6 Common Health Hazards on a Construction Site

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Construction is undoubtedly one of the biggest industries in the United States, employing nearly 6.5 million people and generating approximately $12.5 billion in annual revenue. But while it is a booming industry, working in it has its fair share of scares. Construction workers have a higher fatal injury rate than the national average for all workers, and these injuries contribute to about 2.2 million lost workdays each year. But while the construction industry is not without risk, workers can avoid many hazards with proper training and precautions.

Nevertheless, the question is, what are the most significant threats to construction workers’ health and safety?

1. Scaffolding

Scaffolding is used by nearly 2.3 million construction workers regularly, resulting in approximately 4,500 injuries and 50 fatalities each year. Scaffolding accidents are common as a result of improper setup or operation. Controlling these risks requires regular inspections by an experienced professional, proper scaffold safety training from a certified instructor, and adherence to all applicable local regulations.

Scaffolding must be safe, rigid, and strong enough to support the weight of the workers plus four times the maximum intended load without shifting or collapsing, according to OSHA regulations. Scaffolding must be at least 10 feet away from any overhead power lines before use and pass an inspection by a qualified individual.

2. Hazardous material

Toxic airborne materials, spillages, and physical hazards such as drills and machinery are some examples of industrial hygiene hazards. Every potentially hazardous substance used on the job site must be accompanied by a material safety data sheet (MSDS), which workers must use in conjunction with the appropriate protective equipment. Moreover, to prevent accidents on a construction site caused by hazardous materials, it is critical to have workers who have been properly taught the dangers of each toxic material.

3. Falls from height

Falls from height caused by unstable work surfaces, improper or no use of fall protection equipment, and unsafe use of scaffolding and ladders account for nearly one-third of all construction-related fatalities each year. Construction workers can avoid these mishaps if the site follows safety regulations, mainly when operating potentially hazardous machinery.

The “six-foot rule” states that any employee who works six feet or more above another surface must wear proper fall protection. Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes hard hats, non-slip boots, and uniforms in the appropriate size, and workers must have access to these items. Also, it is vital to install toe bars and warning lines on guard rail systems to protect workers working near the edges of floors and roofs.

4. Falls on stairways/ladders

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls on construction-related stairways and ladders cause an estimated 24,882 injuries and up to 36 fatalities each year (OSHA). The use of an insufficient or overloaded ladder can lead to serious injury. A qualified individual must inspect ladders for structural damage, missing safety devices, and cracked or bowed side rails. Falling objects, debris, or materials typically cause stairs-related injuries. The best way to avoid them is to keep the stairwell clean and install tread covers extending to the landing.

5. Electric shocks

Electrical hazards like shocks and explosions account for roughly 8% of all construction site fatalities. Electricity is a significant hazard to construction workers, so all workers must receive adequate electrical training. The workforce is responsible for locating and identifying utilities, such as power lines, and keeping a safe distance from them. To reduce the risk of injury, workers should only use portable tools that are grounded or double-insulated and equipped with ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Construction workers can reduce potential threats to their health and safety by receiving proper training in identifying and avoiding electrical hazards.

6. Struck by an object

An object, most commonly a vehicle, is responsible for approximately 10% of construction-related fatalities. Any unsafe operation of a vehicle or other heavy-moving objects, such as cranes or forklifts, has the potential to be disastrous. The site’s safety regulations should specify clear vehicle routes and instruct employees to avoid these areas on foot. Check that the controls on a crane or forklift are operational before using it, and always follow the manufacturer’s maximum weight and load recommendations. Wearing protective gear, such as hard hats, in areas where objects may fall is another way to reduce health and safety risks on a construction site.

Conclusion

The overarching lesson to be drawn from this is the importance of investing in employee training to reduce health and safety risks on a construction site. Inadequate training and disregard for established safety procedures are two leading causes of death and injury on construction sites. Human error is the leading cause of construction site accidents, but simple tools like safety checklists can greatly reduce this risk. Health and safety risks in the construction industry cannot be eliminated, but following safety guidelines and working in a secure environment can help reduce them.

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