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Construction Safety

Construction safety is a hot topic for the construction industry literally now that summer is officially here and the weather is warming up to three digit temperatures in some parts of California. Construction companies carry large responsibilities as employers to provide adequate training in preventing workplace illness and injury - specifically heat illness. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) set initiatives to educate workers and their employers about the hazards of working outdoors in heat and how to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Heat illness is a common hazard for construction workers who typically work outdoors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) data, 230 heat-related deaths have occurred from 2003 - 2009 with 81 (40%) of these fatalities in the construction industry. Over that same time period, 15,370 heat-related injuries/illnesses requiring days away from work have occurred with 4,110 (27%) of these injuries/illnesses in the construction industry.

To ensure compliance with OSHA's requirements as laid out in the Cal-OSHA heat standard, General Industry Safety Order (GISO) 3395, OSHA has prepared a guide with training tools construction companies can use as part of their construction safety training program. Specifically, the heat standard focuses on preventing two (2) types of heat illness; heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The trainers guide for this is short yet thorough, which includes worker factsheets and posters as training tools to aid in relaying these important safety messages.

Heat exhaustion is recognized by signs of dizziness, headache, sweaty skin, fast heart beat, nausea, vomiting, weakness and cramps. A heat stroke is recognized by red, hot, dry skin, high temperature, confusions, fainting and convulsions. To prevent these illnesses, OSHA reminds employers that by law, water must be provided, shade, rest, training and an emergency plan in the event of illness or injury.

The worker safety factsheet reminds everyone that water, rest and shade are keys to getting work done safely. OSHA recommends drinking water every 15 minutes to stay hydrated, even if one is not thirsty. OSHA also recommends rest in shaded areas, wearing hats and light-colored clothing. Lastly, OSHA reminds workers to watch out for each other, rest and be familiar with working environment and location, in case of emergency and the need to call 911.

Working safely may get old, but so do those who practice it. There is no better time to remind construction workers to stay adequately hydrated, especially for workers that are new at working outdoors and not accustomed to working in the heat. Bad physical health and being overweight can also cause heat illness in addition to alcohol and certain drugs. The door to safety swings on the hinges of common sense and heat illness prevention is just one parameter covered in the overall spectrum of construction safety.

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Published on August 29, 2011 | Comments: 0

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