Construction work is dynamic, diverse, and constantly changing. This leads to a great challenge in protecting the health and safety of construction workers. They are at risk of exposure to many different types of health hazards that can result in injury, illness, disability, or even death.
Risk Factors in Construction
There are many different factors that increase the health risk of construction workers, including:
- constantly changing job site
- environments and conditions
- multiple contractors and subcontractors
- high turnover and/or unskilled laborers
- constantly changing relationships with other work groups
- diversity of work activities that happen simultaneously
- exposures to health hazards, both from their own work as well as from nearby activities
Physical Hazards in Construction
Physical hazards are different types of energy which may be hazardous to construction workers. They include noise, vibration, temperature extremes, and radiation.
Prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Noise levels above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.
When you are exposed to excessive noise levels, the first stage is temporary hearing loss. Over time, the hearing loss becomes permanent.
Several factors influence the noise levels that workers are exposed to. For example, the type of equipment being operated, condition and maintenance of the equipment, and enclosed or partially enclosed spaces.
High noise levels can also be sporadic on construction sites. Damage to your hearing is cumulative and exposure limits are based on 8-hour averages. Workers who are not operating equipment are often also exposed to the excessive noise at the site.
Biological Health Hazards
Biological agents include bacteria, viruses, fungi (mold), other microorganisms and their associated toxins. They have the ability to adversely affect human health in a variety of ways, ranging from relatively mild, allergic reactions to serious medical conditions, even death.
These organisms are widespread in the natural environment; they are found in air, water, soil, plants, and animals. Because many microbes reproduce rapidly and require minimal resources for survival, they are a potential danger in a wide variety of occupational settings.
Ergonomic Hazards in Construction
Ergonomic hazards can cause painful and disabling injuries to joints and muscles on a construction site. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ergonomic hazards are the most frequently occurring health hazards in construction and the cause of most injuries.
In a recent survey, 40% of construction workers said “working hurt” is a major problem. Working hurt reduces productivity, but continuing to work hurt can result in disabling injuries that end a career. Many laborers retire by age 55 because they just can’t do the work anymore. Many can’t enjoy their retirement because of their disabilities.