What are the main occupational health risks in construction?
Cancer – for every fatal accident that occurred in 2012-13, around 100 construction workers died from a work-related cancer. One of the biggest causes of cancer in the construction industry is…
… Asbestos – the biggest occupational disease risk. Although the use of asbestos was outlawed in 1999, it can still be found in buildings built prior to this. People who work on or near damaged asbestos could breathe in the fibres – a key risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.
It can cause two types of cancer – Mesothelioma (always fatal) and asbestos-related lung cancer (nearly always fatal).
Asbestos is a long-latency disease, it can take 15 to 60 years to present itself.
Skin cancer – outdoor labourers are at high-risk of skin cancer. The Health and Safety Executive estimates that over 1,300 cancer registrations per year in this industry are attributed to solar radiation, coal tars and pitches, mostly causing non-melanoma skin cancer.
Silica – frequently found in bricks, tiles, concrete, etc, silica dust is the biggest risk after asbestos. It can cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. Approximately 4,000 deaths a year are due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease from past exposure to silica.
Diesel engine exhaust – exhaust emissions are made up of many carcinogens, which when breathed in can cause a number of different illnesses, including respiratory irritation and lung cancer.
Work related stress – stress at work is a nationwide issue that is a significant cause of illness across all sectors. It is linked to high levels of sickness absence and staff turnover. It can affect anyone at any level of the business.
What do I do now?
1. Download this factsheet on how to deal with asbestos supplied by health and safety specialists Barbour EHS.
2. If one of your employees is suffering from cancer then read Macmillan’s guide for employers on how to support your workforce.
3. Check the Health and Safety Executive website to ensure you’re complying with all relevant legislation.