01 November 2017
The UK construction industry output figures continued to rise in the last financial year reaching it’s highest level on record – with new construction work amounting to over £99 million. While it’s prosperity as one of the UK’s most buoyant sectors is the most prominent aspect of the industry, it is also one of the most dangerous industries with 43 workers fatally injured and 66,000 non-fatal injuries reported in the sector in the period 2015/16. The nature of the industry means that the obvious concern in terms of construction safety is injury. Falls, lifting and handling and being struck by objects are the most common reasons for injury in the sector.
A lot of emphasis is put on accident prevention when companies consider their construction safety policies, but hazards and work related illnesses amount to more issues than injury, with 79,000 reported cases in the last period – a figure that suggests that hazards and work-related illness in the sector need more attention.
The causes of health hazards in construction are not always immediately obvious, but many have devastating effects and can lead to long term health issues. The issues can be minimised by the correct use of construction safety equipment and/or PPE.
Common health risks include:
- Muscoskeletal disorders such as back pain from manual handling
- Noise induced hearing loss
- Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) caused by hand held power tools
- Skin and respiratory problems caused by exposure to hazardous substances
Fines for illnesses or conditions as a result of negligence by employers can be hefty. Recently, Wrexham Borough Council were fined £150,000 and costs of £10.901 after a worker was diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. This followed an audit which found that policies to avoid the condition were not implemented. Advice to minimise the risk of HAVS include using the correct PPE (keeping the hands warm with the appropriate PPE to encourage good blood flow can reduce the rist of developing the condition), equipment reviews and workstation design review.
Exposure to hazardous substances
Synthetic mineral fibres
Some fibrous products are used in building for thermal insulation or sound proofing and are made from fibreglass or ceramic materials. Fibres can cause irritation of the nasal passages, skin, eyes and throat. Ensure that the relevant PPE is worn at all times to alleviate exposure.
Machining operations such as sanding and machining can generate large amount of wood dust. Wood dust can worsen asthmatic symptoms. There is also a risk of allergy from inhaling wood dusts contaminated with funghi. Construction safety equipment such as dust masks, eye protection and the correct PPE should be made a priority. Partitions or strip curtaining can also be installed, containing dust particles within a confined area.
Solvents are used for degreasing and cleaning and are found in glues, paints and varnishes. Problems are caused by either inhaling the vapour or by exposure to the skin. Short term effects of exposure include headaches, nausea and drowsiness. Long term effects can include damage to the liver, kidneys and skin.
If you are concerned about hazards in your construction environment and require safety solutions, please get in touch. Use our contact form here.
Written By Sharon Shaw
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