Protecting Construction Crews From Health and Safety Risks

Photo by Earl Dotter/CPWR

AIHA has published its Focus Four for Health: An Initiative to Address Four Major Construction Health Hazards guidance document for construction employers and employees who build our homes, roads, bridges, and buildings — particularly the many small and medium-sized firms common to the construction industry. The intended audience includes those performing new construction, those involved with renovations, and those whose work is the ongoing maintenance of buildings and structures. This type of work shares key characteristics: worksites vary, work conditions vary, and time spent per task varies.

Key messages are:

  • Health hazards can have significant impacts on workers and businesses.
  • Efforts to reduce health hazards typically lag behind those for safety hazards on many construction worksites.
  • Health hazards can be effectively controlled, just as safety risks are.

The guidance uses the successful Occupational Safety and Health Administration Focus Four program as a template. That program targets the four top construction safety hazards. This guidance complements that effort by presenting four prevalent health hazards for targeted attention: (1) manual material handling, (2) noise, (3) air contaminants, and (4) high temperatures. Included is a section for each health hazard to describe why each is important and to provide practical and specific steps that employers and construction stakeholders can take to recognize, reduce, and control exposures. Partnerships represented an important aspect of the Focus Four approach. The guidance document concludes by asking, What can you do? It includes ideas for those groups that impact and influence construction employers and employees: trade associations, labor unions, insurance providers, state and federal OSHA offices, industrial hygienists, safety professionals, and consultants. We hope these groups find the guidance presented here helpful to further improve health conditions in the industry.

How OEHS Professionals Can Support Construction Workers

Protecting the health of construction workers is even more challenging than protecting them from injury because construction workers—especially employees of smaller firms—are seldom tied to a single task or workplace. Construction workers are often at risk for exposure to welding fumes and solvent vapors, silica dust, noise, abrasive blasting, heat stress, and more.

An Occupational And Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) professional can give you a competitive edge by safeguarding your crews and reducing the direct and indirect costs caused by workplace hazards, including equipment damage, lawsuits, and medical expenses.

Specifically, an OEHS expert will:

  • Assess occupational illness risks for your construction team

  • Help identify gaps in training and the use of personal protective equipment

  • Assess exposure to harmful chemical, biological, physical, and ergonomic hazards

  • Make recommendations to reduce exposure to those health risks

In the ‘Resources by Type,’ below, you will find more information about how OEHS professionals help construction teams. If you’re ready to partner with an OEHS expert to safeguard your team, find a consultant through AIHA’s Consultant Directory.

    Download the free Construction Industry infographic.

    Resources by type

    To learn more about how to protect the health and safety of construction workers, we encourage you to review these resources:

    • Construction Equipment Magazine

    • Construction Safety, Fall 2021 (see page 25)

    • Healthier Workplaces and Schools eBook
      The recent pandemic has taught us many important lessons about the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, RSV, and measles in indoor environments. As a result, we must take advantage of what we have learned to help ensure our places of work are and continue to be safe places for our workers, customers, and communities. Many of the steps you can take to help keep buildings and the people in them safer and healthier are simple and effective and can be adjusted to meet the current situation or infectious disease risk that exists. In this e-book, we will walk you through the different approaches to help mitigate the risk of spreading airborne infectious diseases depending on your workplace setting.

    • Industrial Hygiene in the Workplace

    • Safety + Health