Occupational Health Professionals Call on Construction Contractors to Put Health in “Safety and Health”

AIHA announces free educational guide and resources for construction industry.

July 7, 2020 (Falls Church, VA)--In a national survey,1 more than 50 percent of construction workers report exposure to vapors, gas, dust or fumes at work twice a week or more – twice the average of all US workers. To reduce health risks, AIHA, an association for occupational health and safety science professionals, announced the availability of free resources to educate construction industry leaders about the health risks associated with construction work. Occupational health professionals (industrial hygienists) work alongside construction safety experts to reduce health risks to workers and organizations, ultimately increasing productivity and improving a company’s bottom line.

Construction contractors who want to protect the health of their workers, who are seeking resources, or want to hire an occupational health professional can find help at a new website, www.workerhealthsafety.org/construction. A free resource on the website, the guidance document, Focus Four for Health, an Initiative to Address Four Major Construction Health Hazards gives straightforward, practical ways for construction employers to identify and control these hazards. The document was developed by the AIHA Construction Committee to raise awareness about health hazards in the construction industry.

“Efforts to reduce health hazards typically lag behind those for safety hazards on many construction worksites. Safety gets more attention because injuries and safety hazards are easier to recognize. If an injury occurs, it typically happens right on the site. Health hazards tend to be much less observable and can be even more damaging to a person and the organization” said Janet L. Keyes, CIH, Chair of the AIHA Construction Committee and Principal at Chess, Inc.

Construction-related health hazards include noise, heat, air contaminants, and manual material handling.

  • Noise induced hearing loss is the most common work-related illness in the US. While it does not lead to death, it causes problems communicating, which can contribute to increased risk of accidents and injuries. It also causes permanent damage to the quality of life.
  • Heat can kill. People doing heavy labor in the summer often do not notice that they are suffering heat stroke or exhaustion until they collapse.
  • Breathing in air contaminants such as dusts, fumes, and vapors can cause long-term damage to the lungs, nervous system, and other organs. Those clouds of dust you see when driving by someone cutting concrete are exposing the worker to the risk of lung cancer and severe scarring of the lungs (silicosis).
  • The physically demanding work of many construction tasks push workers beyond their bodies’ natural capacity, damaging soft tissues, muscles, and tendons. Over time, that can lead to chronic pain and lifelong problems, including limiting the ability to work.

“Your employees are your most valuable resource and occupational health professionals play a critical role in assessing risk and keeping them healthy and safe,” said Lindsay Cook, CIH, CSP, President of the AIHA Board of Directors. “Occupational health policies and procedures make smart business sense.”

Occupational health professionals (industrial hygienists) can evaluate exposures to help determine if you need to be concerned about exposures to health risks, including noise and air contaminants such as welding fumes or solvent vapor. They can assess exposure to harmful chemical, biological, physical, and ergonomic hazards, advise on training and the use of personal protective equipment, and provide practical recommendations to reduce exposure to construction health risks.

 

About AIHA

AIHA is the association for occupational health and safety science professionals who are committed to preserving and ensuring health and safety in the workplace and community. Founded in 1939, we support our members with our expertise, network, comprehensive education programs and other products and services that help them maintain the highest professional standards. More than half of AIHA's nearly 8,500 members are Certified Industrial Hygienists, and many hold other professional designations. AIHA serves as a resource for those employed in the industrial, consulting, academic and government sectors. For information visit: www.aiha.org.

Taking Action and Protection from COVID-19

AIHA has valuable resources for employers including a Guide for Recovering from COVID-19 Building Closures. Most recently in response to the pandemic, AIHA has introduced the “Back to Work Safely” initiative to help employers and employees get back to work safely with industry sector specific guidelines and resources. These free guidelines include recommendations on ventilation, personal hygiene, physical distancing, and enhanced cleaning. Guidelines are available for the following industries (with many in Spanish):

  • Amateur sports
  • At-Home Service Providers
  • Bars
  • Childcare Providers
  • Construction Sites
  • Dental Office Setting
  • General Office Settings
  • Gyms and Workout Facilities
  • Hair and Nail Salons
  • Houses of Worship
  • Libraries
  • Museums and Collecting Institutions
  • Retail
  • Restaurants
  • Rideshare, Taxi, Limo and Other
  • Passenger Driver-for-Hire
  • Warehousing/Transportation
  • Small Manufacturing and Maintenance Shops
  • Small Entertainment Venues (e.g. mini golf and arcades)
  • Small Lodging Establishments
  • Street Vendors and Farmers Markets
  • Business Services (i.e. banks, dry cleaners, cell phone stores)
  • Warehousing/Transportation

2010 National Health Interview Survey Occupational Health Supplement Construction Sector conducted by the CDC.

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