At Chattanooga Tent Co., Chattanooga, Tenn., employees who install tents are required to complete annual training before the start of the busy season.
“We provide the standard PPE [personal protective equipment] safety training for all the PPE that we require when installing a structure which would be gloves, hard hat, steel-toed shoes, safety vest and safety glasses. Glasses are not required by us, but many of the companies that we work for require us to wear those,” says Mike Holland, CERP, president, Chattanooga Tent Co.
“Also, if the crew member is going to be using any kind of forklift out on the job site — an extended reach or a man boom — we send them to training. That’s an out-of-the-house training. We send them to companies like United Rentals or Sunbelt Rentals for that training. They’re also trained on ladder use,” Holland says.
Within the first year of employment, staff members also go through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10 training and may receive additional training from manufacturer tents schools and other organizations.
On larger job sites, toolbox meetings are held every morning. This covers what the crew is going to do that day, what the expectations are and what could happen. Holland’s advice would be to start these safety procedures and requirements from day one.
“I would recommend getting all the safety training and procedures in place from the start. It’s easier to get your employees on board with something in the beginning than trying to pitch it to them a few years later. Also, it’s easier if you make some things required every day as opposed to only when you go to certain corporations,” he says.
In the past, tent installers at Chattanooga Tent Co. often were forgetting their PPE, so now the company requires them to bring all their PPE to every job site — whether it’s needed or not. PPE for tent installers should include:
- Eye protection
- Steel-toed boots
- Hard hats
- Safety/fall harness
With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for PPE used to comply with OSHA standards. Employers cannot require workers to provide their own PPE and the worker’s use of PPE they already own must be completely voluntary. Even when a worker provides his or her own PPE, the employer must ensure that the equipment is adequate to protect the worker from hazards in the workplace.
According to OSHA, an employer’s obligations include:
- Performing a “hazard assessment” of the workplace to identify and control physical and health hazards.
- Identifying and providing appropriate PPE for employees.
- Training employees in the use and care of the PPE.
- Maintaining PPE, including replacing worn or damaged PPE.
- Periodically reviewing, updating and evaluating the effectiveness of the PPE program.
- Properly wear PPE.
- Attend training sessions on PPE.
- Care for, clean and maintain PPE.
- Inform a supervisor of the need to repair or replace PPE.
Employers are not required to pay for some PPE under certain circumstances, including if an employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE and it must be replaced. OSHA’s PPE standards can be found at osha.gov/personal-protective-equipment.
At Chattanooga Tent Co., all PPE is provided along with a company bag.
“We provide bags with the company logo. They can use that for their PPE and rain suit — the things they don’t know they’re going to need to use but they should always have it with them. You can provide a bag for them to put all that in and you get a little brand recognition with the logo on it,” Holland says.
When it comes to enforcing the use of PPE, Holland says he relies on his supervisors and often the customers will bring attention to the issue.
“I would be naive to tell you that we’re 100 percent perfect, but we rely on our supervisors to make sure the crew is wearing the appropriate PPE. A lot of times, our customers are our accountability. If you’re going to a corporation that requires PPE, they may be watching. You might think they’re in their office but they’re not. They may come out, write you up and you could possibly be asked to leave the property. If we’re in somebody’s back yard, I really don’t have anything else but the trust of our supervisor, which should be good enough,” he says.
The American Rental Association (ARA) provides numerous training resources to help those in the equipment and event rental industry learn how to safely and properly use PPE. Holland relies on RentalU — ARA’s online learning platform — for training. RentalU users can enroll in a course on PPE and review other safety resources which cover topics such as:
- General safety
- Glove safety
- Ladder safety
- Back injury prevention
“Safety is not a place to cut corners. I am a firm believer. As a tent installer, what we all do is a career and that career demands professionalism and safety is a part of being a professional. I will say that it has helped us not only be a better, safer company but also allowed us to bid on and get jobs that we might not have gotten if we did not have a safety protocol program in place,” he says.
Photos courtesy of Chattanooga Tent Co.