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Asbestos- a hidden killer in the construction industry

Safety Solutions at Work is proud to feature the following guest article from the Mesothelioma Center. You can learn more about their centre by checking out Asbestos.com

Need information to pass along to your construction contractors? Be sure to read our article discussing how asbestos can affect construction workers!

Thanks to the popularity of energy efficiency upgrades and environmentally friendly home overhauls, construction workers are handling an ever-increasing number of home renovation requests. Often, multi-worker construction teams tackle the same project, providing high-quality upgrades in a short amount of time. However, workers must mindfully allocate time to safety addressing asbestos hazards. If mishandled, asbestos products can lead to a number of serious diseases including the most common type of mesothelioma, pleural mesothelioma cancer.

Construction workers have some of the highest risks for asbestos-related diseases, thanks to the frequency with which they handle asbestos-containing materials. Asbestos is present in many of the insulating, flooring and roofing products that construction workers renovate on a daily basis.

Workers in many different construction sectors may encounter asbestos. Some of the riskiest construction industries include:

  • Demolition
  • Plumbing
  • Pipefitting
  • Roofing
  • Carpeting

These industrial sectors have high rates of mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases. However, any construction worker who handles older construction materials may have an elevated risk of contracting these diseases.

How Construction Workers can Reduce their Risk of Asbestos Exposure

Construction workers are not always required to undergo asbestos training. However, abatement professionals and workers who may encounter asbestos during their work must complete asbestos licensure courses outlining methods of safe handling and disposal. Workers should complete these classes before beginning any asbestos work, and they must remember to renew their certifications before they expire.

Until asbestos inspections confirm otherwise, construction workers should assume that materials installed before the 1980s contain the fibers. These fibers can easily enter the air if the materials are cracking, crumbling or otherwise in poor condition. Additionally, construction work such as grinding, sawing or cutting can release asbestos fibers into the breathing space. Workers must take special precautions – such as using wet removal methods – when handling these products.

Although wet removal methods can help reduce the likelihood that asbestos enters the air during renovation, construction workers should still wear protective gear when working in older homes. Supervisors must provide respirators, face masks and other safety equipment when construction workers head to jobsites where asbestos is present.

Author bio: Faith Franz researches and writes about health-related issues for The Mesothelioma Center. One of her focuses is living with cancer.

 

Posted on: March 18th, 2013 by Victoria Comments

The Day of Mourning April 28

This week we collectively grieve workers who have lost their lives or who have been injured on the job. April 28th is a day where we can remember that workplace accidents are real.  They have costs.  It is a moment for us as a society to look in the mirror and choose to do a better job protecting our workers.

This video is intended to inspire us to continue trying.  The message is to keep trying and trying and trying.  Eventually we will succeed.  The story is about a man who was born without arms and legs.  His will to survive is powerful.  His message can serve as an inspiration for those who are disabled because of an accident.  His message is a call to action for all of us to do better.  Let us finish strong together.  Please watch this short video. 

Posted on: April 27th, 2012 by Victoria Comments

BC municipalities will not perform required construction inspections if worksite unsafe.

under construction

Warning!

The City of Penticton has recently issued a bulletin outlining the field inspection safety requirements (Bylaw 2012-03 Created: March 28, 2012).  The purpose of the bulletin is to provide an outline for the minimum site safety standards that are to be provided by the owner or contractor and to when a site inspection can be refused by the Building Official for unsafe conditions.

There have been many occasions where occupational safety has been compromised for Building Officials performing on-site reviews.  Hazards such as deep excavations, messy work areas, open pits or stairways with no railings have led to potential safety hazards for City staff.   There also have been instances where City staff have been exposed to hazardous conditions such as asbestos, excessive dust or unsafe use of equipment.

Owners and Contractors are mandated by the Worker’s Compensation Act and the BC Building Code to protect the safety of all workers on site as well as the general public.  Building inspectors, city workers, utility workers as well as subcontractors are included in site safety requirements.  All people are entitled to a safe worksite.

If a potential hazard exists, the Building Official shall either request that the activity or situation be corrected immediately to perform the review or refuse to perform inspections until such a time that it can be shown it is safe to perform duties.

