Despite significant advancements, construction continues to pose major health risks to those who work in it. It accounts for a considerable percentage of fatal and major injuries as an industry due to falls from great heights, equipment-related accidents, and so on. It also poses numerous general health risks.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), approximately 4% of construction workers suffer from a work-related illness each year, and 3% sustain a work-related injury.
Every year, about 2.2 million working days are lost as a result of this. However, the industry tends to focus on immediate threats rather than factors that can impact long-term.
The following are some health risks associated with working on construction sites:
1. Manual materials handling tasks include lifting, holding, carrying, lowering, pushing, and pulling materials and loads. While several injuries are associated with materials handling (bruises, punctures, and broken bones), soft tissue damage, which includes damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, discs, cartilage, and nerves, is the most common.
Soft tissue injuries are most commonly seen in the neck, shoulders, elbows, arms, wrists, hands, lower back, hips, legs, knees, ankles, and feet. They can occur immediately or as a twinge that gradually worsens over time.
The severity of the injury can vary from mild to moderate discomfort to severe pain and the possibility of permanent disability. Healing can take months or even years, interfering with working and earning a living and impacting daily personal activities.
Employees must be trained on how to complete their jobs safely to reduce the risk of manual handling. It requires avoiding dangerous manual handling and instead relying on machines or equipment to move or lift loads.
Employers should assess the load weight and nature, the posture required to carry out the tasks, the workers’ health, and the working environment for tasks that machinery cannot handle. Then, for the benefit of the workforce and the construction company, a safe procedure can be implemented.
2. Noise is a common construction risk because construction is noisy. Long-term hearing problems, such as deafness, are caused by loud, repetitive, and excessive noise.
Noise can also be a dangerous distraction, taking the worker’s attention away from the task at hand and potentially causing an accident. The employer’s responsibility is to conduct a thorough noise risk assessment and provide appropriate PPE as needed.
3. Hand-arm vibration syndrome, also known as “blue finger,” is a painful and debilitating industrial disease of the blood vessels, nerves, and joints caused by the extended use of vibratory power tools and ground working equipment.
This occupational disease is frequently mentioned in compensation claims filed by ex-construction workers who worked for years with little or no protection, using inappropriate and poorly maintained equipment.
When using vibrating tools, construction workers should be provided with appropriate protection, and equipment should be well maintained.
4. Asbestos is another major cause of fatal respiratory conditions. When annual lung disease deaths are broken down by type, asbestos-related lung cancer accounts for 20% of the total.
Ceiling tiles, thermal paper and wall plaster, insulation, cement siding, switchgear, and circuit breakers present hazards to the unwary, particularly electricians, in older buildings.
It’s important to note that asbestos is especially hazardous because bringing the dust home can endanger a worker’s family. When family member comes into contact with asbestos dust, they are at risk of developing respiratory issues.
This is known as Para-occupational or secondary exposure. Any building or area suspected of containing asbestos should be evaluated and remedied with the assistance of a professional.
Workers should wear proper PPE and be informed of the procedures to be followed if they come across asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos should be disposed of properly.
Most importantly, employers should ensure that employees wash their hands before taking breaks and going home.
5. Construction sites, undoubtedly, generate a lot of dust. Construction dust is frequently an invisibly fine, toxic, and toxic mixture of hazardous materials and fibers.
This can cause lung damage and diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and silicosis.
6. Working in direct sunlight for a long summer without taking precautions can result in heat rashes, cramps, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke.
The problem may be exacerbated if impermeable protective clothing is worn while performing heavy work or working in an enclosed area with a strong heat source, poor ventilation, and high humidity.
Examples include asbestos insulation removal, underground work, and boiler maintenance. The best practice to eliminate heat stress is to avoid doing heavy manual labor in a hot environment.
Consider whether the work can be done mechanically or during cooler times of the day or season. Heat stress can be reduced by providing shade, fans, good cool drinks to replace the water lost through sweating, and adequate rest breaks.
Employers should create a fatigue management plan to reduce the risk of fatigue-related accidents to combat construction worker fatigue. Employers should be known about the dangers of working while fatigued.
Don’t overburden workers or set unrealistic expectations for task completion, or they will feel compelled to push themselves too hard to complete them.
7. Worker fatigue is a common highly dangerous on construction sites. Fatigue impairs a construction worker’s ability to perform their job duties safely and effectively, physical or mental.
Extensive work hours, night work, and an increased workload are all part of the job. Physically demanding and repetitive work, which is common in construction, contributes significantly to construction worker fatigue.
Work that necessitates a high concentration level, such as operating heavy machinery, can also result in worker fatigue. Weathering conditions, such as working in extreme heat or cold, are another factor that contributes to worker fatigue.
The primary point is that properly training employees is crucial to reducing health hazards on a construction site. Many construction-related injuries and deaths can be avoided with proper training and adherence to workplace safety protocols.
Simple tools, such as safety checklists, can significantly reduce the risk of construction site accidents caused by human error.
Using personal protective equipment, such as eye, face, and head protection can also help prevent minor injuries from becoming major ones.
While it is impossible to eliminate health and safety hazards in the construction industry, risks can be minimized by adhering to safety standards to ensure the safest possible work environment.
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