Stress and the Construction Worker

Stress is as much a part of life as breathing, eating, and sleeping. A little stress can be a factor in achieving goals, meeting deadlines, and can motivate workers to do a good job. On the other hand, stress can create a prison of overwhelm and dread. Many workers are faced with job-related stress on a daily basis. Construction workers are no exception. Studies show that blue-collar industries, i.e. construction, are more stressful than white-collar industries.

While managing job-related stress is important in all types of employment, it is essential among construction workers because a mistake can fatal. Mental stress can have a domino effect on the construction worker’s life and quality of work. Here are just some of the ways stress can affect construction workers:

  • Lessens the ability to concentrate and focus on the job
  • Reduces the ability to effectively interact with co-workers and management
  • Contributes to worry, which in turn causes insomnia, poor sleep patterns, and eventually sleep deprivation
  • Prolonged periods of poor sleep caused by stress contributes to a weakened physical condition and reduced reaction times
  • Leads to poor dietary habits
  • Causes low morale
  • Leads to headaches, insomnia, anxiety, and panic attacks.
  • Contributes to health problems, particularly heart attacks and strokes

In order to reduce the stress on construction workers, employers should institute adequate work breaks to lessen fatigue. Employees should make the most of these work breaks in order to “refresh” mentally by relaxing, speaking to co-workers about non-work related topics, or taking a short walk.

Employees also should make the effort to follow an exercise routine. Construction is already a physically demanding job. However, engaging in aerobic exercise or even regular meditation can reduce blood pressure, stress, and anxiety to the point where one is able to improve sleep, and manage stress far more effectively. Adopting a healthy diet that is high in fiber, protein, and low in sugar, and limit or avoid processed foods can also help to reduce stress.

Mental stress can result in injury on the construction job site. A stressful working environment also may interfere with the ability or willingness of construction workers to practice safety practices on the job. In this respect, it is important that employers have construction workers engage in additional safety training.

Stress is a part of life which cannot be wholly avoided. In many ways, it is a needed part of life; however, when it is in a constant state it can prove physically and mentally detrimental to construction workers. The way to combat this problem is by finding adequate ways of handling stress so that it doesn’t become overwhelming and cause physical, emotional, and mental damage.


Construction Workers Vulnerable to Biological Hazards

Given the nature of their work, construction workers who work outdoors are routinely exposed to physical and biological hazards. Therefore, it is important that these workers have taken the necessary training classes to ensure that they remain safe in the face of these hazards.

Biological Hazards Facing Construction Workers

Perhaps the most common type of hazard that workers are vulnerable to is vector-borne diseases. In short, this is an illness that is caused when an infected host transmits a disease to a person through the blood. Routinely caused by blood sucking arthropods like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas, a vector-borne disease can also be transferred from birds, rodents, and larger animals. Additionally, construction workers are also vulnerable to venomous animals and insects. Depending on where the worker is employed, they may be more likely to be bitten by a venomous snake or a spider. Venomous threats include wasps, bees, hornets, hobo spiders, rattlesnakes, and coral snakes. In addition to the threat of insects and animals, construction workers are also vulnerable to poisonous plants like poison ivy and poison oak. When a person comes into contact with one of these plants it can burn their skin and leave a dangerous infection. A person who works in California, Washington, or Oregon are particularly vulnerable to developing lung and breathing problems that are associated with poison oak.

How to Confront the Threat of Biological Hazards

It is crucial that every construction worker know if they are allergic to a venomous sting and take any necessary precautions. Additionally, every job site should be equipped with the necessary safety and emergency equipment like an EpiPen and an Automatic External Defibrillator. In addition, when working with dangerous chemicals all construction workers should be wearing the necessary safety equipment like protective suits, gloves, and eye gear. In order to protect the rights of workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was enacted to ensure that employees are not seriously injured or killed while on the job site. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for ensuring that businesses meet the workplace safety standards that have been outlined in the legislation. Perhaps most importantly, all employees should be given ongoing training on how to avoid biological hazards and what to do in an emergency situation. Training should be given when a person is hired and throughout the course of their employment.