Some examples are:

  • The job site is messy and has tripping hazards, poorly lit, unsecured stored material, exposed vertical rebar and high levels of dust.
  • Excavations over 1.2m in depth and not back-sloped, shored or reviewed by a geotechnical engineer.
  • Improper construction of stairs/guards, ramps or platforms.
  • Openings in floors or roofs that are not secured/marked or protected by guards.
  • Unsafe storage of flammable liquids or use of machinery.
  • Exposed live electrical
  • Overhead work such as roofing
  • Renovation or demolition work that could potentially expose Building Officials to Hazardous Materials.  A hazard assessment and abatement may be required before a Building Official will enter the building.

Municipalities are striving to improve safety on construction sites in order to protect city workers, the public and all workers on construction sites.  Contractors and owners will not be able to obtain required building  inspections unless they demonstrate that they are meeting minimum site safety standards.

 
Posted on: March 31st, 2012 by Victoria Comments

The Case for First Aid

 

First Aid

First Aid Pirate Style

 

Recently, I have had numerous General Contractors, subtrades and even home owners ask me this question:  Why do we need first aid coverage?  This is unheard of in residential construction!

If you picked up the phone and asked Worksafe BC this question, they would give you a legal requirement for first aid coverage.  They would talk to you about all employer’s legal mandate to complete a first aid assessment.  They would point you to the Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines to First Aid and your industries assigned hazard rating.  You would look up tables to determine your requirements based on your proximity to a hospital and the number of workers on site.

SURPRISE!!!  Residential construction is rated a high risk industry and a certified Occupational First Aid Level One attendant and supplies are required on site if there is more than one worker on site.  More than 15 workers on site requires a level 2 attendant. 

The prime Contractor is always responsible for first aid provision.  The buck always stops with the prime contractor.  This responsiblity can not be avoided or ignored.  The consequences for failing to provide first aid and an emergency plan are serious.  Under Bill C-45, an employer can be held criminally negligent for failing to take all necessary precautions to prevent an accident on site or to create a safe work place.  If first aid provisions were not made, there would be very serious legal repercussions in the event of an accident.

General Contractors are obviously struggling with this legal burden.  Worksafe allows a General Contractor to delegate first aid duties to the subcontractors.  If a General Contractor does not have his/her own crew, delegating to the subtrades is the only solution, unless the G.C. wants to hire a first aid attendant to be responsible for the site (yes, they are allowed to sweep too!  They just need to be able to respond to an accident, so plan for a means to contact them in case of an emergency.) 

Delegating first aid means that a General Contractor needs to follow up and ensure that the subtrades are actually providing a certified first aid attendant.  It is all about the follow up!!  There is no evidence of due diligence if no one has verified that the system is being followed.

Subtrades can be reluctant to provide first aid because everyone wants to avoid the cost and hassles of scheduling a certified attendant. This is understandable but short sighted. 

  Why wouldn’t you want first aid coverage on a construction site?  Let us look at this from more than a legal argument.

  1. First aid is a critical part of emergency planning.  The OFA 1 course is only a day course.  An attendant will not become a paramedic in a day.  That is not the purpose.  The purpose of first aid training to be able to respond to an emergency in a level headed methodical manner.  A first aid attendant is trained in the priority action approach.  When there is a serious accident, people panic.  There needs to be someone who is designated to take leadership.
  2. A first aid attendant is a natural leader in safety awareness.  This person can be the team lead in organizing personal protective equipment and supplies.  The first aid attendant can be trained to do other safety related duties and to be aware of hazards.
  3. Beyond the job related emergencies, a first aid attendant can be of service for unexpected events.  Stuff happens in and around the job site.  People can have sudden health crisis.  There will be people on site (workers, engineers, clients etc) who have diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy.  Emergencies happen with people choking, tripping or a car accident.  First aid is a gift of empowerment in a moment of crisis.
  4. Be a pro show.  Having appropriate first aid coverage is the sign of professionalism.  Impress people.
  5. Let us address the cost factor.  The OFA 1 course is one day long.  It costs 90$ and your certification is good for 3 years.  The benefits of first aid coverage far outweigh the cost factor.

 

 

 

Posted on: March 3rd, 2012 by Victoria Comments

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