Pipeline Contractor Preaches Common Sense & Safety

By Loren Faulkner | September 28, 2010

It's a typical day on a typical pipe laying job for Jim Badger, foreman of a nine man crew for SJ&B Group, Inc. His crew is working in the city of Hemet on a 5,000-foot long section of storm drain installation for Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District (Officially: Hemet MDP Line D Stage 4 at $4,265,534). With up to seven crewmen at a time some 20 feet below grade, grouting inside 20-foot sections of 84-inch concrete pipe, safety is always on his mind.

"Our underground crew is being monitored constantly," he said. "The line is being ventilated, and the crew wear personal alarm systems that detect methane gas, as well as high and low oxygen levels.

"Everyone learns and knows how to set up and test gas monitors. Every day they do the tests. Every morning I also test monitors before they come to the job site, using a bump-tester to determine calibration accuracy.

"Lets face it, this is a dangerous business, with all the heavy equipment, but its all about using common sense while doing your job. We always make sure everyone knows where crew members are; never leave an excavated area unattended; someone is always watching."

Then there are weekly safety meetings. A lot of this is repetitive, to remind over and over the basics of safety, to keep it in forefront of his crew's minds. With all this safety training in place, his mind is more at ease and, "We can grout between 300 feet and 400 feet per day, no problem," he said.

Safety Obstacles

It's not the work crews that worry Badger when it comes to safety on the job site. It's folks in the neighborhood of the work who seem clueless as to the actual danger. This was observed by a visitor on-site who watched as Badger tried his best to warn a elderly man talking on a cell phone while walking perilously close to a 100,000-pound working excavator, between the street and a narrow sidewalk area. There was an open 20-foot trench, the excavator cab that turned quickly and crawler tracks, all just inches from the man. Badger and other workers nearly jostled the man to get his attention. But, like those who use cell phones while driving on the freeway, he was oblivious to the obvious.

The man finally bulldozed his way through to his house nearby, still intently focused on his phone conversation, unfazed by how close he had just come to disaster.

"People just don't get it," said Badger. The observer had to agree, most non-construction types don't understand the dangers on a working construction site. Badger said he sees this kind of thing often. Keeping an eye out for unauthorized intruders comes with the territory.