10 Construction Site Hazards And Why They Are A Risk To Workers

Construction sites by design have lots of workers, constantly moving work areas and potential safety threats.

Some hazards are visible, and some aren’t.

It’s crucial hazards are managed to ensure the safety of workers. But, for too long the monitoring of hazards and safety has been done largely on an ad-hoc basis with a lot of manual, paper-based systems.

When it comes to protecting workers on a construction site, the industry has been calling out for an end-to-end digital solution capable of monitoring a wide spectrum of worker hazards.

neXtrack had been designed as an automated monitoring platform for hazard control and validation that digitises processes, provides real-time feedback, and protects workers from occupational Illnesses.

It’s all about engineering change to ensure every site is a healthy site.

Below we take a look at just some of the hazards on construction sites requiring monitoring and why it’s important to manage their risk.

Welding fumes

There are many different types of welding processes, the most widely used is arc welding. Arc welding is a process where two metal parts are joined together by melting them at very high temperatures and allowing them to cool and fuse together.

The short-term health effects of exposure to welding fumes may include:

  • irritation of the eyes and mucous membranes
  • respiratory irritation
  • metal fume fever (zinc oxide)
  • The long-term effects of exposure to welding fumes may include:
  • siderosis
  • lung and kidney cancer
  • effects on the nervous system
  • asthma
  • pre-disposition to pneumonia

Mould

Moulds which are harmful to humans at the workplace can be categorised broadly into three different groups; Allergenic, Pathogenic and Toxigenic.

Allergenic moulds affect people who have certain allergies. Pathogenic moulds can cause certain infections or diseases. Toxic moulds produce toxins (mycotoxins) which are poisonous chemicals that are dangerous to humans causing serious health problems.

Silica

Silica dust is generated in workplace mechanical processes such as crushing, cutting, drilling, grinding, sawing or polishing of natural stone or man-made products that contain silica. Some dust particles can be so small that they are not visible.

Workers who inhale these very small crystalline silica particles are at increased risk of developing serious silica-related diseases, including:

  • Silicosis, an incurable lung disease that can lead to disability and death;
  • Lung cancer;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); and
  • Kidney disease.

Lead

Solid lead is little or no risk to people, although it can become a risk when it is processed in a way that, for example, produces lead dust, fumes, or mist.

Lead can cause both immediate and long-term health problems. High levels of lead in your body can cause headaches, tiredness, irritability, nausea, stomach pains and anaemia. Continued exposure can cause far more serious symptoms, such as kidney damage, nerve and brain damage, paralysis, lead palsy and even death. 

Lead exposure may also adversely affect the reproductive systems in both women and men. A developing unborn child is particularly at risk, especially in the early weeks before a pregnancy becomes known.

Asbestos

Asbestos is a mineral found in nature that is made up of millions of fibres.  Until the mid to late 1980s, asbestos was included in building materials because it’s resistant to heat and corrosion.

The risk of disease from asbestos depends on how often and how long a person has been exposed. Asbestos fibres become dangerous when they become airborne and can be breathed in, causing:

  • asbestosis (scarring of lung tissue)
  • mesothelioma (cancerous tumours that develop around the intestine or lungs)
  • pleural plaques (thickening of membranes around the lungs)
  • cancer of the lung, larynx and ovary.

Symptoms of asbestos-related diseases include breathing difficulties and scarring of the lung that can be detected by x-ray.

Particulates – Diesel particulate 

Diesel exhaust comes from engines burning diesel fuel. It is a complex mixture of gases, vapours, liquid aerosols and particulate substances.

The main chemical components of diesel exhaust emissions are:

Gases and vapours – these are mostly the gases found in air like nitrogen, oxygen, water vapour and carbon dioxide. There are also hazardous chemicals like nitrous oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide.

Fine particles known as diesel particulate matter (DPM) including fine carbon particles – hazardous chemicals known as poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) adhere to the surface of carbon particles.

DPM can act like a gas and stay airborne for long periods of time. DPM can penetrate deep into the lungs because of its small size.

Exposure to diesel exhaust can cause both short-term and long term health effects. 

Long term exposure can worsen asthma and allergies and increase the risk of heart and lung disease. Diesel engine exhaust emissions contain many known carcinogenic substances, for example PAHs adhere to the surface of the DPM. 

Ongoing exposure to diesel exhaust emissions has been linked an increase in the risk of lung cancer.

Heat

Working in heat is a common cause of harm among Australian workers. Heat stress can cause:

  • Fainting
  • Cramps
  • Exhaustion
  • Stroke

The human body needs to maintain a normal temperature to be healthy. Workers may suffer from heat-related illness if the body has to work too hard to keep cool or starts to overheat. 

Noise

Excessive noise levels over a long period of time will damage your hearing. The loudness of noise is measured in decibels. Sensitivity to noise differs from one individual to the next, but experts believe that damage to hearing occurs when noise levels are higher than 85 decibels, which is about the loudness of heavy traffic. 

Apart from damage to hearing, exposure to constant and excessive noise can cause other health problems including:

  • headache
  • elevated blood pressure
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • digestive disorders
  • increased susceptibility to colds and other minor infections.

Wood dust

The manufacture of wood products often results in the generation of fine airborne wood particles and dust. Sawing, routing, turning or sanding are typical wood-working activities that produce dust.

Some health effects associated with exposure to wood dust include: 

  • skin disorders such as allergic dermatitis – certain timbers are known to produce adverse health effects and sensitisation 
  • asthma and impaired lung function
  • nose irritation, rhinitis, violent sneezing, blocked nose and nose bleeds
  • throat irritation, and sore and watering eyes

Air Quality

Managing the work health and safety risks from air at the workplace is a duty for all PCBUs. Air pollution is caused by both natural sources including bushfires, dust storms and pollen and human activities including wood burners and motor vehicles. Air pollutants include carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, sulphur dioxide, lead and particles. You can identify when this hazard may be present at your workplace, and the level of risk it might pose to workers, by monitoring your jurisdiction’s air quality index.

LIVE LARGE WITH NEXTRACK

neXtrack is a new end-to-end digital solution for hazard control and real-time compliance monitoring. The platform helps builders, subcontractors and workers in the construction industry to identify, manage and report on a range of hazards like dust, noise, temperature, mould and many more, engineering change to ensure every site is a healthy site. To find out more about how you can LIVE LARGE with neXtrack, please REGISTER HERE.