Construction workers in New Jersey and around the country have some of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has identified falls, struck-by accidents, caught-in-between accidents and electrocution as the top four construction hazards, but many experts think the workplace safety agency’s list is far too short. They believe that construction sites are inherently dangerous environments, and they have identified four more hazards that they think should be added to OSHA’s list.
Heavy lifting and loud noise
Lifting and moving heavy objects and working in environments where noisy power tools are used are two of the leading causes of construction site injuries. Improper lifting techniques and working while fatigued can lead to back injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders, and being exposed to extremely noisy environments for too long has been linked with high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia. These injuries are sometimes serious, but they may be avoided if workers understand the dangers of noise and are encouraged to work within their limits and take regular breaks.
Heat and contaminated air
Common construction site tasks like welding, drilling, sanding, grinding and cutting produce dust, particles, fumes, vapors and gasses that can make the air dangerous to breathe. Airborne contaminants are especially dangerous because the health issues they cause are often fatal and usually develop years or even decades after exposure. Construction workers are sometimes expected to perform their tasks in high temperatures, which can lead to heat exhaustion and even death. Working in soaring temperatures also hastens the onset of fatigue, which makes an injury and workers’ compensation claim more likely.
The psychological toll
Working in dangerous environments day after day eventually takes a toll. Construction workers who manage to avoid physical injury may develop mental health disorders like depression after witnessing accidents that killed or seriously injured others, but very little is done to spot the early signs of mental illness in the construction industry. OSHA and workplace safety experts should continue to draw attention to construction site safety hazards, but they should not ignore the mental price construction workers sometimes pay.