As you most probably know, construction can be a risky business. As an owner of a construction company, one of the top things in mind is to protect your workers from work-related risks. It is important to provide proper training about health hazards in the workplace.
This includes educating employees on the common health risks associated with construction work, how to identify them early on, and how to take the necessary steps to prevent them. In this article, you will find the most common construction health hazards such as cement dermatitis, asbestos, silica dust, and whole-body vibration.
Read on to find out more about the top health hazards in the industry.
1) Cement dermatitis
Cement dermatitis is a type of skin irritation caused by contact with wet cement or mortar. Symptoms may include redness, itching, burning, and blistering of the affected area.
In more extreme cases, the skin may become raw and tender to the touch. Cement dermatitis is most commonly seen in people who work with wet cement or mortar on a regular basis such as masonry professionals.
It can also affect people who come in contact with wet cement while gardening.
How can you prevent cement dermatitis?
According to the Skin Care at Work: The Construction Industry page on the website of Occupational Dermatology Research and Education Centre, prevention of cement dermatitis is possible through hygiene practices including moisturising the skin regularly and wearing protective clothing such as gloves.
How can you address cement dermatitis?
In case your workers come in direct contact with wet cement, there might be symptoms. If this happens, you can ask them to wash with plain water followed by a topical steroid cream to reduce inflammation and itching.
2) Asbestos dust
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that have been used in construction materials and other products due to its durability, heat and chemical resistance. Asbestos dust is made up of tiny fibres that float in the air, making it dangerous to breathe in.
According to the Asbestos Facts and Statistics published on Asbestos.com (The Mesothelioma Center): ““An estimated 125 million people worldwide remain at risk of occupational exposure to asbestos.”
Exposure to asbestos dust can cause serious health problems when inhaled over long periods of time. It is important for people to be aware of the dangers associated with asbestos dust and take appropriate safety measures when handling it.
How can you prevent illnesses brought about by asbestos?
According to Assist Group, section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 requires asbestos check ups for workers in Australia who are exposed to its fibres.
Asbestos medicals are evaluations used to assess the health of those who have been exposed to asbestos. These health checks may involve:
- a physical examination
- lung function test
- chest X-ray
- and other tests to detect any potential illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos.
The results of the tests can be used to plan appropriate preventive measures.
In addition, if your workers are exposed to asbestos fibres, you can ask them to wear protective gear such as masks and gloves whenever they are working.
3) Silica dust
According to an article published on the website of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners: “It is estimated that around 584,050 Australian workers are currently exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS), which occurs when products containing crystalline silica, such as stone, rocks, and concrete are processed via cutting, drilling or grinding.”
How can you prevent illnesses brought about by silica dust?
One of the most effective ways to prevent exposure to silica dust is to use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Goggles, gloves, and coveralls are examples of PPE that can help protect workers from inhaling silica dust or getting it on their skin.
In addition to PPE, engineering controls can be used to reduce dust levels in the workplace. Local exhaust ventilation, which captures dust at the source, is one example. Employers and managers should check that these controls are regularly maintained and inspected to ensure their safety.
4) Whole-body vibration
According to a journal article published on the website of Science Direct, whole body vibration (WBV) is a type of vibration exposure that happens when operating construction equipment. Your workers may experience this when they are subjected to high-frequency vibrations resulting from operating tools, machinery, and other construction equipment.
This type of vibration exposure can cause serious health risks, such as musculoskeletal disorders.
How can you prevent whole body vibration in construction?
To prevent WBV, it is essential to look at both structural and operational components. Structurally, things like isolation of the flooring system, installation of dampening materials and proper insulation may help prevent vibration.
Operationally speaking, employers can consider implementing job rotation scheduling to limit excessive exposure to vibration, as well as taking breaks or changing posture to reduce the amount of time spent exposed to vibratory stimuli.
Working in the construction industry can bring health risks. As a construction company owner, It is essential that there be provisions for a safe working environment. This means ensuring that workers are aware of all safety protocols and regulations related to their work.
By raising awareness about the potential health risks associated with construction work, employers can help reduce the likelihood of illness in their workforce.