The 'OSHA Scarecrow': Using OSHA as a threat

Winter is always an interesting time in the construction industry, specifically with precast concrete. Even the greatest companies with the most incredible resources still continue to get hung up in the winter time with things to do. One of the tasks that our employees try to do is to conduct safety audits in this downtime. We go through our current safety protocols and we ask ourselves, “what can we do better?” We comb through various OSHA tips to better ourselves for the coming year. This can be as simple as reassessing and improving our emergency plans, to adding safety signs and cleaning various areas of the plant. So we add our signs up, improve our practices, and get ready for another successful year.

It’s always interesting to me that when the spring comes, and our customers emerge from their winter dens, they take one look at our signs and they go “wow, what’s with the signs? What happened? Did you guys have OSHA come in?” I always find myself chuckling at this knee-jerk reaction to our decisions. I will admit that yes, for many companies, the safety compliance almost always comes after an accident has occurred, or OSHA has conducted an investigation into a company. I can see why one would make the assumption that the signs we post were a result of someone saying something, or something happening at our plant. However, this isn’t why we do it. To me, safety is an ongoing concern, one that is at the forefront of my mind. Yes, accidents happen, so why wouldn’t you want to try and prevent them as much as possible? 

The argument against this is always “safety equipment costs too much money”. They’re right - safety equipment does cost a lot of money. But I would much rather pay $50 every few months or so for earplugs than have to worry about any of our employees going deaf years down the road.

Back to our exchange with our customers. After their initial inquiry, I kindly reply with “we’ve been working on improving our safety a bit around here for everyone. It’s just routine improvements, that’s all.” Once again, I’m met with a look of sheer confusion. Most don’t understand why we would take the time to hang up our signs and wear our hard hats around the entire property. The truth of the matter is that the more you push yourself and your employees to comply with safety, the more that it will become second nature to everyone. Once everyone is thinking safety all the time, it drastically reduces the number of accidents and near-misses you have. Most presenters and speakers aren’t joking when they say that safety is a culture. It is absolutely a 24-hour mindset that can take a while to really catch on, but when it does, it becomes second nature. When I started here years ago, there was little to no focus on safety. This wasn't the owner's fault though: over the years, those employees who were here when I started became complacent with safety and quality. It was only after I began attending NPCA seminars and classes, participating in the Master Precaster program, and went on plenty of plant tours that I saw we needed to adapt a culture of safety around our own plant, not just because its the law, but because I wanted to make sure that every employee of ours went home at the end of the work day safe and sound to their family. 

Drop Box Inlet (Readington,NJ)

The above photos are the final product of a Drop-Box Inlet that we made for the Readington Buffalo Farm in Readington, NJ. This inlet was a particular challenge to our production team because it required casting large corrugated pipe through the wall. While we normally use special handset panels to create custom structures, this involved using plywood to create a panel with a hole in it to accept the corrugated pipe. It was difficult to keep the pipe from moving, but production came through and made it happen.

Outlet Structure (West Orange, NJ)

Custom outlet structures are a fun and creative way that we’re able to show off the true custom side of the company, specifically what we’re able to do. Production was tasked with building an outlet structure measuring 114” x 54” x 100”, with an 8” thick top and bottom. The piece required two 24” access holes, several large diameter openings, and a 20” high weir wall in the lower portion. Walls were poured in two lifts (48” and 36”) with a custom ship-lap joint in between. The piece is H-20 traffic rated, as it was to be placed in the middle of a parking lot. When all was said and done, the structure took 5.56 cu. yards of concrete, and weighs 11.12 tons.

Solar Light Mobile Bases (Hackensack, NJ)

A project of square light pole bases that we manufactured for a company in Northern New Jersey. Each base takes two pouring days to complete. Day one consists of pouring the lower flanged pad, and casting an L-shaped cylindrical cage and anchor bolts into it. Once the lower pad is poured, square columns are set on top of it and anchored into place. The upper column is poured, and carefully stripped. 

Each unit receives its own ornament fixture, complete with LED light, solar panel, and battery cell. The units sit above ground, and can be moved between locations depending on where lighting is needed using cast-in forklift pockets.

The final product is a self-sufficient, sustainable lighting source that can be used in a wide variety of industrial applications, from warehouses to shipping yards. This particular shipment was to be used in Tel Aviv, Israel (yes, Europe Israel) for the Ministry of Defense, to assist in illuminating the Iron Dome. 

Below is a PDF of the final product, including the electrical components.

Fencing Ballast Blocks (Newark, NJ)

A fencing outfit in Newark, New Jersey approached us to manufacture an order of fencing ballast blocks to anchor commercial fencing. Each ballast block was slightly thicker than a standard patio block (24" x 24" x 6" thick), and weighed approximately 280 lbs. A 10" long x 2" diameter steel pipe was cast in the center of each block, to slip the fencing posts into. Rebar handles were cast on either side of the block for handling purposes (note: rebar handles should not be and are not typically meant for lifting purposes!). Forms were placed in a gang-line to be poured at 20 blocks a day in our plant. 

Valve Box (Branchburg, NJ)

A 48" x 48" x 72" Valve Box, with 4" thick walls and a 6" thick floor. The piece was poured in a traditional monolithic fashion, with a 4" thick slab lid poured separately. The lid has a 30" diameter opening at the top. The pit was poured upside-down in one piece. Total concrete volume in this piece is 1.9 yards of concrete. Fully assembled, it weighs around 7,600 lbs. 

PIG-PIT (Asbury, NJ)

We always get the question, "so what can you guys manufacture?" to which we usually reply, "A.F.A.B.- Anything for a buck!" We mean it.

A customer approached us about making a PIG-PIT, a holding chamber for cooking pig in, and we gladly took on the job. This is a rectangular box, 96" x 72" x 42" OD, with 4" thick walls. It has a small 3" diameter hole in the center of the floor for drainage. The project took two pouring days, and took 1.9 cubic yards of concrete. Four recessed pocket lifts in the floor will be used to lift and move the piece.