Stretch to Save Lost Work Time

Fall is now here and with it comes cooler mornings for everyone working outdoors (sometimes indoors, too).  In cooler weather, the human body is much more susceptible to injury.  However the number of injuries can be reduced if workers will warm muscles and stretch before beginning physical labor.  With that here are some activities and a few stretches that are recommended before beginning a day of physical labor / work.

1.  Walk briskly to work site from car or mode of transportation.  This activity will warm the body and pump blood to extremities with minimum effort.

2.  Upper body stretch - put right hand on left elbow and gently pull over and back of heard.  Hold this stretch for 10 seconds before moving to left hand over right elbow.
3.  Put left arm across body and use right forearm to push the arm vertically across body as seen in sketch below.  Hold for 10 seconds and switch arms for right arm across body.

4. Bend right knee and straighten left leg with hands on side of body to stretch groin and hips as seen in sketch below.  Hold for 10 seconds and switch legs.

5. Stretch calf muscles by putting hands against wall, holding body straight but to an angle, and pushing lightly on calf muscles in back of the legs.  Hold this for 10 seconds.

What can employers gain by having a warm-up stretch time for their workers before physical labor begins?  Reduced workplace injuries and injury costs, reduced absenteeism, and improved health and satisfaction for your employees.  All of the items mentioned will help your employees to become more productive thus making the company more productive.


Avoiding Chemical Hazards on the Job: Training is Key

Of all the dangers faced on construction jobs, none are as threatening as toxic chemical exposure. These hazards are not always liquid. They can also be in the form of gasses, vapors, and fumes. So even when workers are not handling chemicals directly, they are still at risk for exposure by simply being in the vicinity where someone else is using them.

When workers are exposed to toxins, it can lead to suffocation, poisoning, burns, internal damage, neurological issues, and cancer. In women, many of these chemicals can make them more prone to having children with birth defects. Some of the effects of toxic chemicals are not felt until years after exposure.

In an industry where chemicals are common, workers need training to learn how to handle, mix, and use chemicals properly.

Training Prevents Disaster

The biggest danger from toxic substances comes when workers are in confined spaces. Small, enclosed spaces limit the amount of oxygen circulating in the room, so chemical fumes are more potent. It also heightens the risk of coming into contact with something that’s spilled or sprayed in the air.

If even one person in the room makes a mistake with the chemicals, it puts the lives of everyone around him at risk. For instance, if a crew member mixes chemicals together and creates a toxic gas, it will not only affect him, but everyone in the vicinity.

Training can teach workers about inherent and induced on-the-job hazards, while giving them the know-how to reduce the dangers. Workshops can be delivered onsite or online by a trainer who is skilled in safety services. Classes can cover anything from wearing required safety gear to proper handling of toxic substances to reacting if chemicals make contact with the body.

The more knowledgeable and aware construction workers are, the better able they are to think on their feet and make decisions that can save lives. When workers understand that they have the power to protect themselves and others from chemical mayhem, it gives them a sense of self-efficacy and they behave more responsibly.

There is always the potential for danger when employees work with chemicals every day. However, the risk of exposure can be reduced when staff members are trained to protect themselves and those around them. In addition to routine training, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a plenty of available literature on ways employers can improve safety in the workplace.


Ergonomic Hazards Common on Construction Sites

Most people associate the word ergonomic with office workers. An ergonomically-designed office space, for example, is one that is designed to help workers avoid repetitive motion injuries associated with activities such as typing.

Ergonomics is the science of designing work tasks to fit the worker instead of forcing the worker to conform to the job. It covers a wide range repetitive motions, as well as physical and environmental factors.

But office workers aren’t the only people who need to pay attention to ergonomics. Construction workers also must be aware of ergonomic hazards on the job.

For construction workers, physical stressors include repetitive motions such as using a manual screwdriver over and over. It also can be caused by jobs that expose a worker to continual vibration, like jackhammering.

