4 Hidden Dangers of Construction Sites

In 2019, statistics show that 20% of work-related fatalities in the private sector originated from the construction industry. The dangers of construction may seem obvious, and sometimes, they are. However, there are a few increased risks of injury that come from some not so obvious places.

In this article, we’re going to cover 4 of them, so you can be more aware, and possibly help save yourself or your crew from some of them.

Of course, knowing is the first step! So be sure that you and your crew are up to date with all safety precautions and training!

Noise Injuries

While not on the 2021 Top 10 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Most Cited Violations, noise injury is still a very real risk. WIth the high prevalence of power tools and other loud construction equipment, the industry is full of risks to someone’s hearing.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that 52% of construction workers that are regularly exposed to loud noise on the work site, don’t wear their hearing protection.

Unfortunately, hearing damage is permanent and cannot be cured, nor reversed once it’s taken place. Luckily, OSHA has provided some wonderful literature on the safety precautions that can be taken by construction workers, here, in a pocket guide.

It’s an easy thing to prepare for, and to prevent, even in a noisy construction site. Don’t be someone that loses their hearing or lives with another kind of hearing impairment when you don’t have to.

OSHA recommends this 3-step noise hazard control process:

  1. Reduce It: Reduce noise by using quieter equipment. For example, you can choose a smaller, quieter generator. 
  2. Move It (or yourself): Move the offending equipment farther away from yourself or your crew with the use of additional welding leads, extension cords, and air hoses (following current OSHA standards). Noise levels will go down as you increase distance from a noisy object. Move the generator, or other noisy tool, farther away or face it another direction, away from where most of the crew are working. If you don’t need to be in a high noise area, move to a different, quieter location. 
  3. Block It: Block noise by building temporary barriers to keep it from reaching workers. Place a five-sided, oversized wooden box over the generator, for example. Add fire-resistant acoustical absorbing material (foam) inside the box. Sitting a generator on soil or sand will help absorb some of the noise. 

(Image from https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/FY2021_top_ten.jpg)

Airborne Exposure

Respiratory protection is cited as one of Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s top 10 most cited safety violations for 2021.

Construction sites are full of dangers, and chemicals as well as airborne construction materials are a big part of them.

With construction covering everything from building new as well as remodeling older buildings, workers can come into contact with some unsafe, hazardous materials. Unfortunately, being airborne, some of these dangers are simply unthought of, or taken too lightly.

A short, easy list to consider would be lead, asbestos, general dust and dirt, paint fumes, foam insulation, and cadmium. These are chemicals and materials that most any construction worker might be used to. And it doesn’t take much to prevent them from getting hurt, if they have and use the correct personal protective equipment.

This video from OSHA illustrates why it’s important to properly use this type of equipment to protect yourself when coming into contact with these airborne chemicals and materials on the build site.

Vibration Injuries

Did you know that over exposure to vibrations from tools or equipment can, in fact, lead to some pretty harmful musculoskeletal injuries or disorders? Injury or disorder can develop in the muscles, tendons, joints, spine, nerves, ligaments, and/or cartilage.

These Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) can develop as a result of repeated exposure to ergonomic risk factors such as vibration. It’s probably one of the sneakiest unknown dangers of the construction site.

This means workers and general contractors alike, that are constantly using tools such as jackhammers, sanders, saws, or other vibrating equipment can be harmed and should take the proper precautions to prevent such an injury from happening.

Some tips from OSHA to prevent some injuries from vibration:

  • Maintain machines. Unsharpened cutting tools or unbalanced rotating parts can give off excessive vibration that can cause injury or exacerbate disorders.
  • Alternate tasks. Arrange work tasks so that workers can use vibrating and nonvibrating tools alternately.
  • Restrict hours of use. Limit the number of hours someone uses a vibrating tool during the workday. Allow your employees to take 10 to 15 minute breaks from the vibrating equipment at least once every hour.

Fall Protection

The number one most cited safety violation in 2021 was fall protection, specifically in the construction industry. And that’s not very surprising, considering all of the possibilities that can contribute to a fall that exist on a construction work site.

There are scaffolding, ladders, holes, large construction vehicles to get up into and out of, uneven work surfaces, and a whole lot more. Because of this, falls are among the worst injuries one can suffer in the industry, causing hundreds of fatalities each year.

It’s important to get yourself and your crew the right kind of safety training to avoid these types of construction accidents, and to keep everyone aware. It could keep them alive. In fact, a lack of fall protection training was listed as number 5 on our most cited violations list!

Luckily, again, OSHA has provided a lot of literature, guidance, and training material in order to help you with that. Help eliminate site injuries on your next construction project and make sure your employees have an understanding of what can help them stay safe.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to be sure they are following guidelines and safety protocols in order to stay safe. Providing a few refresher training courses could be just what your employees need from you, in order to have the best chance at staying safe.

Good luck and stay safe out there! 

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