Making Construction Workers' Safety a Priority


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health constantly looks for ways to lower the amount of work-related injuries and illnesses. For example, they work closely with the construction industry to find ways to protect workers from situations and substances that are potentially hazardous.

Hazard Identification

One of the main concerns of NIOSH is reducing hazards with falls, electrocutions and toxicity. Some of the helpful accomplishments this federal agency boasts include the following:

  • Publicized hazards of lead-based paint and recommended lead exposure reductions to prevent poisoning of workers who are involved in construction of bridges and other various structures composed of steel.
  • Pushed for proper elevation of work practices along with utilization of fall arrest and fall prevention systems.
  • Provided assistance to manufacturers working to redesign and reduce asphalt emissions during the process of paving.
  • Released the description of electrocutions commonly occurring when workers were moving, working from or erecting scaffolding units.

Successful Programs

NIOSH conducted investigations, which led to considerable changes in the workplace. They also contributed to the start of successful programs that save money and lives. The following paragraphs describe some of their specific efforts.

Preventing Electrocutions of Crane Operators and Crew Members

NIOSH researchers found that cranes making contact with power lines were the source of more than 10 percent of work-related electrocutions. Researchers developed precautions and procedures to ensure safe operation of cranes near power lines.

Controlling Exposure to Asphalt Fumes during Paving

When paving roads, waterproofing and roofing, workers are exposed to fumes of molten asphalt. These fumes cause skin diseases, eye irritation, respiratory tract irritation and cancer. NIOSH works with asphalt manufacturers to develop systems designed to reduce exposure to asphalt fumes by trapping emissions from equipment.

Preventing Injuries and Deaths Caused by Falls

Falls from ladders, scaffolds and buildings are the leading cause of workplace fatalities in the construction industry. NIOSH developed recommendations after investigating more than 70 fall incidents. Their suggestions include the following:

  • Implementation of programs specifically for fall protection.
  • Correct use and selection of fall arrest and fall restraint systems.
  • Site-specific evaluation of hazards that may cause falls.
  • Correct maintenance, erection and use of access equipment.
  • Implementation and maintenance of covers on floor openings, guard rails and other safety barriers.