Health & Safety in the Building Industry Part 2

Part 2

In Part 1 of this Blog we looked at the first 5 most common health & safety risks in the Construction Industry. In the second part we will consider the last 5 in our list.

SAFETY RISK 6 – MANUAL HANDLING

Regularly lifting, carrying, and handling heavy loads and equipment incorrectly can lead to severe injuries, including Musculoskeletal Disorder. This can affect your back, muscles, tissues and joints adversely. These injuries can cause mild to intense pain, even permanent injury.

Main sources of Risk:

  • Repetitive lifting of heavy goods
  • Poor lifting posture

The first step to reducing these risks is to train staff to carry out their work safely. This means avoiding hazardous lifting and using machines or specialized equipment correctly to move or lift loads. For tasks that do require manual handling, employers need to assess the load and weight and the correct posture needed to lift the materials safely. This benefits the company greatly in the long run with less back injuries in its workforce, time off for sickness and compensation payouts.

SAFETY RISK 7 – COLLAPSES

As we have experienced here in Malta, collapses are unfortunately a common occurrence on construction and demolition sites, due to the nature of the work. The subsequent risks of injury or death are very high.

Sources of Risk:

  • Trench collapses
  • Falling into excavation
  • Working areas become unstable after adding loads
  • Weakened structure due to excavation
  • Falling materials and equipment when trenches collapse

It is vital that excavation sites are regularly inspected before and during work times to make sure they are fully secured. Site managers need to hold frequent safety meetings to keep workers informed of procedures. Building crews should be issued with proper PPE, and equipment needs to be maintained. It is a good idea to have a FIRST AID trained member of staff as this also helps speed the response in case of an accident.

SAFETY RISK 8 – ASBESTOS

While over 60 countries have banned asbestos, including Malta, this does not mean that asbestos is not around us. Unfortunately, Malta was not very fast in addressing the problem of asbestos, and asbestos containing materials were still being used many years later. This is what may have led to Malta being ranked one of the highest countries to have incidences of cancer associated with asbestos exposure such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos dust is particularly dangerous as it not only affects workers but also anyone that comes into contact with the particles at home.

Prime source of risks:

  • Ceiling tiles, thermal paper, wall plaster in older buildings
  • Certain types of insulation
  • Old switch gears and circuit boards

Any building or area suspected of containing asbestos needs to be assessed and dealt with using professional help. It is essential that asbestos is disposed of properly and safely. Any workers who come into contact with it should wear the proper PPE and be informed of the correct procedures to follow. It is vitally important that all employees wash thoroughly before breaks and before going home.

SAFETY RISK 9 – ELECTRICITY

Electricity has long been recognized as a severe risk in the workplace. Injuries are often caused by direct contact with the power source or indirectly through contact with live equipment or wiring.

Main sources of risk:

  • Overhead powerlines
  • Damaged tools or equipment
  • Inadequate wiring or overloaded power boards
  • Improper or damaged insulation

Site managers should ensure that nothing is stored under overhead power cables, and that restriction signs and warning barriers are in place. All equipment must be regularly monitored for cable/wire wear and tear. Staff should be equipped with proper PPE and remember to turn off power sources before repairing any equipment

SAFETY RISK 10 – AIRBORNE DUST

It is not surprising that construction sites produce high volumes of invisible fine dust, which can be toxic. Exposure to this dust from hazardous material can be very serious and lead to long term health problems, including asthma, lung cancer, silicosis, emphysema, and bronchitis. This is apart from the damage done to the local environment.

Main sources of risk:

  • Cutting concretes and aggregates
  • Laying ballasts
  • Brushing floors
  • Woodworks
  • Failure to use vacuuming tools

Dust is inevitable but proper use of vacuuming tools can greatly reduce its output. Workers should wear adequate PPE including masks. Then the PPE should be cleaned and removed before going home.

Vehicles bringing materials should have properly covered loads and tyres and roads should be washed regularly.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

The national entity responsible for Occupational Health and Safety in Malta is OHSA established in 2000. They say that most accidents in the construction industry in Malta are due to “bad planning, lack of organization and poor co-ordination on construction sites”.

To maintain health and safety standards, safety must be considered at the design stage of a new project. It is recommended to have a site manager who oversees the health and safety of the project and ensure the wellbeing of the employees. So many disasters can be avoided by training and education.

Let all of us involved in the construction industry, work together to make health and safety a priority!

Disclaimer

Whilst every effort has been taken to confirm the accuracy of the information presented in this article, R.A. & Sons Ltd and R.A. & Sons Manufacturing Ltd cannot be held responsible for errors and / or omissions or for any direct or indirect consequences resulting from the use and application of its products.

The company expressly disclaims any and all liability as to any results obtained or arising from any use of its products or reliance on such information; no warranty of fitness for any particular purpose or any other warranty, expressed or implied, is made concerning the goods described or the information provided herein.

If you have any questions please contact us here.
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