A10.49 Health Hazards

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Control of Health Hazards in Construction and Demolition Operations A10.49

There is a need, especially at the level of small and medium construction industries, to evaluate health hazards and to determine a reasonable approach to prevent illnesses and their associated costs. Many construction worker exposures occur at facilities such as chemical plants and refineries. A10.49 was initiated because significant health hazards are associated with construction, including silica, lead, mercury, coal tar and other chemical exposures both within the construction industry and at facilities where construction takes place

The standard identifies various construction work activities and potential exposures associated with health hazards such as silica and lead, and it provides tools such as checklists and decision trees that employers can use to get more information; it points them in the direction for the most practical solution and additional expertise. From MSDS and the history of construction activities, we suggest the process of health hazard evaluation, then end employers to sources of the latest information on health hazards so they can make a decision about appropriate steps. Many small and medium construction employers believe that health hazard compliance means big dollars to be spent on engineers and industrial hygienists, while the solution might be as simple as changing materials or watering the work environment to control the dust.

The reason many oppose standards development is that they fear the standards will be used for the purpose of litigation against the employer. I believe this is shortsighted because the standard can be used to protect the employer from liability. When an accident, injury or illness occurs, there will be litigation in any case. Without a standard, the process can be left only to the opinions of the experts and the jury. A standard every construction employer has the opportunity to comply with provides an effective defense to litigation.

In addition, compliance with the standard is proactive for safety and health, which will minimize losses and save the employer money. These are reasonable consensus standards where all parties, including the employer, have an opportunity to participate. This is far different from having the government develop and enforce a standard.

We are making significant progressin providing the construction industry with tools to identify potential health hazards and with decision matrixes for reasonable and responsible solutions. The standard should remove the feeling of being overwhelmed by the complexity and detailed nature of health hazards and solutions, and should inform construction employers about simple, inexpensive approaches that, in most cases, may be conducted internally.

Frank Burg, CSP, has made occupational safety and health his life’s work. He worked for OSHA for 18 years as a compliance officer, program director and trainer at the OSHA National Training Institute. He was corporate safety director for Fishbach and Moore Inc., a large electrical contractor.  For the past 17 years, he has been president of Accident Prevention Corp., an OHSconsulting firm that provides training, loss control and expert testimony for industrial and construction clients. Frank is a member of ASSE’s Standards Development Committee; membership chair for the ANSI A10 Accredited Standards Committee for Construction and Demolition Operations; and chair of the A10.28, A10.40 and A10.49 standards subcommittees. He holds a master’s in Industrial Psychology (Ergonomics) from University of Wisconsin.

 
 

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