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Health Hazards in Construction Module 1: Overview

What this presentation covers: 

What this presentation covers Chemical Hazards Physical Hazards Biological Hazards Ergonomic Hazards This module gives a general overview of the various health hazards to which construction workers may be exposed: Some of the topics in this module are covered further in other modules, or will be discussed in upcoming ones. See the “Resources” slide at the end of this presentation for links to additional information.


Introduction Construction workers are at risk of exposure to various health hazards that can result in injury, illness, permanent disability, or even death. Damaged asbestos pipe insulation


Introduction This poses a great challenge in protecting the health and safety of workers. Construction work is dynamic, diverse, and constantly changing.

Risk Factors in Construction: 

Risk Factors in Construction constantly changing job site environments and conditions multiple contractors and subcontractors high turnover; unskilled laborers constantly changing relationships with other work groups diversity of work activities occurring simultaneously exposures to health hazards resulting from own work as well as from nearby activities (“bystander exposure”) Factors increasing the health risk of construction workers include:

Some Examples of Construction Workers and Health Hazards: 

Some Examples of Construction Workers and Health Hazards

Types of Health Hazards: 

Types of Health Hazards Chemical Physical Biological Ergonomic Health hazards are generally grouped as: Ergonomic hazards are the most frequent health hazard. Silica exposure from cutting concrete in road construction

Chemical Hazards: 

Chemical Hazards Chemicals can exist in the form of dusts, fumes, fibers (solids) liquids, mists gases, vapors welding fumes spray paints cutting oil mists xylene vapor solvents Examples of chemical hazards found in construction work: asbestos lead silica cadmium carbon monoxide

Chemical Hazards: 

Chemical Hazards inhalation Chemicals can enter the body via breathed in ingestion absorption accidental swallowing through eating, drinking, or smoking absorbed through contact with skin or eyes Inhalation is typically the most common way chemicals can enter the body in a work situation. Injection, in which a chemical enters the body when the skin is punctured, occurs rarely (e.g., paint from a high-pressure spray gun).

Chemical Hazards: 

Chemical Hazards Some hazards have both acute and chronic effects, e.g., carbon monoxide. Types of Health Effects from Exposure to Chemical Hazards

Chemical Hazards: 

Chemical Hazards A health hazard can affect the entire body or many organs, or affect only specific tissues, organs, or parts of the body. Examples of health conditions and illnesses from exposure to chemical hazards: Headaches Confusion Loss of consciousness Dermatitis Lung irritation Asbestosis Silicosis Cancer Liver damage Sterility

Chemical Hazards: 

Chemical Hazards Chemical hazards in construction are covered in greater depth in the upcoming module “Health Hazards in Construction: Module 2 Chemical Hazards” Other modules covering the basics of chemical hazards and hazard communication are available. See the “Resources” slide at the end of this presentation for links to additional information.

Physical Hazards: 

Physical Hazards Noise Vibration Temperature extremes Radiation Physical hazards are different types of energy which may be hazardous to workers.

Physical Hazards – Noise: 

Physical Hazards – Noise Noise levels of some common construction equipment Prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels can cause noise-induced hearing loss. When you are exposed to excessive noise levels, the first stage is temporary hearing loss. Over time, the hearing loss becomes permanent.

Physical Hazards – Noise: 

Physical Hazards – Noise Type of equipment being operated Condition/maintenance of the equipment Other equipment running at the same time Enclosed or partially enclosed spaces Several factors influence the noise levels to which workers are exposed:

Physical Hazards – Vibration: 

Physical Hazards – Vibration Whole-body vibration can occur from operating large mobile equipment, such as drillers, air hammers, pile drivers, tractors, graders, excavators, earth-moving equipment, and other large machinery. Workers can be exposed to vibration affecting the entire body or only to the hand and arm.

