Every occupation has its own set of risks that come with the job, but certain ones, like those in the construction and industrial sectors, have a unique group of risks and challenges all their own. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 2.9 million reported workplace injuries in 2016, with the vast majority occurring in the fields of construction and manufacturing. Many different risks exist, but perhaps the most common are falls, airborne toxins, and electrical hazards.
Falls from height are one of the most prominent causes of workplace injuries and fatalities. In statistics provided by the National Council on Safety, falls in the construction and industrial sectors accounted for more than 40,000 injuries and almost 350 deaths in 2013 alone. Although falls may sometimes occur frequently, in many cases they can be prevented by practicing proper safety techniques. Painters, electricians, miners, and builders are all at a higher risk of falling, so practicing responsible ladder safety, and using proper harnessing and safety equipment is imperative. When working from heights or scaffolding, always be sure to survey the area where you are working to determine if working from height is absolutely necessary for the job.
Toxins in the Air
Air quality issues are a serious hazard facing workers in the construction and manufacturing worlds. Asbestos and silica dust exposure can compromise lung health and even lead to serious illnesses. When construction workers come into contact with asbestos fragments, they may inhale fibers which can lead to a severe, incurable cancer known as mesothelioma. The illness affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart, and often carries a life expectancy of 12-21 months upon diagnosis. Exposure to silica dust can affect sandblasters and painters, and could result in a serious disease known as silicosis. Chronic silicosis could lead to breathing issues, and in severe cases, death. It is crucial that workers always use properly calibrated respirators and personal protection equipment (PPE) to safeguard their health in these volatile environments.
Malfunctioning electronics can pose a tremendous risk on the job site. As unpleasant as small shocks can be, improperly grounded electrical systems may result in electrocution and death. Electricians, linemen, and engineers are most at risk for electrical accidents, especially when working with overloaded circuits, downed power lines, and ungrounded currents. Proper training can greatly improve safety on the job site, but adherence to responsible, preventative measures can greatly decrease the risk of accidents involving electricity. Insulation, guarding, and grounding can help impede the flow of electricity to the body and prevent shocks and electrocution.
Commitment to Safety
Risks are a big part of the job for many tradespeople around the globe. But with caution, adherence to safety standards, and industry best practices, it is easier to stay safe while earning a living. Using required, protective respirators in areas with poor air quality, utilizing harnesses and proper ladder safety at height, and adopting safeguarding techniques when dealing with risky electrical operations can not only protect workers but allow them to work for years to come.
About the Author
Shawn Tallet is a community outreach organizer with a passion for health and safety, especially regarding mesothelioma and asbestos awareness. The MAA Center is an online resource and advocacy group for patients, families, friends, and caregivers of mesothelioma.