The British Occupational Hygiene Society has praised the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for launching an inspection blitz on construction sites, targeting poor conditions likely to lead to ill health.
Last year, 39 fatal injuries occurred to workers in the construction sector, but it is estimated that a worker is at least 100 times more like to die from a disease caused or made worse by work rather than a fatal accident. The statistics are frightening: occupational cancer claimed the lives of 3500 construction workers in the last year for which figures are available – that’s 40% of overall occupational cancer fatalities. Over 500 construction workers are believed to die from exposure to silica dust every year. These deaths are preventable – they are the result of employers failing to introduce basic occupational hygiene controls, such as fitting a simple ventilation system or water supply to tools.
Regulations are in place to limit exposure to many hazardous substances, but the BOHS says that the level of compliance is disgracefully low. In the case of workplace silica exposures, recent research estimates compliance to be at just 33%. The research also shows that almost all of the 500 deaths in the construction industry could be prevented if simple, specific occupational hygiene interventions for silica were introduced.
Commenting on the issue, Mike Slater, President of BOHS, said: “It is a curious anomaly that the thousands of deaths in the construction sector as a result of occupational ill health are rarely reported in the news. For example, whilst we recently – and rightly so – heard several news reports about the tragic death of a single construction worker in a building collapse in Mayfair, thousands of other deaths in the construction sector are effectively hidden from the public gaze. We at BOHS hope that this inspection campaign will shine a bright light onto the issue of occupational hygiene in the construction industry.”
He added, “During the HSE’s two-week construction blitz, inspectors have said they will be looking in particular at respiratory risks from dusts including silica materials; exposure to other hazardous substances such as cement and lead paint; manual handling, noise and vibration. Employers need to be aware that for every construction health hazard on a building site, there is a tried and tested occupational hygiene control available to manage that exposure and protect the health of workers in the industry. We applaud the HSE for raising awareness of this important issue and urge employers to educate themselves about occupational hygiene.”
Adapted from press release by Katherine Guenioui
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcement.com/europe-cis/30102014/bohs-praises-hse-for-focus-on-occupational-hygiene-controls-766/