Occupational hearing loss is talked about a lot in the construction industry, but noise levels have always been difficult to quantify for the everyday worker. A company may have a professional sound level meter or noise dosimeter, but how often are they actually used? With the advancement of smartphones, the power to avoid the lasting effects of hearing loss is being given back to individuals.
The lack of available technology or general lack of concern has most likely been the major contributing factors for the 23,000 people who suffered from occupational hearing loss 2007 (the last year this data was published by NIOSH). That same year, 14% of occupational illnesses were the result of hearing loss.
For iOS users, NIOSH has just released a free new smartphone app, called NIOSH SLM, to measure sound levels on the job site. The app underwent extensive laboratory testing in order to meet the approved criteria for sound measurement, within 2dB of a type 1 sound meter). If used with a calibrated external microphone, the app has proven to work within 1dB of the type 1 sound meter. NIOSH states that the key benefits of the app are: raised worker awareness, helps workers make informed decisions about potential hazards, serves as a research tool to collect noise exposure data, and it promotes better hearing health and prevention measures.
In November of 2016, NIOSH also updated their evaluation of almost 200 different sound level meter apps available on both Android and iOS. Of the 130 iOS apps researched, only 10 passed within the testing limits. Of the 62 Android apps researched, only 4 apps passed. The study suggests that the Android apps were not nearly as reliable as the iOS apps and did not have many fo the same functions. But since NIOSH has not released an Android app themselves, users will have to choose between the four listed in the study, which are: SPL Meter by AudioControl (free), deciBel Pro by BSB Mobile Solutions ($3.60), dB Sound Meter by Darren Gates ($0.99), and Noise Meter by JINASYS (free).
Tool box safety talks are super important, but sometimes they can be pretty dry. In order to keep people engaged and committed to jobsite safety, sometimes you have to mix it up a little bit. A construction company in New Zealand has an aspiring rapper on their team and they decided to enlist his help for a safety talk and it’s pretty entertaining. This company isn’t the first company to use rap music to send a message, as Caterpillar also released a rap about their bulldozers.
Communication is key to a safe and productive construction environment. One of the biggest challenges of effective communication on job sites is the complexity and size of the project, which inhibits being able to contact the correct people in a timely manner. Tracking devices have been a hot button issue in construction news for the last few years. Some examples include RFID tag sensors in hard hats, such as the one being used on certain job sites in Washington DC and time sheet applications, which allow employers to track their employee’s locations using the GPS on their phone’s or tablets.
Construction crews in Parma, Idaho were busy working onmulti-story onion shed, when the under construction structure collapsed, sending some that were on the roof down with it. 14 crew members were either on the structure or around it at the time of collapse, but 6 of them were transported to the hospital. First responders on the scene explained that it was lucky that only 6 were injured.
For decades, hard hats have been synonymous with construction job site safety. Their one major flaw, however, is that if workers fall, the hard hat rarely stays on their head, exposing them to possible head injuries resulting from the fall. According to Bloomberg News, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) launched research campaign to determine their effectiveness in protecting against head and neck injuries. Their findings have not yet been released, but companies have begun to seek out new products, in hopes of reducing injuries.
You may remember a story we shared at the end of June about a rescue of a construction worker who was dangling from a suspended scaffold 15 stories in the air. The Sarasota County Fire Department completed a very skilled rescue, in which one firefighter scaled down the side of the building to the trapped worker, attached him to a harness, and both men were hoisted back up to the roof. The cause of that failure was a snapped line. At that time, the fire chief mentioned that he rarely sees events like this and that only 5 or 6 rescues like this have happened in his 29 year career.
OSHA currently controls over 20 laws that protect workers who file safety complaints against their employer or other employees. In general, whistleblowers are protected against retaliation from their employer.
In January of this year, tragedy struck a Florida construction company when 3 construction workers died while working underground below a newly paved road. After the first worker entered the hole and collapsed after entering the confined space through a manhole, the second went in to rescue him and also collapsed, followed by the third. After a post-incident investigation, OSHA has released their findings, as well as several fines.
In late June, OSHA pushed the enforcement of their 2016 rule which will require employers to electronically submit injury and illness reports from July 1, 2017 to December 1, 2017. At that time it was unknown when the administration would launch the platform to submit the data online, but that has now been decided.
In January of 2017, OSHA released a final rule which greatly reduced the allowable exposure to beryllium, a mineral that can cause deadly lung disease. While not as commonly encountered in the construction industry as other substances that cause terrible lung diseases, like crystalline silica and asbestos, beryllium is linked to a disease called chronic beryllium disease, which kills around 100 people each year. It’s commonly found in coal slag, which is used for sandblasting. According to the New York Times, OSHA estimates that 11,500 construction workers would be affected by OSHA’s reduced exposure limit.
As recently highlighted by several multi-story building fires, contractors should always be prepared in the event a fire starts on a job site. There have been dozens multi-story building fires in the past few years and many were started when the building was topped out. In most cases, the project was completely destroyed, leaving developers and owners to deal with years of delays from insurance claims. A massive five-alarm fire at an Oakland construction site is one of the more recent examples.