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13 Common Health and Safety Problems for Construction Workers

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The construction industry is booming. There’s a strong demand for homes and office buildings, which means more people are working in the field. However, construction jobs come with serious risks. Construction workers are constantly exposed to hazardous materials and situations which put them at risk of injury. For workers, safety is paramount since they face potentially fatal accidents every day. These accidents can lead to lasting physical and psychological traumas.

Employers must implement strict health and safety measures to prevent accidents. In addition, construction workers must take extra precautions to ensure their own safety. Here’s a closer look at the most common health and safety issues construction workers might face.

1. Falls

According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), falls are the leading cause of death among construction employees. The organization estimates that approximately 13 percent of construction fatalities involve falls. You can reduce your chances of falling by wearing proper footwear and using equipment designed to prevent falls. For example, you can use scaffolding to protect yourself from harm.

2. Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure is a serious threat to construction workers. According to OSHA, nearly 1,000 deaths occur yearly due to chemical exposures. These accidents involve toxic chemicals such as asbestos, silica, or lead. Not only can these substances kill you, but they can also cause irreversible damage to your lungs and skin. Asbestos exposure can also lead to mesothelioma. It can be fatal if not treated in its early stage. Furthermore, you must get help from a law firm specializing in mesothelioma cases to sue your employer for negligence and get the compensation you deserve. 

3. Heat Exhaustion/Heat Stroke

The summer months can be extremely dangerous for construction workers. When the weather heats up, construction sites become even more dangerous. Construction workers are exposed to high temperatures all day long. This can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. To prevent heat-related illnesses, you should always hydrate, wear light clothing, and take frequent breaks in the shade.

4. Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, can cause permanent damage to your ears. Unfortunately, NIHL is highly prevalent among construction workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that almost a third of all construction employees suffer from NIHL. It causes significant damage to your ear canal. In most cases, surgery is essential to fix the problem.

5. Respiratory Illness

Respiratory illness is another serious issue that affects a large number of construction workers. According to the CDC, around 10 percent of construction employees suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a respiratory disorder that causes breathing difficulties. It’s caused by exposure to harmful substances like wood dust, paint fumes, and carbon monoxide.

6. Skin Disorders

Skin disorders are another common health problem for construction workers. Rough surfaces and improper skin protection can cause painful sores and rashes. In many cases, these problems require medical treatment to heal properly. You can treat minor skin infections by applying antibiotic ointments to infected areas. More serious infections will need to be treated by a doctor.

7. Vibration White Finger

Vibration white finger, or VWD, is caused by repeated hand vibrations. A common symptom of VWD involves numbness and tingling in your fingers. You may also suffer from impaired hand strength, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks. The good news is that VWD is usually easy to treat. Doctors can recommend medications and other treatments to improve your symptoms.

8. Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is a form of occupational overuse syndrome. HAVS develops when you work with vibrating tools for extended periods. According to the CDC, approximately 25 percent of construction workers suffer from HAVS. The good news is that HAVS can be prevented by taking regular breaks. You should also avoid using vibrating tools for too long at once.

9. Repetitive Strain Injury

Repetitive strain injuries, or RSIs, affect your hands and wrists. These conditions develop when you repeat the same movement after short intervals. Common RSIs include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and cubital tunnel syndrome. You should see a physical therapist if you have any concerns about RSIs.

10. Musculoskeletal Joint Disorder

MJD refers to a group of disorders affecting your muscles and joints. They’re usually caused by repetitive motion, bad posture, or overexertion. Construction workers are especially prone to MJDs because they constantly use heavy equipment and tools.

11. Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries can occur during various activities, including sports, motor vehicle accidents, and falls. A spinal cord injury is very serious because it can leave you paralyzed or completely disabled. Most spinal cord injuries require extensive medical care. You’ll probably need to undergo intensive rehabilitation treatment to regain your mobility.

12. Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, can severely impact your cognitive ability. A severe traumatic brain injury may cause you to lose consciousness for days, weeks, or even months. Mild TBIs often do not result in temporary unconsciousness. However, they can still cause permanent neurological damage. You should see a doctor immediately if you suspect you’ve suffered a concussion.

13. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when your median nerve becomes compressed. Compression of this nerve can lead to tingling, numbness, pain, and weakness in your hand and wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the most common workplace injuries. According to the CDC, around 7 percent of construction workers suffer from CTS.

Final Words

In this article, we covered some of the most common health issues that plague construction workers. We also explained how to prevent these problems. The best way to stay healthy on the job is to follow safety procedures and take frequent breaks. Make sure you get plenty of rest and eat right to ensure your body is prepared to handle the hard work!

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