Nonprofit Highlights Major Construction Health Hazards

In late June, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), a nonprofit organization based in Fairfax, Virginia, USA, released a guidance booklet whose purpose is to raise awareness of—as well as propose solutions for—health hazards within the construction industry. Entitled “Focus Four for Health: An Initiative to Address Four Major Construction Health Hazards, ” the new publication was developed by AIHA’s Construction Committee.

The AIHA guidance booklet points to four common health hazards:

  1. Manual material handling caused by lifting, pulling, pushing, or carrying objects to the point of overexertion. This hazard accounts for a third of all work-related injuries in construction and approximately half of all workers’ compensation costs.
  2. Noise levels that are high enough to cause hearing loss and tinnitus, a chronic condition in which a person suffers from chronic ringing in the ears. According to a 2011 study, nearly three-fourths of construction workers had been exposed to noise levels above the recommended limits established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  3. Air contaminants such as dusts, fumes, vapors, and gases that can cause short- and long-term health effects depending on the material and the extent of the exposure to it. More than half of construction workers report exposure to these contaminants at a minimum of twice a week.
  4. High temperatures resulting in heat stroke, the most serious of all heat-related illnesses. A study by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that four out of 13 deaths caused by heat illnesses occurred on the first day of the job.

According to AIHA, environment, health, and safety (EH&S) programs don’t receive the same amount of focus as does workplace safety programs. One reason for this is because illnesses and disorders caused by occupational health hazards develop slowly and are harder to identify than injuries that occur at the workplace. “Unfortunately, health hazards, such as noise or air contaminants, are common in construction. When health problems occur, they can cut careers short, cause pain and disability, and even cause premature death,” says Matt Gillen, team leader for AIHA’s Focus Four for Health project.

Along with identifying key health hazards, the new guidance booklet proposes safety strategies such as pre-job planning and job safety analyses. “This new publication provides a one-stop, easy-to-use booklet to get employers started on the road to better on-the-job health,” says Gillen. “We want to stimulate new activities and partnerships among construction and safety and health professionals to better control health hazards.”

The construction health hazards guidance document can be viewed online or downloaded for free on the AIHA website.

Source: American Industrial Hygiene Association,