A Safety Story from Ajax’s Director of Safety, Marc Reeves
Hurricanes are the largest and most powerful storm systems on earth. They are capable of catastrophic destruction throughout large areas along the Gulf and East Coasts of the United States and for many miles inland. On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael came ashore in the Florida panhandle near Tyndall Airforce Base as a category 5 storm with winds in excess of 150mph. Michael did an estimated $18.4B in damage in Florida alone, and estimates for damage throughout the US approached $25B. Even more tragically, 74 deaths resulted from this storm. When driving through the areas impacted by Hurricane Michael, one can still see effects of the storm nearly three years later.
Each year, the Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1st and runs through November 30th. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season storm activity to be “above normal.” NOAA’s outlook estimates there to be 13-20 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-5 major hurricanes. It only takes one storm to devastate a community, and now is the time for businesses and residents along coastal areas, as well as inland, to start preparing for the 2021 hurricane season. Remember, the more violent the storm, the quicker it passes.
A Safety Story from Structure Tone Boston Superintendent, Anthony Page
Earlier this year, my home caught fire and was completely destroyed. The fire investigators think the fire started when someone discarded a lit cigarette in the alley behind our house, and then a gust of wind blew it into some dry leaves and grass under our back porch. In a matter of minutes, the whole back of the house and three of our vehicles were fully engulfed. Only a few minutes after that, the entire house was ablaze and there was no stopping it.
The biggest lesson I learned throughout this experience—and a message I’d like to convey to everyone—has to do with disaster preparedness. Everything in our house was a total loss, and although we had good insurance, we didn’t have adequate records or an inventory of our possessions, so we had to work from memory when filing our claim. I’m sure we left many things out. You really never know what could happen, so do your best to prepare for the unexpected.
Our house is currently being rebuilt and should be complete by next summer. Thanks to the generosity of many people, including my STOBG family, we have everything we need to get by until we are moved back in and settled again.
A Safety Story from a Structure Tone New York Project Manager, Joshua Thompson
In 2007, I was working on an out-of-the-ground office tower for a prominent financial firm in Northern Virginia. The building was positioned on a small hill and was exposed to frequent wind. One day we were expecting a severe thunderstorm, so we used weights to secure sheets of Masonite to protect the roof. We had a large landscaping crew working to finish the grounds around the building that day as well. Our superintendent had made his rounds right before the storm hit and told all the landscapers to put on their hard hats, as they were not wearing them. The storm came early and caught us by surprise. As the storm came in, the wind picked up a piece of the Masonite that had been secured under a weight and sent it end-over-end across the roof and off the side of the building. The Masonite ended up hitting one of the landscapers on his hard hat, which he had just put on. The Masonite made a large gash through the worker’s hard hat, but his PPE saved his life. Our superintendent took a few extra minutes to remind the landscaping crew about their hard hats and it made a huge impact. It’s a day I will never forget throughout my career.
Safety Story from STO Building Group’s Senior VP of Safety
Blizzards always remind us that significant snow brings significant hazards—especially on site. Nothing emphasized this more than the New England Blizzard of 2015. After nearly 25in of snowfall in Boston, site crews had to contend with completely obscured walkways and concrete depressions—not to mention the utility stub-outs, rebar, and other hazards that were invisible underneath the snow. Site roadways that were usually easy to navigate become a dangerous trek when drivers couldn’t see the path or the surface changes below. Outward-swinging doors were blocked by snow, even though proper overhead protection was in place. Exposed stair towers and handrails froze over with ice, snowblowers were damaged by unseen objects beneath the snow, and drains were quickly blocked by snow causing backups and pooling. Fences were toppled due to highspeed winds and snow sticking to the scrim. Ramps and stairs were shoveled, but soon covered again with snow and ice—a slippery proposition at best.
Large amounts of melting snow and ice dropped from building canopies high above. Roofs had to be cleared due to the hazardous weight of the snow. Pooled water froze over as temperatures dropped. There were few places left that we could put the snow we were removing and finding additional generators, gas, plows, and ice melt was nearly impossible.
The lesson here is snow can be dangerous. Even the slightest bit on site or on the road can turn to ice and become deadly in an instant. The best way to stay safe is to have a plan in place, communicate with your crew, and proceed with thoughtful caution—always.
A Safety Story from an Ajax Project Manager
In mid-2017, Ajax had just started a project in Key West, FL when the news starting airing warnings about Hurricane Irma. Due to our remote location and the likelihood of a mandatory evacuation, we began preparing the site over a week in advance.
Since the site was waterfront and only a couple of feet above sea level, we were extremely concerned about flooding. Conex boxes had to be strapped down with helical anchors, wind screens were taken off the fences, and all piping, conduits, etc. were strapped together and weighed down so nothing would float away. We were still in the early stages of the project and completing foundation work, so we weren’t concerned with how the damage would impact the finishes. Foundations were placed the day before the evacuation to prevent the loss of formwork.
When we were finally able to return to the project nearly two weeks later, thankfully the site hadn’t taken too much of a beating. The greatest physical damage was to the silt and perimeter fences, where the surrounding mangroves and miscellaneous debris had blown into the site. Power and data lines were also down, but they were fixed within a few days. The biggest challenge we faced after the storm was the loss of manpower. A portion of the workforce had lost their homes in the storm and immediately moved out of The Keys.
In the end, we were able to get the project running again. It’s now a beautiful new school for the community that has been in operation for almost a year now.
Safety Story from a Structure Tone Southwest Superintendent
When I was in junior high, my father worked for the City of San Antonio as a truck driver. My dad was a big man—6’4” and about 260lbs. It was a hot summer, and I remember my mom getting a phone call that my dad had been rushed to the hospital for heat stroke. It was a scary moment, but thankfully he recovered and returned to work a few weeks later.
My background is in mechanical/HVAC systems, so 99% of the time, my crew and I weren’t working in air-conditioned spaces. We had to work on the roof, setting equipment in the scorching South Texas heat. There were many times that we started our shift extra early in the summer to avoid peak temperatures. Because of these experiences and the incident with my father, I know how important it is to stay hydrated in extreme heat. I’ve always made it a point to make sure my crew and others on the jobsite have access to clean water and take breaks to cool off.