Health and Safety Authority construction inspection campaign to focus on occupational health

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has started its campaign to reduce occupational health risks in the construction sector. Inspectors from the HSA will be visiting 250 construction sites, nationwide, over the next week with a particular focus on reducing exposure to carcinogens.

The inspection campaign will be addressing exposure to carcinogenic dusts such as asbestos, silica and wood dusts. There will also be a focus on raising awareness with construction workers of the danger of skin cancer due to sun exposure.

Carcinogenic dusts, including asbestos and silica, are one of the biggest causes of death amongst construction workers. International research shows that 40% of all occupational cancers occur as a result of work in the construction sector. The effects of exposure to these types of dusts can take years to materialise so employers tend to focus on accident prevention at the expense of less obvious health hazards.

Controls for construction dusts include:

– Using less harmful materials
– Using local exhaust ventilation
– Use of water suppression
– Use of appropriate Respiratory Protection Equipment (RPE)

Specialist control measures are required when dealing with asbestos.

Construction workers are more exposed to the sun and therefore more likely to be affected by skin cancer. Information from the Irish Cancer Society’s Sun Smart campaign indicates that one in four skin cancer deaths involve outdoor workers working in either construction or farming.

For reducing the risk of skin cancer employers should:

– Limit exposure of workers to sun
– Provide barrier creams and protective clothing
– Ensure workers ‘cover up’ when sunny
– Provide information to employees on the dangers from sun exposure

Michael McDonagh, Head of Construction Policy with the Health and Safety Authority said, “During this campaign we want to increase the levels of awareness of occupational health issues in the construction sector and provide guidance on how to reduce risks. This can be done by introducing effective and simple solutions such as using water to supress dust and covering up on a sunny day.”

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