Asbestos related diseases kill more people than any other single work -related cause9. They are covered under the term pneumoconiosis, which literally means ‘dusty lungs’. There is usually a long delay between first exposure to asbestos and the onset of disease: this can vary between 15 and 60 years. There is no cure for asbestos related diseases. It is sensible to assume that any building constructed or refurbished before the 1980’s will contain asbestos based products9.
There are three main types of asbestos – chrysotile (white), amosite (brown), and crocidolite (blue). Brown and blue are most dangerous. Construction and maintenance workers can still come across asbestos: in stripping out old insulation from buildings, the removal of roofing felts, old floor tiles, textured paints and plasters containing asbestos, and in fire doors and ceiling tiles. In particular plumbers, carpenters, electricians and cabling engineers may also come across asbestos during routine repair, installation or refurbishment work10.
Preventative and protection measures – stop work and report any material or dust that you suspect contains asbestos, keep asbestos dust to as low a level as possible, e. g. by keeping the material damp, using hand tools and disposal of asbestos whilst still damp, ensure control measures (e. g. ventilation) are working correctly, use personal respiratory protection, wash hands thoroughly, never take protective clothing home to wash. Ultra-Violet Radiation
Construction workers are mainly exposed to UV radiation by working in direct or reflected sunlight. Significant exposure can lead to skin cancer2. Fair skinned workers are at particular risk, but all exposed workers are at some risk. Some chemicals e. g. wood preservatives can increase sensitivity to the sun. The greatest risk occurs at times of the day and periods of the year when the sun is most intense e. g. 4 hours around midday in summer.
Preventative and protection measures – protect all exposed skin surfaces with UV blocking creams, do not remove clothing whilst working outdoors, keep checking for any changes in moles/ skin discolouration. In conclusion, for the successful management of occupational health risks remember these two points: Employers must take action to prevent occupational ill health. Workers must be well informed about health risks. If these are implemented effectively, then there is the chance to reduce the unnecessary toll of occupational ill health in the construction industry.
1 Good Health is Good Business 2 The ECI Guide to managing health in construction 3 Revitalising Health and Safety in Construction 4 Health in Construction – Lorraine Shepherd, The Safety & Health Practitioner June 1999 6 A guide to reducing the exposure of construction workers to noise – CIRIA 7 Health Risks from Hand-Arm Vibration – Advice for Employees – HSE 8 Preventing Dermatitis at work = HSE 9 Health and Safety in Construction Northern Ireland 10 Asbestos and You – HSE Anthea Carlisle Safety Tech 1 – Construction Safety