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By Duane Craig
November 12, 2018
You have a 3.5% chance of getting ill or injured on the job while working in construction. It might not seem like a very high risk, but if you consider that you have just a 1.2% chance of being injured in a motor vehicle accident, your job is a greater source of potential pain and discomfort then you might have realized. Staying healthy when you work on construction jobsites requires paying attention to the prime factors that affect your health and your safety.
Although there are things about construction jobsites that pose risks that are similar to those of any other type of work environment, there are also aspects that are unique to a construction. Some of the unique and potentially harmful areas on jobsites are exposure to inclement weather, exposure to dangerous substances, susceptibility to illnesses, and muscle and bone injury.
Here are some tips to help you combat these risks and stay healthy on your construction site.
It's not a question of if, but rather when, weather changes will threaten your health. Whether it is the heat of summer, or the cold of winter, the human body can only take so much of temperature extremes. Coping with those extremes is easier when you are prepared for them. A simple extra step like wearing clothing that wicks moisture away from your skin can make a big difference in your comfort and overall health throughout the year.
You often don't have a choice in the weather conditions you must work in so choose wisely when you select work clothing, footwear, and accessories. If you are prepared to layer your clothing as needed, you can help your body adapt to changing conditions. In the summertime, consider using products that help keep you cool like moist bandannas and light weight fabrics.
In the wintertime, moisture-wicking fabrics, insulated footwear and clothing, hard hat liners, and electronic, or passive energy hand and foot warmers are all good options for helping to maintain your core body temperature. Maintaining your body temperature helps fend off illnesses like colds and the flu, and helps prevent injuries like heat stress and hypothermia.
Other weather events like rain, snow, and sleet increase your chances for accidents. The best way to avoid these is by preparing the right clothing and footwear and to be extra cautious when you are moving around in wet or slippery environments.
Construction has more than its fair share of harmful substances used to finish, seal, bond, and protect materials. There are also dangerous substances like dust from grinding and cutting. Most materials used in construction can also cut, bruise, and scrape you, often leading to secondary infections of varying severity.
One of your first lines of defense is to make sure you have a tetanus shot at least every 10 years. When working, make sure you use the appropriate protective equipment, or the right engineering controls to minimize or eliminate your exposure to harmful substances. You should also take the time to know the dangers of the substances you work with, and to know what to do if your exposure exceeds the safe limits.
Working in physically demanding situations over time can increase your susceptibility to illnesses because of stress. Research has shown that chronic stress can have a significant effect on the immune system and lead to illness. Besides increasing your risk for a viral infection, stress can also increase the risk of diabetes in overweight people, increase stomach acid that leads to peptic ulcers, and can even increase the plaque buildup in arteries.
There are also many psychological problems that come from long-term stress. Stress-related disorders arising from the workplace are an increasing concern to health officials. Many of the recommendations for minimizing your stress require patience and practice, but being aware of when you are stressed, and knowing what steps you can take to reduce that stress are the first steps in addressing stress issues.
Some things you can do at the jobsite include taking a break, stretching. Drinking water, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, asking for help, establishing boundaries between your work and private life, and using healthy ways of dealing with stress.
Other tactics for preventing disease include having a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and minimizing your exposure to people who are ill.
The physical demands of working in construction usually lead to an injury or accident. Many tasks in construction are repetitive, which often leads to repetitive motion injuries. There are also tasks that require physical strength, leaving you vulnerable to muscular and skeletal injuries if you over exert yourself.
To help minimize injury it's important to stay in good physical shape. It's also a good idea to warm-up before you begin your day by doing stretching exercises. You can also do them throughout the day, especially when you are involved with activities that require you to do the same movement over and over again.
When it comes to accidents, the best outcome is to simply prevent them. Paying attention to what you're doing, wearing the appropriate protective gear, and being willing to tell someone when you don't feel comfortable doing something, are all tactics that can reduce your risk of injury and illness on the jobsite.
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