Safety Involves More than Accident Prevention

Why Construction Safety Involves More than Accident Prevention

Train. Protect. Prevent.

Every day, construction workers face the risk of injuries and accidents on the job. Of all worker deaths in 2014, for example, one in five occurred on a construction site.

Often referred to as construction’s “fatal four,” the leading causes of construction fatalities in 2014 were falls, electrocution, being struck by an object, and getting caught in or between an object. Last year, these accidents accounted for almost 60 percent of construction fatalities.  Sadly, many employees receive little to no training from their employers on these hazards.  Safety involves more than accident prevention (personal protective equipment).  Often we like to think of personal protective equipment as the last line of defense!

While these statistics are sobering, construction workers also face a high risk of disease and other health issues related to their profession. These occupational diseases are due to a variety of issues, including:

Location – Construction work takes place in a variety of locations and each one presents its own health risks. Even within one construction site, the risks can vary depending on what area of a site a worker is assigned.

Nature of work – Construction sites change rapidly depending on the particular stage of work or the type of work that is being performed at any given time.

Risk awareness – While the construction industry has made great strides in injury prevention, exposure to harmful chemicals still lags behind. This may be due in part to the fact that some serious health issues can take years to develop.

Employee status – Many construction workers are independent contractors or change jobs frequently. This make them less likely to seek the assistance of an onsite occupational health professional.

The most common occupational diseases related to the construction industry are as follows:

Cancer – Construction has the largest rate of occupational cancer in the industrial sectors. Past construction work is believed to be the cause of 3,700 cancer deaths annually. Statistics show that exposure to asbestos, silica, paint, and diesel engine exhaust are the most common causes of construction-related cancers.

Hazardous substances – Dust, chemicals, paint and other harmful mixtures and processes that emit dust, fumes, vapor or gas are a major source of breathing and lung problems. Skin irritation also can occur.

Back and limb disorders – Construction workers and builders have the highest prevalence of back injuries and upper limb disorders.

Hearing and sensation loss – Noise and vibration can lead to hearing loss and other symptoms such as loss of sensation and grip strength in the hands, and bone cysts in the fingers and wrists.

The key to keeping construction workers healthy in the long term is the same as preventing accidents. Each worker must receive proper and ongoing safety training, construction sites need to monitored for any safety violations, and proper personal protective equipment must always been worn. These steps will help to ensure that the health of construction workers is protected now and in the long-term.  Remember, safety involves more than accident prevention!  Train. Protect. Prevent.