What Are 4 Types of Industrial Hygiene Hazards That Can Impact Construction?

What Are 4 Types of Industrial Hygiene Hazards That Can Impact Construction?

Posted by Access Doors and Panels on 3rd Jul 2024

What Are 4 Types of Industrial Hygiene Hazards That Can Impact Construction?

Every construction project prioritizes getting the job done on time and within budget. But at the core of this goal lies a fundamental principle: worker safety and health.

Various hazards threaten construction site safety and worker well-being. Industrial hygiene, a field dedicated to recognizing and mitigating workplace health risks, helps safeguard construction crews' health and well-being.

In this article, we will look at four primary industrial hygiene hazards commonly encountered on construction sites, their potential health impacts, and practical strategies to minimize them. 

Chemical Hazards 

Invisible dangers often lurk in the air we breathe on construction sites. These chemical hazards in construction—solid, liquid, or dust—can enter the body through ingestion, skin contact, or inhalation and cause various health problems. 

  • Examples: Lead paint, asbestos, silica dust, welding fumes, solvents, and various cleaning products. 
  • Health Impacts: Construction workers are particularly susceptible to respiratory issues like bronchitis and asthma due to prolonged exposure to dust and fumes. Skin irritation, rashes, and even chemical burns can occur from direct contact with hazardous materials. Inhaling certain chemicals can lead to poisoning, and long-term exposure to some substances—like asbestos—significantly increases the risk of cancer. 

Mitigation Strategies

Prioritize safer alternatives: Choose lead-free paint and use wet cutting for concrete/masonry to minimize dust. 

Implement ventilation: Use local exhaust systems to ensure good overall airflow through windows and fans. 

Provide proper PPE: Have the crew wear respirators with appropriate filters, chemical-resistant gloves, safety glasses, and clothing based on specific chemicals. 

Regular air monitoring: Conduct air quality testing to ensure safe exposure levels. 

Biological Hazards 

Biological hazards in construction—like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other living organisms—can cause infections or diseases. 

  • Examples: Mold growth due to moisture issues, exposure to sewage during demolition or excavation work, Legionnaires’ disease from stagnant water sources in cooling towers, and tetanus bacteria present in soil. 
  • Health Impacts: Respiratory illnesses like lung infections and allergic reactions are common consequences of inhaling mold spores or other biological agents. Skin infections can arise from contact with contaminated materials, and exposure to bacteria like tetanus can lead to serious illness. 

Mitigation Strategies 

Prevent mold and bacteria growth: Maintain a clean, dry work environment. Address moisture issues and ensure proper ventilation. 

Vaccinations: Encourage workers to stay current on tetanus shots and consider vaccinations for other relevant diseases. 

Sanitation: Provide adequate handwashing facilities with soap and running water. Maintain portable toilets hygienically. 

Safe handling protocols: Train workers on handling sewage, mold, and animal droppings. 

Physical Hazards 

The construction environment itself can pose physical threats to worker safety and health. Physical hazards in construction sites encompass environmental factors that cause musculoskeletal injuries or disorders

  • Examples: Exposure to loud noise from machinery and power tools, extreme temperatures (both hot and cold), vibrations from equipment operation, slips, trips, and falls from working at heights or on uneven surfaces. 
  • Health Impacts: Constant exposure to loud noise can lead to permanent hearing loss. Working in extreme heat can cause heatstroke, dehydration, and fatigue. Conversely, cold weather can lead to hypothermia. Vibrations from equipment use can damage nerves and blood vessels in the hands and arms. Slips, trips, and falls are some of the leading causes of serious injuries in construction, with the potential for broken bones, head trauma, and even fatalities. 

Mitigation Strategies

Hearing protection: Implement hearing conservation programs with earplugs or earmuffs rated for job site noise. 

Heat stress prevention: Ensure hydration with frequent breaks in the shade. Also, consider cooling vests or buddy systems. Provide layered clothing and insulation for cold environments. 

Vibration hazards: Use well-maintained tools with vibration-dampening gloves. Limit exposure and rotate workers. 

Slip, trip, and fall prevention: Keep walking surfaces clean, well-lit, and debris-free. Utilize guardrails, fall protection systems, and proper footwear with good traction. Implement housekeeping measures to minimize clutter. 

Ergonomic Hazards 

Many construction tasks involve repetitive motions, awkward postures, and working in cramped spaces. These factors contribute to ergonomic hazards in construction, which can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) over time. 

  • Examples: Repetitive lifting of heavy materials, constant overhead work, working on ladders or kneeling for extended periods, and using hand tools that require forceful gripping. 
  • Health Impacts: MSDs are the most prevalent work-related illnesses in construction. These disorders encompass various conditions like back pain, muscle fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome, and tendinitis. Left unaddressed, MSDs can lead to chronic pain, disability, and limitations in daily activities. 

Mitigation Strategies 

Work rotation: Regularly switch tasks to minimize strain on specific muscle groups. 

Lifting techniques training: Train workers on proper lifting with legs and avoiding twisting backs. Utilize mechanical lifting aids for heavy objects. 

Frequent breaks: Encourage regular breaks for stretching, changing positions, and resting muscles to prevent fatigue. 

Ergonomic tools and equipment: Invest in lightweight tools with comfortable grips, adjustable workstations, and access doors that install flush with flange for easier access to concealed utilities, reducing contortion and awkward reaching. 

Access doors streamline work processes and alleviate ergonomic challenges by providing workers with easy access to utilities and similar systems. An access door like the BA-UAP Flush Universal Access Door with Exposed Flange helps prevent MSDs in two ways:

  • Easier to reach: It sits flush with the wall, so workers don't need to bend or twist awkwardly to reach controls behind the panel. 
  • Easier to open: The lip around the door makes it simpler to grip and open, reducing strain. 

Both these features help prevent muscle aches and pains commonly faced by construction workers. 

Access Doors and Panels, one of North America's leading access solutions providers, has a wide selection of ergonomic access doors to meet various construction needs and safety standards. Check out what customers have to say about our products here.

Wrapping It Up 

Construction sites inherently present a variety of hazards to worker health and safety. Recognizing and mitigating these hazards through industrial hygiene practices is vital to creating a safe work environment. By prioritizing these strategies, construction supervisors, general contractors, and workers can all play a crucial role in preventing work-related illnesses and injuries.

A proactive approach to industrial hygiene is an investment in the well-being of your workforce, leading to a healthier, happier, and more productive construction crew. 

You can check out the websites of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) for further research.

This article provides a foundational understanding of common industrial hygiene hazards in construction. By consulting the resources listed above and staying up to date on relevant regulations and best practices, construction professionals can ensure a safe and healthy work environment for everyone on the job site. 

Access Doors and Panels has a wide range of high-quality access doors and panels that fit every commercial building project and mitigate on-site injuries. Feel free to contact our team of experts if you have questions about any of our products or want to request a quote. Give us a call at (800) 609-2917. We'll be happy to help you with your project.

3rd Jul 2024 Posted by Access Doors and Panels