Jim describes the health hazards that can be present on a construction site, including hazardous chemicals. He also describes Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
- In the construction industry, when we talk about occupational safety and health, we do tend to focus maybe a little more on the safety side of things. But now I want to shift gears a little bit and I want to take a look at that health side of the issue. I think health issues in construction don't get as much attention as safety issues because many times the way things work in construction, our exposure tends to not be as constant as it would be for instance in a manufacturing plant where something like exposure to a hazardous chemical might be constant throughout the entire day shift.
The result is that many times, again not always, but many times the health hazard is not immediate on a construction project. The sickness that might result from exposure to hazardous chemicals might need to build up over time, maybe even a long period of time, and the resulting illness might occur far enough in the future that it's not even immediately associated with that construction work that we did in the past. Now this does not or should not make health issues any less of a concern and we need to pay attention to things like exposure to hazardous chemicals on our construction sites.
Here in the US we have regulations that are commonly referred to as right-to-know regulations and these dictate how chemicals are marked and labeled so that we can see and understand the hazards of the materials that we're working with or even the materials being used by others that are working next to us on a construction site. Things like paint, solvent, glues, epoxies, coatings and cleaning agents will all come with what's commonly referred to as a safety data sheet or an SDS.
This sheet is divided into 16 parts and it tells us what hazards are posed by the product, what we need to do to protect ourselves from those hazards and what first aid measures might need to be taken in case of accidental overexposure. These sheets also tell us how to store and handle the material, how to clean it up if it's spilled, and what effects it might have on the environment if it gets into the food chain or the water supply. So these sheets are incredibly important. Most of these sheets should be generated and produced according to a system known as the GHS system or the Globally Harmonized System of Chemical Classification.
Now this globally recognized standard insures that all the safety data sheets all contain those same 16 standard sections and the chemical hazards are properly classified and noted in a way that's easy for us to understand using a standard set of globally recognized symbols that will give us pictures of what the hazards are. Again, there's a lot of really useful information on these sheets and they're not difficult to read or understand. If you're wondering how to handle a chemical or what personal protective equipment you should be wearing, this is always the place to find it.
These sheets will even tell you what route the chemical can take into the body so you understand why certain personal protective equipment's required. In other words, sometimes chemicals are hazardous to us if they're inhaled. Other times only if they're ingested. And sometimes they can be absorbed through the skin. Once you know this information, it really becomes easier to not only protect, again, the people working with the chemical but it gives you information that you can help plan the overall construction work and schedule to avoid placing people next to those hazardous operations.
The safety data sheets aren't just for liquids or chemicals either, there are solid materials that come with an SDS, particularly if that material is going to be heated or used in a way that could produce dust or fine particles. In the case the SDS can tell you things like for example if you weld this particular metal, it's going to produce hazardous fumes. Take the time to look at the hazardous chemicals you might be using or getting exposed to on a project. Get a copy of that safety data sheet from the supplier.
Make sure that the sheet represents the actual product that you're using and heed the warnings for proper handling and storage and for required personal protective equipment. Believe me, it will pay off later in life to take a few extra steps now to avoid being exposed to chemicals that can cause health issues later. Hazardous chemicals are one potential health issue on a construction site. Let's continue and look at a few more.
Throughout this course, Jim highlights some of the most notable safety and health hazards in the industry—including fall hazards, traffic accidents, and respiratory hazards—and shares strategies for integrating safety, quality, and productivity. He also explains how to leverage technological advancements such as digital drawings to help your team work safer and smarter.
- Recognizing health hazards in the industry
- Integrating safety, quality, and productivity
- Creating a culture of learning
- Recognizing leading indicators
- Using digital solutions to improve safety
- Using BIM to identify hazards early