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Health and Safety

Safety watchdog to carry out inspection 'blitz' on construction sites nationwide

So far this year, there have been six reported construction-related deaths.

THE HEALTH AND Safety Authority (HSA) is undertaking a series of inspections of construction sites across the country from today in an effort to reduce the rate of injury and death in the sector.

Five people lost their lives in construction-related activity in 2018 and there were 767 non-fatal incidents reported to the HSA. So far this year, there have been six reported deaths.

The inspection blitz will target sites across the country over the next two weeks, focusing on hazards such as silica dust and asbestos generated during refurbishment and demolition work.

Asbestos is the biggest cause of death among construction workers.  It is a known human carcinogen and can lead to cancers such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, which causes the death on 25 Irish people every year.

Silica is the second biggest killer of construction workers after asbestos. Silica dust is created when working on silica-containing materials such as concrete, mortar and sandstone. Lung cancer and silicosis can be caused from exposure to this type of dust.

Other issues targeted by these inspections will include work at height and manual handling risk management, which can result in the onset of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) including back injury.

Inspectors will be focusing on this area as a total of 204 manual handling incidents were reported in the industry last year, which represents more than a quarter of all non-fatal construction incidents. The authority said 271 of the non-fatal incidents in construction involved sprains and strains.

As many of these health problems develop over time, HSA assistant chief executive Mark Cullen said more must be done to ensure the future health of workers is not compromised.

“This enforcement initiative will help prevent long term illnesses for workers and ensure that they can remain healthy and safe on the job. With nearly 150,000 employees in the construction industry in Ireland, I am urging industry bodies, employers, trade unions and employees to come together so that all construction workers can return home safe and healthy from work every evening.

Exposure to hazardous substances in construction, usually through breathing in dust or fumes, can lead to a variety of negative health implications from minor irritation to cancer.

“Many of these diseases are long term and worsen over time,” Cullen explained.

“Prevention is the best strategy, and it is essential that there is an awareness of the dangers and appropriate control measures are put in place. These include using less harmful materials, local exhaust ventilation, using water to suppress dusts, and providing suitable respiratory protection equipment.”

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