Wednesday, 21st October
Occupational Health in Construction
Construction Safety Week 2020 is aligned with European Week for Safety and Health at Work 2020, for which topic is ‘Healthy Workplaces Lighten the Load, by tackling work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)’. For more information, see: https://osha.europa.eu/en/oshevents/european-week-safety-and-health-work-2020
Speaking about the campaign, Dr Sharon McGuinness, Chief Executive Officer of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) said: “The prevalence of MSDs in the workplace can be due to many factors and it is important that Irish employers address this issue. Repeated exposure to ergonomic risk factors can result in work-related MSDs which now represent one of the major occupational health and safety problems in the EU today. Nevertheless, MSDs are manageable and preventable. Practical risk assessment tools and examples of good ergonomic practice are available to support employers and employees on the Authority’s website”. See: https://www.hsa.ie/eng/Workplace_Health/Manual_Handling_Display_Screen_Equipment/Guidance_Documents/Manual_Handling/
According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), “Manual Handling involves any transporting or supporting of any load by one or more employees, and includes lifting, putting down, pushing, pulling, carrying or moving a load, which by reason of its characteristics or unfavourable ergonomic conditions, involves risk, particularly of back injury, to employees”.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work, (General Applications) Regulations 2007, as amended, outline the requirements for manual handling; these include:
- Undertaking a manual handling risk assessment of work / tasks to identify hazards and appropriate controls.
- Organising tasks to facilitate the use of mechanical or other means to eliminate / reduce the need for manual handling of loads by persons.
- Providing instruction and training to relevant staff.
Ergonomics is the term assigned to assessment of physical risks to the human body such as excessive force, awkward posture, and repetition of tasks. The goal is to develop better ways of carrying out work, to ensure that workers do not pose a risk to their musculoskeletal health by acting outside of their physical capabilities (e.g. lifting excessively heavy materials or lifting repeatedly).
The HSA recommends a non-exhaustive list of questions to be considered:
- What unit loads are to be used in a construction project?
- Will the unit loads be installed manually, or will there be mechanical handling equipment or other appropriate engineering interventions used to install the unit loads?
- Is there information available on the load weight specifications?
- Does the load weight present a physical ergonomic risk if the planned system of work requires manual installation?
- Has a risk assessment been completed to assess exposure to ergonomic risk?
- Does the planned system of work for installing or assembling unit loads expose workers to a range of ergonomic risk factors including excessive force, sustained awkward postures and lack of recovery time?
- Does the preliminary health and safety plan prepared by the Project Supervisor for the Design Process make any reference to ergonomic risks that may result when installing loads?
- Is ergonomic risk considered at design stage?
Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS)
Crystalline silica is a naturally occurring substance typically found in stone (particularly sandstone, shale, granite, and slate), in the sand and in products such as bricks, tiles, concrete and cement. Refer to Table 1.
Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) occurs when these materials are worked on to release a very fine, inhalable dust. Where concrete, stone or sand-based materials are altered (during formation, cutting, drilling, polishing or demolition) and made airborne, there is a potential for exposure to crystalline silica dust.
Inhalation is the primary route of exposure to crystalline silica dust. When any dust is inhaled, its point of deposition within the respiratory system is very much dependent upon the range of particle sizes present in the dust. The respirable fraction (smallest particle size) of crystalline silica dust can penetrate deep into the lungs.
The EU’s Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive has been updated and has classified Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) as a category 1 carcinogen; this came into effect in EU member states as of 17th January 2020. The Occupational Exposure Limit Value (OELV) established for Silica, both crystalline and respirable, over an 8-hour reference period is 0.1 mg/m3. This is clearly defined under the Health and Safety Authority’s Chemical Agents Code of Practice 2020.
How to Manage RCS
The respirable fraction of the dust is invisibly fine. Elimination and substitution of RCS containing materials, dust extraction and/or dust suppression are the primary measures advised to control potential exposure.
Always assume that exposure is likely to occur and protect according to the level of risk identified from risk assessment. In summary:
- Prepare written risk assessments (required by law) highlighting the key hazards, risks, and controls in place.
- Use safe systems of work to reduce exposure based on the risk assessment.
- Use dust suppression techniques during work.
- Use of engineering controls such as local exhaust ventilation to control exposure can be very effective.
- Use and store personal protective equipment according to instructions to reduce exposure.
Dave O’Duffy, HILTI elaborates on the appropriate controls, in advising that “Effective dust removal works as a system, you need quality inserts that go into the tools like drill bits or diamond blades, you need a power tool with optimised airflow, plus a dust removal module to go on the tool and you need M or H class vacuum. This will reduce the RCS dust by 99.8% on a typical application”. See video provided by HILTI entitled: Engineering Controls to Manage RCS
Managing Intoxicants at Work
A sample policy document is provided as a template for CIF members to adopt should they wish to do so. The information provided serves as a guide as to what should be considered for a workplace intoxicants policy. Where red text is provided, Company may adopt or replace with own text.
Employers have a general duty under Section 8(1) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees”. This policy should be seen in the context of promotion of health, safety and welfare of all workers. The abuse of an intoxicant (alcohol or drugs or prescribed drugs or over the counter prescriptions) by a worker may impair their overall wellbeing and ability to perform their job safely.
Should a member choose to adopt this policy, it should refer to its existence in an over-arching company policy such as an Employee Handbook or equivalent. The CIF accepts no responsibility for and provides no guarantees, undertakings or warranties concerning the accuracy or completeness of the information provided and does not accept any liability whatsoever arising from any errors/omissions.
Randox Testing Services has agreed an affinity scheme for CIF members, which enables members to avail of a 10% discount for workplace drug and alcohol testing.
For up to date public health information on COVID-19, please refer to the webpage of the Health Services Executive (HSE): https://www2.hse.ie/coronavirus/
The CIF welcomes the Government’s decision on 19th October to allow construction to remain operating under the strictest safety procedures. Construction companies, and employees will now redouble efforts to deliver housing and critical infrastructure for the economy in the safest possible manner. Remaining open during level five is testament to the incredible efforts over the past five months in keeping the incidence of Covid-19 to a minimum on construction sites.
Construction Safety Week is an opportunity to remind everyone in the industry about the importance of safety generally and in terms of combatting Covid-19. It is a privilege to keep operating when so many other sectors face unfortunate restrictions. Construction companies and employees will adopt any measure required to protect themselves, their families and the wider community.
The CIF would ask members of the public to work with the industry as we continue to operate in this difficult environment. The industry is doing its utmost to maintain essential economic activity whilst keeping safe.
The CIF has developed a ‘Construction Sector C-19 Pandemic SOP’, which is included in a ‘Back to Work Resource Pack’, which is accessible here: https://cif.ie/coronavirus/
BOHS – Breathe Freely
Laya Healthcare – https://www.layahealthcare.ie/bravenewera/research/
Laya Healthcare – https://www.layahealthcare.ie/wellbeinglive/
About Safety Week
Construction Safety Week is an initiative of the Construction Safety Partnership Advisory Committee (CSPAC). This is a grouping of all the main stakeholders in the construction sector in Ireland – Employers, Unions, State Bodies ( in conjunction with the Health & Safety Authority ) and Professional Bodies.
Our collective objective is to continue to highlight the issues of health and safety in the Irish construction industry and to drive continual improvement.
Good health and safety depend on co-operation between all parties on a project – from client to designers and contractors – everyone’s safety depends on their co-workers or the person working beside you or above you.
The mission for this week is to re-focus on health and safety and it’s a call to action for companies of all sizes to run a safety event this week.