid projects that require a license or require you to change the structure of walls, roofs and floors.
Troubleshooting unexpected issues often takes more time and expertise than originally planned. Hiring a professional will ensure that you have a contract with a completion date and that the Approved Professional Remodeler will bring the necessary help to finish the job on time.
DIY projects should be rewarding and fun, but if your project can’t be completed in the planned price range or your safety is at risk, leave the work in the hands of the professionals.
On May 4, OSHA issued a final rule covering workers who enter confined spaces in construction.
In general, the new rule requires employers to:
- Evaluate the jobsite to identify confined spaces
- Develop a written program and permitting system for permit-required confined spaces
- Control physical hazards and conduct monitoring for atmospheric hazards in confined spaces that are permit required
- Provide training for confined space entrants, attendants, supervisors and emergency duties.
Confined spaces are work areas that are not designed for continuous occupancy and may be difficult to exit in the event of an emergency. In home building, some of these may include manholes, sewer systems, crawlspaces and attics
In addition, home builders who hire trade contractors (i.e., subcontractors) to do work in a confined space may also have responsibilities under the new standard.
Builders, or controlling contractors as OSHA labels them, must discuss permit required confined spaces on the site and their hazards with employers who must enter permit required spaces, as well as each other before and after entering the space.
The new rule takes effect August 3, 2015. For more information and a copy of the rule, visit OSHA’s confined space website: https://www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/index.html.
Note: South Carolina is a delegated state for workplace health and safety. That means that while OSHA may implement a new rule in states where it directly regulates workplace safety, states like South Carolina may lag slightly behind in implementing new Federal rules.
On Wednesday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) jointly issued a hazard alert about protecting workers from crystalline silica exposure in the manufacture, finish and installation of natural and engineered stone countertops.
The two agencies investigated U.S. worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica in the stone countertop industry following reports from other countries of stone countertop workers developing silicosis – an incurable, progressively disabling and sometimes fatal lung disease.
While the stone industry in the U.S. has worked to implement dust controls to protect workers against the dangers of silica exposure, studies and OSHA inspections indicate that exposure levels may not be adequately controlled in some stone countertop fabrication worksites in the U.S.
The alert addresses the health effects related to breathing in silica dust, recommends ways to protect workers, and describes how OSHA and NIOSH can help employers reduce silica dust exposures.
This includes monitoring the air to determine silica exposure levels; using engineering controls and safe work practices to control dust exposure; making respiratory protection available when needed; and providing training and information about the hazards of silica.
Crystalline silica is found in granite, sandstone, quartzite, various other rocks and sand. Workers who inhale silica particles are at risk for silicosis. Symptoms of silicosis can include shortness of breath, cough and fatigue, and may or may not be obviously attributable to silica. Workers exposed to airborne crystalline silica also are at increased risk for lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and kidney disease.
For more information on OSHA’s silica rulemaking and your Home Builders Association’s involvement, visit nahb.org/silica. For a quick reference guide on silica safety, check out your HBA’s Silica Safety Cards, available for download in English and Spanish.
In a victory for HBA members, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) this week abandoned its plan to reshape the rules under which compliance officers can enter work sites that take advantage of the federally funded Onsite Consultation Program.
NAHB and other industry groups urged OSHA to scrap the rule when it was first proposed three years ago, saying the changes that OSHA wanted to make would effectively remove incentives to participate in the voluntary safety program that offers free and confidential safety advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country. Since then, several state consultation programs have lodged their own complaints about the proposed rule, fearing it would hurt small businesses who were interested in participating in the consultation program and decrease the number of employers developing comprehensive safety and health management programs. However, union groups had strongly supported the measure as a means of addressing any hazards that might emerge on these sites, and OSHA appeared close to issuing a final rule as early as September of 2011.
Last week OSHA reversed course with its latest decision, announcing that it is dropping the proposal altogether and citing comments received from various stakeholders. The bottom line for HBA members is that your national association has helped preserve the use of OSHA’s free on-site consultation program without the threat of additional OSHA enforcement.