Physical Hazards – Vibration: 

Physical Hazards – Vibration Hand-arm vibration can result from using hand-held power tools, such as pneumatic drills and hammers, and disc grinders. Hand-arm vibration may cause carpal tunnel syndrome, a disease that affects the fingers and hands. In the long run, permanent damages to the nerves will result in a loss of the sense of touch and dexterity. Working in a cold and damp environment can aggravate the harmful effects of hand-arm vibration.

Physical Hazards – Temperature Extremes: 

Physical Hazards – Temperature Extremes A change in body temperature due to extreme work environmental conditions can lead to stress or illness from heat or cold. If not treated in time, both heat and cold stress/illness can develop into life-threatening situations. Heat illnesses: Heat rash Fainting Heat cramps Heat exhaustion Heat stroke Cold illnesses and injuries: Frost nip Immersion injury (trench foot) Frost bite Hypothermia Heavy work in high temperatures (e.g., roof work) can cause muscle cramps, dehydration, sudden collapse, and unconsciousness. Freezing temps can lead to fatigue, irregular breathing, confusion, and loss of consciousness.

Physical Hazards – Heat: 

Physical Hazards – Heat prolonged work under direct sunlight in summer (e.g., asphalt paving or roofing in summer) wearing impermeable protective clothing when doing heavy work Hot conditions can occur from working in an enclosed area with a strong heat source, poor ventilation, and high humidity (e.g., heavy equipment operators in an enclosed cab with without sufficient ventilation)

Physical Hazards – Cold: 

Physical Hazards – Cold cold air temperatures rain, snow, sleet, or other wet weather conditions windy conditions underground construction work working over water and falling in Cold conditions:

Physical Hazards – Radiation: 

Physical Hazards – Radiation X-rays, gamma rays from equipment used to gauge the density and thickness of pipes, to inspect welds, for detecting weakness of metal structures on a construction site radioactive isotopes from flow meters Trefoil sign Indicates the presence of ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation Health effects: increased risk of developing cancer and genetic disease

Physical Hazards – Radiation: 

Physical Hazards – Radiation Non-ionizing Radiation ultraviolet light from sunlight infrared radiation from torch welding and cutting radio waves from radio towers lasers used for aligning, ranging, and surveying are usually low-powered but can cause eye injuries if directly viewed for extended time microwaves skin cancer eye damage premature skin aging weakening of immune system Health effects:

Biological Hazards: 

Biological Hazards Microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, viruses, fungi, molds) Diseases or illnesses can occur from biological sources: In many cases, the route of entry is cuts in the skin or breathing. Some diseases are minor infections; others can be serious or deadly. West Nile virus Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria (causes Lyme Disease) Histoplasma capsulatum fungus Rabies virus Examples: Plant toxins, oils urushiol oil from poison oak and sumac; stinging nettles

Biological Hazards: 

Biological Hazards Exposure may occur during demolition, renovation, sewer work, work on air handling systems, or other construction work from contact with contaminated or disease-carrying soil water insects (mosquitoes, ticks) bird, bat droppings animals structures

Ergonomic Hazards: 

Ergonomic Hazards Ergonomic hazards can cause painful and disabling injuries. heavy, frequent, or awkward lifting repetitive tasks awkward grips, postures using excessive force, overexertion using wrong tools for the job or using tools improperly using improperly maintained tools hand-intensive work Manual handling is common in construction work and is one of the most common causes of injury at work.

Ergonomic Hazards: 

Ergonomic Hazards strains and sprains – one of the most common injuries among construction workers tendonitis carpal tunnel syndrome low back pain fatigue Ergonomic hazards can cause a lifetime of pain and disability. Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) and injuries:


Resources Workplace Safety and Health Look for more in-depth modules on many of the topics covered in this module at OSHA NIOSH Construction Association of Ontario


WISHA Consultation Services Safety & Health program review and worksite evaluation By employer invitation only Free Confidential No citations or penalties Letter explains findings Follow-up all serious hazards For additional assistance, you can call one of our consultants. Click below for local L & I office locations:


Thank you for taking the time to learn about safety and health and how to prevent future injuries and illnesses.

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