Namba's World


Safety is not only mandatory but it also displays a level of professionalism. Safety on the job and off the job separates the true professionals. In this issue, we will look at some of the job site safety issues that installers encounter.

Tools:Over the years it never ceases to amaze me as to the extent an installer will go, to push their tools to the limit concerning the safety issues. Photo 1 shows a carpet seaming iron that has duct tape being used to wrap an area of the cord that needed repairing. The photo also shows an improper plug attached to the cord.

The proper plug must be a molded plug (one installed by the factory or a qualified service technician), as seen in Photo 2. Photo 2 shows a power strip with a built in surge protector for overloads to the power strip to avoid damage to tools, and to the main breaker switches at the wall panel. OSHA requires that a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) be used between the tool and power source. The reason for a molded plug is to maintain the proper positive and negative wire leads; a molded plug set at the factory is properly wired, whereas an installer generally does not have a voltage meter to determine proper wiring sequence.

Photo 1 also has an abundance of hot melt adhesive in the iron tray and seam sealer on the top of the iron. Having the hot melt residue in the tray creates a safety hazard; as installers start a seam they slide the seam tray to the other end of the seam and then proceed to construct the seam. If there are any children in the room, which no matter how hard you try, still get into everything while you are installing it seems, this can cause potential burns to the child if he or she gets curious, and children are always curious. A clean tray can minimize this and looks much more professional as well; besides, have you ever dropped the iron tray and had hot melt from the tray get onto the face fiber of the carpet? The same also applies to those installers who opt to use an ammo box or some other type of box to permanently place the iron tray into.

Safety products: In all flooring trades, a fire extinguisher (Photo 3) should be in the work vehicle for those unexpected emergencies. Although you hope to never have to utilize an extinguisher, it's nice to know you have one. Also, knowing how to work the extinguisher and what types of fire that it is approved for prior to an emergency is very important, as one could lose valuable time and property if not properly prepared. Photo 4 shows a pair of Kevlar gloves; this type of glove reduces the risks of cuts from razor blades and is helpful for those individuals just getting into the flooring trades and can also minimize cuts that occur when using a straightedge. The straightedge type cuts occur when the knife blade slips from the edge and the installer's hand that is holding down the straightedge is in the line of deflection. This type of accident has caused serious cuts that require stitches or major surgery.

Photo 5 shows gloves, safety glasses, and a respirator that are used in all flooring trades. Leather gloves protect the hands from wood splinters and blisters; rubber or chemical resistant gloves help protect when using chemicals. Safety glasses protect eyes from flying chips from wood, tile, take-up of existing materials etc.

Respirators minimize the inhalation of particulate and fumes. Make sure that you are using the proper class of respirator for the type of materials you are working with, as there is a difference between particulate and gas and vapor respirators.

Photo 6 shows why the gloves, safety glasses and respirator are necessary. This particular remodel had wall-to-wall carpet installed, and the homeowner purchased another type of flooring to be installed. The damage seen here was not visible until the installer started with the removal process.

The affected area is by a floor- to-ceiling window where moisture has caused the wood to rot and the plaster to crumble around the window frame; the extent of the damage was not visible on the baseboards until the time or removal. With removal of a floor covering, many times it is not known what is underneath the floor covering until the time for removal.

Photo 7: It never fails that each year an installer, somewhere in the United States, causes fire to a structure and gets burns to the body, to even death from using flammable contact adhesives improperly. If you are going to be using flammable adhesives, remember to shut off ALL gas pilot lights and use proper ventilation to minimize the vapor buildup.

Contact cement vapors are heavier than air, meaning that the vapors settle along the floor, where water heater, fireplace, and gas dryer pilot lights are located. If at all possible, installers should avoid using the highly flammable products and use the non-flammable products (Photo 8). The non-flammable products are safer to use but still require proper ventilation.

Photo 9 shows a hand cleaner that can be used to remove adhesive residues from your hands. Adhesive residues and other chemicals will absorb into the skin and can cause long-term complications if not removed in a timely manner. There are also products available in the marketplace, that are applied prior to using any type of chemicals or adhesives that minimize the skins exposure. Gloves are once again recommended as the main protection where possible.

Photo 10: Is your toolbox the razor blade graveyard? Used blades in tool boxes are a safety hazard and just do not represent a professional look. Children reaching into a toolbox have a potential to cut themselves, opening the installer up to a lawsuit along with all of the medical expenses. Used blades tossed into the cushion scraps are another potential hazard.

There are a number of ways to dispose of used blades. There are professional products that hold the blades in a box-like container, and when the container is full, just throw the blades away. At the end of each day, you can also take the blades and stack them together and wrap duct tape or a paper tape (Photo 11), several times around the blades, this will eliminate a cutting edge (Photo 12).

A properly maintained first aid kit, and no not the duct tape, is an essential part of your tool inventory and should be checked on a regular basis to ensure that it is well stocked.

Remember, being prepared can save time, money, and most importantly, your health.

We have only touched upon a few items, if you require further information, the World Floor Covering Association has an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (Photo 13), that is generic in format and can be used as a template to help you in becoming safety conscience, contact the WFCA at 800-624-6880 for more information. You can also contact your local OSHA office and get assistance from a compliance officer who will be more than willing to assist you.