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Oh HEAVEN SAKES let’s all Agree on Safety Hand Signals at Work!

So how did the fight start on the multi-cultural work site while the teams were trying to do the work!

Hand gestures are a universal idiosyncrasy etched in cultures all over the world, but their meanings? Not so much. For example, the beloved “thumbs up” is a sign that everything is alright in most North American and European countries, but in Asian and Islamic cultures this simple hand gesture is offensive.   In Iraq. It’s true that “thumbs up” traditionally translates as the foulest of Iraqi insults—the most straightforward interpretation is “Up yours, pal!” The sign has a similarly pejorative meaning in parts of West Africa, Russia, Australia, Iran, Greece, and Sardinia. It is called is called bilakh and means an unquestioned insult. Literally, it means “Sit on this”.

Finger pointing can be used to indicate a direction or object by Americans and Europeans. In Malaysia, however, people point with the whole fist and the thumb at the top indicating direction. In most places nodding your head vertically up and down would indicate a “yes” and from side to side is a “no”. Not in Bulgaria, where the “yes” and “no” nod are reversed. In Italy or to an Italian person, flicking your fingers in a backwards wave from there neck. To an American it is normal to an Italian, you maybe giving them the equivalent of the middle finger. In England, backwards peace sign (your index and middle finger held up with your palm facing toward you). It means the same thing as giving the middle finger in America. Many parts of the world interpret a circle made with the index finger and thumb, with the three remaining fingers up as “OK.” But some places see it a little differently. In Japan, this gesture stands for “money.” In France it means “zero” or “worthless.” In Venezuela and Turkey, gesturing to someone in this way implies that they are a homosexual. And in Brazil, the OK sign is the same as an Italian chin flick.

Well not every set of hand signals are an industry recognized practice at work, and the next part of that same statement is which INDUSTRY on which worksite.  And in truth we start using hand signals as soon as we got our first bicycle for things like stop, slow, left or right turns.

And yes we all agree that being able to communicate with operators and workers on site without the aide of radio is critical but how do we do that the cement guys are using ones differently than the guys and gals using the zoom booms, the crane operator does speak traffic or loader operator hand signs it the like the land of many tongues and no one has a translation app!  The International Organization for Standardization (IOS) has established a new standard under ISO 6715, which requires a set of hand signals be used for any construction site with a lift operator. The goal is not to take away from the unique sign language used by various cultures, but to help improve safety and efficiency in job sites whose workers come from different countries or cultural backgrounds.

Even Agriculture has a wagons west theme to learn$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/aet11594/$FILE/Handsignalsflashcards.pdf     

Even backhoe operators have a language of their own,   Never mind the fork lift operators.


And yes the understanding the standard hand signals provides a way to communicate the needed information correctly and reduce the risk of accidents/injuries. Background noise from machinery and/or distance between workers often leads to poor communication which can lead to accidents and/or injuries. Hand signals are an ideal way for people to communicate with each.

To the untrained eye, a construction site often looks quite a bit like controlled chaos. Dump trucks driving all over the construction site and cranes moving loads from one location to another. It truly seems as though every worker has his own agenda to complete his own task. In reality, there is a lot more going on than this, especially…

In today’s modern world of electronics, two way radios and other communication devices, the crane operator still relies on hand signals, or, in some countries, an old fashion pea-whistle. Even if you use a two way radio for communication, crane operators still need a thorough understanding of hand signals since there are situations where the radio cannot be used.

Yes it does go  into STANDARDS and usage for safety

On construction sites, one of the most important jobs is that of the signal person. This person is responsible for signaling the crane operator with orders for the lift. To accurately and safely direct crane operators, the signal person must know and understand the operation signals used in the ASME 1926 regulations. The signal director must also understand the operations and limitations of the equipment they’re directing, such as the crane’s dynamics involved in swinging, raising, lowering loads, stopping loads, and boom deflection.

OH&S  regulations require a signal person must be present on the job site when the load or area near the load is not in full view of the operator, when the equipment will need to move throughout the job and the direction of movement is obstructed, or when the operator or site manager believes a signal person should be present because of site safety conditions.

Hand signals offer advantages where radios or other electronic devices fall short. Such as:

·        Clarity – Standard hand signals minimize ambiguity because the signal person can only “speak” using signals, or a combination of signals, directly related to the crane controls.

·        Speed – Visual signals are immediate. A skilled signal person can develop the ability to signal faster than the human tongue can form words.

·        Distance – Verbal directions can be delayed, misheard or misunderstood depending on an electronic device’s distance limitations. Hand signals eliminate this issue.

·        Noise  – Noise levels at construction sites can be overwhelming and verbal direction becomes lost in the clamor . Workers with or without hearing protection gear on busy sites don’t need to rely on their hearing ability when using hand signals to communicate.

·        Continuity – Hand signals are a ‘common’ language and will communicate a specific direction no matter what languages are spoken on the worksite.

Hand signal guidelines:

·        All lifts should employ a qualified signal person with knowledge of standard hand signals

·        Ensure that the signal person and the driver/operator agree on hand signals before beginning

·        The signal person should always maintain visual contact with the driver

·        Drivers/operators should stop movement immediately if they lose sight of the signal person

·        Provide the signal person with high-visibility clothing, especially during night operations

Accidents happen when hand signals are misunderstood or misinterpreted, so it is imperative the operator and signal person take the time to study and memorize the necessary signals.

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