By Blotzer, Michael
Occupational Hazards , Vol. 67, No. 2
A painter picks up a metal ladder while cleaning up the work site at the end of the day. As he carries the upright ladder to the van, coworkers shout warnings about an overhead power line. Too late. The ladder strikes the power line, electrocuting the painter.
Working alone, a laborer operates a scissor lift while performing finishing work on a newly constructed day care center. The worker becomes pinned between the top rail of the work platform and the head jamb of a doorway. He is discovered hours later, dead by mechanical asphyxiation.
A 16-year-old worker on a framing crew falls from a job-made scaffold, striking his head on a concrete slab more than 10 feet below.
A worker installs flooring in a stairwell that has an operating gasoline-powered generator supplying electric power to the construction site. The worker eventually collapses from carbon monoxide poisoning.
Construction is at the bleeding edge of health and safety--a challenging mix of traditional hazards mixed with the new. In addition to the age-old threats of lead, silica and asbestos, workers must contend with the hazards of modern chemicals and advanced materials. And nanotechnology will certainly find application in construction (irc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/newsletter/v7no4/nanotechnology_e.html).
The dynamic nature of a constantly changing construction site brings further challenges. Changing seasons create additional complications of heat stress in the summer and cold stress in winter. Hazards change throughout the life of a project, by the day, the hour, even minute to minute.
Enclosed areas with poor ventilation increase exposures to hazardous chemicals and exhaust gases from vehicles and equipment. Outdoor workers have greater exposure to West Nile Virus, Lyme Disease and other insect-borne ailments.
Construction workers also face ergonomic hazards. Tasks involve frequent lifting, working in unusual positions, frequent bending, forceful use of hand tools and vibration from power tools.
Statistics confirm the dangerous nature of construction work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), 13,502 construction workers died in the United States due to work-related injuries from 1992 through 2003--an average of 1,125 fatalities each year. Construction accounts for 19 percent of all workplace fatalities in the United States, yet employs less than 6 percent of the work force.
Construction safety and health is certainly a challenge. Fortunately, the Internet is home to a growing body of free information on identifying, evaluating and controlling construction hazards.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Web site is the primary source for cutting-edge safety and health information. NIOSH's Construction Web page (http://www.cdc.gov/nioch/topics/construction) is a portal to the latest NIOSH research findings and recommendations.
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury in construction. In fact, construction accounts for half of all work-related fatal falls in the United States. The NIOSH publication Worker Deaths by Falls (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/00-116pd.html) provides an overview of fall hazards, analyzes fatal fails and describes the elements of a good fall protection program. The NIOSH Construction Web page contains links to similar information covering electrical safety, traffic safety, silica, asbestos, lead and more.
Need to find information that's not on the Construction page? Just click the NIOSHTIC 2 search results on Construction link to see a complete list of all construction-related information in the NIOSHTIC 2 database (Figure 1). Results are listed in reverse chronological order, so you see the latest records first. Now enter your key words in the "User Query" field and click the "Search Within Results" button to quickly locate records of interest. …