Excessive force and working in awkward positions also are examples of physical stressors. Carrying large loads of bricks would be considered excessive force. Working in an awkward position encompasses everything from prolonged shoulder flexion to crouching in a confined workspace.

Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are directly linked to ergonomic hazards in construction workers and are a leading cause of workplace injuries on construction sites. Construction workers are especially vulnerable to musculoskeletal disorders because they do a great deal of lifting, bending, reaching overhead, and pushing and pulling of heavy loads.

It is important to note that physical stressors would not cause injuries if a particular task only was performed once. But if a physically stressing task is performed on a regular basis, it can cause injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, and tension neck syndrome.

Environmental factors can also cause stress to an individual’s hearing or vision. On a construction site these can include excessive noise around heavy equipment that leads to hearing loss. Poor air quality is another environmental stressor. It can result in headaches, congestion, and fatigue. Areas with poor air quality would include places where a great deal of dust is floating around or where there is exposure to powerful paint fumes.

It is in a construction company’s best interest to keep their workers safe and healthy to reduce employee downtime. In order to protect workers from ergonomic hazards, companies should take the following steps:

  1. Ask workers for input on what areas they feel are of particular concern when it comes to ergonomic hazards.
  2. Have construction sites evaluated by a safety services company that is experienced in identifying and eliminating ergonomic hazards.
  3. Provide employee training on how to work as ergonomically as possible.
  4. Encourage employees to report any symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders as soon as they appear.

Creating an ergonomically-designed workspace is the responsibility of every employer but it can be overwhelming at times. That’s why partnering with a safety services company to implement such a program is often your best course of action.

Simple Mistakes Cause Dangerous Falls

Working on the WallAccording to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls from elevation are one of the leading causes of death on construction sites. Such falls are the cause of over 800 hundred fatalities each year.

Since safety must be the first priority on every construction project, there are a multitude of important measures that should be taken to prevent falls and protect workers. In order to minimize fall-related risks, certain hazards must be assessed before work begins: covering holes and installing safety nets below bridges, for instance, can mean the difference between life and death. Providing adequate safety gear and up-to-date equipment is an employer’s responsibility, as well.

The usage of faulty scaffolding or damaged, rusting ladders that rest on shaky ground creates ripe conditions for harmful accidents to occur. The implementation of personal fall arrest systems (PFAS), which help to anchor workers during many high rise construction projects, has proven to be a great safeguard against falls as long as the accoutrement adheres to the mandatory safety criteria and workers know how to use it.

Training employees to understand how to use such equipment properly and ensuring that they recognize perils involved in their labor are very critical steps in maintaining the security of a work site. For instance, forgetting to buckle the belt of a PFAS harness could place a construction worker in serious danger of injury. Making sure employees wear appropriate shoes, understand how to work around the weather, and have an unobtrusive environment are also good ways to decrease the risk of tripping or falling.

In addition, something seemingly simple can pose a real threat to workers’ welfare; if a construction worker operating several feet or more above ground does not realize the possible implications of careless footing or allowing oneself to be distracted from the job at hand, he or she puts his or her life and wellbeing in jeopardy. Even to believe that carrying tools while climbing a ladder is probably an insignificant mistake shows ignorance that should be rectified before a laborer gets thrown off balance in the process.

Management of the safety for any construction site is no easy task as these few examples illustrate, so depending on hard hats and a caution sign is hardly enough. In order to keep construction workers out of harm’s way and a work site functioning competently, considering the assistance of a reliable safety services firm that specializes in employee training is a smart decision to make.

Struck-By Hazards One of the Most Lethal

300-dpi-proactive.pngStruck-by hazards are one of the most lethal construction-site accidents, second only to falls. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, 79 construction workers were killed after being struck or hit by an object in a construction zone.

Struck-by accidents occur when a construction worker is hit by a falling, flying, swinging or slipping object. Such accidents are most likely to occur when a construction worker is walking or working below an elevated surface, such as a scaffold, or when materials are being moved overhead.

