In a comprehensive report on respiratory diseases in the construction industry by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR), it showed that those working in the construction industry are both at high risk and are prone to respiratory issues. In fact, under the same report, it was found that older workers who have worked for an extended period under the construction industry were more likely to die of respiratory cancer and non-malignant respiratory disease than other jobs.

This simply shows that despite compliance to workplace safety regulations, construction workers are constantly at risk of developing respiratory illnesses due to the nature of their work, being exposed to dust and fumes at the construction site. That said, we’ll be taking a look at ways you can protect your workers from respiratory diseases.

Orientation and Training

Both old and new workers should be made aware of respiratory hazards in construction sites, types and proper use of respirators and masks, and other preventive measures through orientations and training. Additional or specialised training should be given to workers assigned in specific tasks with particular respiratory risks such as welding and even spray painting, as they should be prepared to protect themselves from toxic fumes and gases.

Use the Right Equipment for the Job

Respirators are devices that are designed to protect the wearer’s lungs, mouth, and nose from hazardous matters such as dust, chemical fumes and vapours, and other harmful gases. Respiratory protection should not be a one-size-fits-all approach; the type of respirator to be used by each worker should depend on the task they’re assigned to. Some jobs may simply need a mask to filter out dust and fine particles in the air, while those working with chemicals and fumes may need more specialised ones. To protect your welders, it’s best to purchase fume extraction and respiratory equipment from welding equipment suppliers

engineer measuring wood at a construction site

Equipment Maintenance

Respirators can only protect your workers’ lungs for as long as they’re properly maintained. That said, you should assign a supervisor or staff to inspect all personal protective equipment, including the respirators, to ensure that they’re free from damage and are still functional. Defective/damaged PPEs and respirators should be immediately replaced. It’s also important to instruct your workers to clean their respirators before and after use, especially if the respirators are shared among workers.

Dust Control

Dust in construction sites are more than just a nuisance but are an actual threat to your workers’ respiratory system. The most common method for dust control is applying water on the construction site grounds three times throughout the day. Another method used is by the use of polymers. Alternatively, you may want to utilise sweep equipment to regularly clean and remove dust and other debris — although this may result in having more dust getting released into the air, which is why it’s best to do so when there are no nearby workers.

Conclusion

Worker safety and health should be a priority in every construction site. Neglecting the safety and health of workers can result not only in lost productivity due to absenteeism (due to illness or injuries), but could affect the reputation of the construction firm/company, and may even result in possible lawsuits, which is why it’s necessary to go the extra mile to protect the health and safety of your workers.