Construction workers perform some of the most difficult and dangerous jobs today. According to the Department of Labor, over 200,000 construction-related occupational injuries are recorded every year. 1 out of 5 worker deaths was in the construction industry. If you think those numbers are bad, imagine the conditions in the days before occupation safety and protective gear.
There’s no single culprit that explains why construction is so dangerous. After all, the construction industry comprises hundreds of different processes and techniques and involves using many types of tools and equipment. There are many construction jobs, from flooring and carpentry to welding and plumbing, each one with its own set of dangers.
Regardless of the type of construction work you do, occupational safety should be your number one concern. If you don’t follow safety guidelines, you’re putting yourself and other people in harm’s way. Even simple tasks are filled with hidden dangers. For instance, a quick nailing job can easily go awry if you’re not careful with the nailing gun. Here are some of the most common construction hazards and how to avoid them.
1. Protect your eyes
When we talk about construction injuries, burns, broken bones, and torn muscles usually come to mind. But one common construction injury that people rarely consider is eye injuries. Sparks and flying objects are hazards that construction workers have to deal with regularly. If you don’t wear proper eye protection, you could have a temporary vision impairment or even blindness.
For instance, many welders are at risk of developing photokeratitis, a painful condition caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet rays. The welding process creates a bright light that can burn off the eyes’ protective layer. To minimize the risk of the bright light, the welder has to wear a welding mask with darkened lenses. This reduces the intensity of the light while allowing the welder to see where he’s working.
2. Wear a respirator
Some construction processes create fumes and particulate that can damage the lungs if inhaled. Metalworkers, in particular, are susceptible to this hazard. Certain metals, if coated with other metals, can emit poisonous gases when exposed to heat. Without the proper gear, metal will slowly build up in the worker’s body, which leads to heavy metal poisoning. This condition can have lifelong consequences, including organ failure.
Ordinary masks and face shields are inadequate to prevent accidental inhalation. For starters, the job must be performed in an open space with proper ventilation. If that isn’t feasible, the metalworker will need to bring their own oxygen to the worksite to keep their air supply clean. They will also need to wear a respirator.
3. Keep your skin covered
Burns are some of the most common construction injuries. The nature of construction work means that many tasks require fire or electricity or both. Workers understand that risk, which is why they need to keep their bodies covered at all times. Even the neck and arms should be protected, and the only way to do that is to wear FR PPE. Regular clothes shouldn’t be worn within the worksite.
Since metals have to be welded into all shapes, there may be times when workers are exposed to molten metal and particulates. If someone were to touch a newly welded piece accidentally, they could suffer from burns or worse. Everyone working with metals should wear the correct type of gloves to prevent burns and cuts.
Not all gloves are made the same. Cotton gloves may be suitable for carpentry, but they are completely inadequate for welding and metalworking. Synthetic fibers and rubber can also melt when exposed to heat. Instead, wear thick leather gloves when working with hot metal.
4. Cover your ears
There’s a reason why no one lives near a construction site: because they’re incredibly noisy. All the tools and equipment at work means that worksites are some of the loudest places around. Anyone working in construction needs to wear ear protection to minimize exposure to loud noises. It could also serve as protection from fine dust, particulates, and sparks caused by certain jobs.
The bottom line
Safety is a group responsibility, and everyone must work together to minimize hazards to keep everyone safe and healthy. These four hazards represent a small portion of the dangers that construction workers deal with regularly. Always be cautious and use your common sense when dealing with hazards. Most importantly, never work without the right safety gear and equipment.