Many construction workers are victims of struck-by accidents through no fault of their own but instead by the actions of another person. In order for everyone working in or around a construction zone to be as safe as possible, certain guidelines must be strictly adhered to by all workers in that zone.

Here are some important reminders for all construction workers regarding struck-by hazards:

  • Always keep a safe distance from suspended loads.
  • Flying objects can be created by power tools or any job that requires pushing, pulling, or prying. Grinding or striking materials can also create hazards.
  • Flying objects aren’t just large objects. When air is pressurized above 30 psi it can drive particles and oils through skin. Safety glasses, googles, or face shields are a necessity in such situations.
  • Loads should always be secured and lifted evenly to avoid slipping.
  • Never exceed the lifting capacity of cranes and hoists.
  • Hard hats need to be worn at all times.
  • Tools and materials need to be secured so as not to fall from above.
  • Never walk or work under loads that are being lifted and always stay out of the swing zone.
  • When working near heavy equipment, make sure operators can see you.
  • In traffic zones, always make sure that there are barricades separating the construction site from motor vehicle traffic.

Of all the safety measures employers need to take to keep construction workers safe from struck-by hazards, regular safety training is one of the most important. After all, keeping workers safe from any hazard is a group effort. If just one person doesn’t comply with safety regulations, it can put everyone else at risk. Safety training is a great way to keep workers safe and make sure they comply with all state and federal safety regulations.

For more information please contact Tommy or Zach at 513-372-6232

Preventing Hearing Loss on the Job

Industrial worker wearing all safety clothing necessary, such asIt is common knowledge that construction workers are at a high risk for hearing loss. After all, every day they work with loud equipment such as jackhammers and large machinery. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 82 percent of those who suffer from noise-related hearing loss in the United States are construction workers.

In an effort to stem construction-related hearing loss, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has two protocols related to reducing hearing loss in the construction industry. The first protocol limits the period of time a construction worker is allowed to be exposed to noise greater than 90 decibels. The second protocol requires hearing protection devices to be used when noise exposure is greater than 90 decibels or when a worker is exposed to that level of noise for more than eight hours.

Several construction equipment manufacturers sell noise reduction equipment, but this equipment is more expensive that normal construction equipment. The equipment may be worth the extra money, however, when you factor in the importance of keeping construction workers safe from the damaging effects of noise, and the cost of workers compensation or disability claims that may be filed by workers in the event that their hearing is damaged.

While ear plugs are the most common way construction companies and workers try to reduce exposure to damaging noise, ear plugs can put workers in dangerous situations by blocking out too much noise. A construction worker wearing ear plugs risks not hearing alarms or other warnings while working in high-risk danger zones. Therefore, it is important that ear plugs do not block out all noise.

In addition to ear plugs and noise reduction equipment, there are several other steps that can be taken to prevent hearing loss. These include the strict enforcement of all OSHA regulations related to reducing hearing loss. Construction workers also should be rotated in and out of loud noise zones and, whenever possible, loud equipment should be operated outside of the main work zone.

Of course, safety services training is essential in order to make sure that construction workers know how best to prevent hearing loss. After all, the safety and health of its employees is the key to any company’s success.

For more information please contact Tommy or Zach at 513-372-6232

Eye Protection Vital for Safety on Construction Sites

S1608AAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), thousands of eye injuries occur on the job each day, and unfortunately, construction workers have a particularly high risk of eye injuries. Masonry work, powdered cement, windy conditions, and hammering are all potential eye hazards that construction workers encounter daily. With the potential for serious injury and costly worker compensation claims, companies need to start offering safety services and training to reduce the risk of eye injuries on the job.

Most Injuries Can Be Prevented                     

Most eye injuries that occur on construction sites could have been prevented. Many injuries occur because a worker wasn’t wearing eye protection. Others occur because the worker was not wearing the correct type of eye protection for the specific job. Since most injuries can be prevented, it shows how important it is for workers to keep their eyes protected with eye protection, including goggles, safety glasses, and face shields.

