Danger Zones and Workplace Hazards

Contributor: CableSafe®

​As per Safeopedia, “a danger zone is a place near any machine or piece of equipment where a person may be hit by the machine, be caught in between two moving parts or material and a moving part of the machine, be hit and fall from heights, be burned by hot materials, or receive an electric shock.” Danger zones are typically established on construction sites and in road construction areas.

Danger zones are to be marked clearly and made visible to individuals in the area. They should be guarded and brought under positive administrative controls to reduce the risks associated with falls, struck by hazards, caught between hazards, heat burns and electrical shocks in the workplaces. Additionally, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also requires safe standard operation procedures for machines, machine guarding, lockout/tagout procedures and access control to the danger zones. Danger zones are established in construction areas to prevent slips, trips, and falls, struck by hazards, caught between hazards and electrocutions. Road construction areas require additional precautions to save workers and users from any danger in these particular areas due to the increased volume of hazards.

In addition to construction areas, any facility with planned maintenance activity should apply the same protocol to ensure that dangerous areas are marked and barricaded accordingly to mitigate workplace risks associated with the different hazards mentioned earlier.

So, what are the different danger zones? It depends which industry but for the purpose of raising awareness, we will cover the common danger zones in the Construction, Oil & Gas, Petrochemical, Energy, Utilities and Mining industry.

Unfortunately, we don’t have enough space to cover all danger zones in this blog. That is why we have chosen a number of danger zones that, in our opinion, deserve some extra attention. The danger zones we cover down below include:

  • Elevated Work Platforms
  • Areas below Lifting Operations
  • Permit-Required Confined Spaces
  • Cranes
  • Pipe racks
  • Vessels and Barges

Elevated Work Platforms
An Elevated Work Platform (EWP) is an equipment that provides access to the worker to inaccessible heights, which includes any scaffold, suspended scaffold, mobile platform, cradle, trestle, gantry, gangway, and stairway. Work platforms aid the workers to get where they need to be but there’s always risks involved in doing so. A systematic approach should be taken to minimize the risks and hazards at your workplace. Common hazards related to EWP’s include:

Areas below Lifting Operations
One of the many causes of accidents during a lifting operation are attributed to workers entering the hazard zone. Although accidents do not always happen in the hazard zone, it is absolutely necessary to recognize hazard zones and maintain an appropriate distance from them.

An area that could be labeled as a hazard zone during a lifting operation can be directly under the load or around its surroundings. Sometimes the lifting equipment can break during the fall and may not only hurt individuals below it but also those in neighboring areas.

While the hazard zone is recognizable by the workers, it may be possible that observers or bystanders may enter the area accidentally without being aware of the danger. For such cases, there should be a danger sign indicating the hazard zone to prevent accidents and injuries.​

Permit-Required Confined Spaces
Many workplaces have areas that are referred to as confined spaces. Although these areas are not generally designed for people, they are large enough for workers to enter and perform assigned tasks. A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry and exit; because of this, they are not designed for continuous occupancy. 

Unauthorized entry to permit-required confined spaces can result in tragic consequences, including serious physical injuries or death. Danger safety signs should be placed around the confined space with the title ‘Warning Confined Space’. These warnings will ensure that no one enters the confined space without permission and that safety standards are maintained.

Cranes have a huge potential to cause damage if not properly installed and used by a specialist, as it not only injures the operator but anyone else in its path. Operators are often at the risk of catastrophic injuries caused by dropped loads or rigging failures. Any structural failure or collapse can cause crane lifting accidents and cost many lives or fatal injuries that can prevent victims getting back to work.

Pipe racks
Fall hazards are very common in pipe racks. Safety equipment should be placed to ensure fall protection for pipe racks. There are several methods to keep pipe racks secure. Solutions include horizontal lifelines, work platforms, elevated walkways, guard rails, stair access systems, ladders with vertical lifelines, and crossover ladder platforms.

Vessels and Barges
The maritime industry is an ever-growing sector. It includes the construction, repair, rebuilding, and scrapping of vessels. It also includes transporting the cargo from one place to another. Due to the exposure to seawater, there are severe maritime hazards associated with this industry. The hazards generally include falls, trips, slips, hazardous chemicals, machinery or equipment hazards, confined spaces, and fire hazards.

In conclusion, danger zones and workplace hazards will always be present but there are countless ways to mitigate the risks. More than any safety equipment or secondary safety securing, building an enduring culture of safety can be the most cost-effective and proven accident prevention process. It starts with you and I, it then trickles to all team members, contractors and sub-contractors. To inculcate a mindset of safety is no easy feat but with full commitment from all stakeholders, it is achievable. Creating and internalizing a solid safety culture by continuously raising awareness and providing training is the best way to minimize costly injuries and maintain a safe, more productive and engaged workforce.

Are you triggered by these danger zones and would like more information? Take a look at  www.cablesafe.com/danger-zones. On this page, we have covered more danger zones and recommended the best products to prevent potential accidents in these danger zones.

CableSafe – Danger Zones

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.