Common Workplace Eye Injuries

The most common workplace eye injuries occur due to small objects or particles abrading or striking the eye, such as dust, wood chips, or fine slivers of metal. Falling or flying objects often cause injuries when they strike the eye, and in most cases, those objects are so tiny that they are nearly invisible to the naked eye. Less common types of eye injuries include chemical burns, blunt force trauma, and thermal burns to the eye. In some cases, objects may penetrate the eyeball, causing serious damage.

The Cost of Eye Injuries

Eye injuries do more than damage the vision of construction workers – they’re costly as well. Workers compensation payments, medical bills, and lost productivity on site combine to cost companies millions of dollars each year. The best way to improve worker safety, reducing these high costs for companies, is to implement and enforce safety procedures on the job.

Improving Compliance with Personal Protective Equipment

Why do so many workers fail to wear eye protection on construction sites? Many workers find personal protective equipment uncomfortable, and workers are less likely to wear protective eyewear if that is the case. To improve compliance, companies need to focus on providing comfortable and practical personal protective equipment. Features that improve comfort include vented frames, gel or padded nosepieces, and cushioned brows. Some companies even find that offering eye protection in various styles and colors also improves compliance.

To improve worker safety and compliance, companies need to provide proper training, as well. Training helps workers identify situations when they need to use protective eye equipment, reducing the risk of injuries on the job. Training sessions should address when eye protection should be worn, compliance enforcement processes, where protective eyewear is located, and how replacements can be obtained.

Eye protection on construction sites is just as important as hard hats and other types of safety equipment. Companies must train workers in eye safety while providing comfortable, cutting-edge eye protection equipment. While training and equipment requires an investment, the reduction in on-the-job injuries will reduce costs associated with eye injuries, making the investment an excellent choice.

For more information contact Tommy or Zach at 513-372-6232

Challenges of the New and Emerging Contractor

Safety Engineer CloseupStarting a new business is no easy task. Every new business owner goes through the stress of getting on their own two feet, but a construction contracting business can be very complex. One of the unique challenges of the contractor is the fact that they have to attain a variety of legally required permits and bonds. A contractor’s ability to obtain to secure work, especially in the public sector, is severely limited, if not unattainable, without the proper surety bonds. Many surety bond providers will offer a complete list of the bonds needed for a business owner including: bid bonds, performance bonds, labor/material payment bonds, performance, supply, and license bonds. The first step towards establishing surety capacity is to contact a professional surety bond producer who can understand and meet your needs.

While starting your contracting business may look like an uphill battle, the surety industry is not quite as intimidating as it looks. According to the Surety Information Office (SIO), “The surety industry is reaching out to new and emerging contractors to help them obtain their first bond, increase bonding capacity, and ultimately become better businesses.” In the SIO publication “Helping Contractors Grow: Surety Bonding for New and Emerging Contractors” there is a variety of information that includes tips on your relationship with your surety company, the prequalification process, and programs for new and emerging contractors.

The majority of your concerns with your surety company should focus on their knowledge and compatibility. Do they fully understand the surety process and all the unique underwriting standards of your particular bond? Do they match your needs as a contractor? These should be simple and easy questions to fill out once you have meet with a professional bond agent. The real pressures of obtaining a bond are the pre-qualifications, which are consistent for every contractor. It isn’t all about your financial strength (that is just the first step). According to the SIO publication, bond companies look for “good references and reputation,” “the ability to meet obligations,” and “experience that matches the contract requirements.” They want a clear picture of your company, and well-rounded proof of your future success.

The most encouraging piece of information is the existence of programs that are developed specifically for helping new contractors obtain their first bond. Many surety companies have developed programs such as the “Model Contractor Development Program,” along with all the information available through the SIO. The Surety & Fidelity Association of America (SFAA) and its members work to ensure that bonds are available and accessible to qualified contractors through the Model Contractor Development Program. They provide education on becoming a bondable business, assist in finding federal, state, and local resources, along with help during the actual bonding process.  A surety bond is meant to keep up business and service standards, not bring business owners down.

For more information contact Tommy or Zach at 513-372-6232