Work environments are divided into physical, chemical, biological and psychophysical factors, in accordance with OSHA guidelines. Working in conditions of exposure like construction work creates the possibility of adverse effects on human health and life. The probability and scope of these consequences is defined as occupational risk.
The occupational risk related to the work performed results from the employee’s exposure to hazardous, harmful and burdensome factors at the workplace. A dangerous factor may lead to an injury or other significant immediate deterioration of human health or to death. A harmful factor involves an influence that may lead to the deterioration of human health. Although the nuisance factor does not constitute a threat to health, it hinders work or contributes in other significant ways. This involves a hinderance of performance or reduction of productivity. Depending on the level of impact or other conditions, a nuisance factor may become harmful, and a harmful factor – dangerous.
The performance of construction workers is often associated with the exposure of employees to the above factors. This creates a foundation for serious accidents at work and requires the observance of specific health and safety rules daily, usually regulated by relevant laws.
The most common dangerous factors causing injuries include, above all, mechanical factors, such as:
- moving, mainly rotating, parts of machines and other devices and tools
- moving means of transport
- sharp protruding parts
- falling elements
- slippery, uneven surfaces
- limited spaces (walkways, passages, accesses).
Other hazardous factors also include electric current and explosion of pressure equipment (cylinders, boilers, tanks), gas pipes, installations, and gas-air mixtures. The risk of explosion may be related to improper operation of devices and leakage of pipes and connections, as well as malfunction of control and measurement equipment and safety devices. Other harmful agents that may be present on the site are also physical like noise, mechanical vibration, low temperature, high humidity and abnormal light, and chemicals – wood preservatives, solvents, fumes bitumen and dusts, including a human carcinogen asbestos.
The nuisance factors occurring during construction works include: lifting and carrying loads, forced body position and stress. Work in which lifting and carrying loads is a constant activity may cause excessive physical fatigue, overload of muscles, joints and, above all, spine injury. The effects may be: exhaustion of the body, reduced physical capacity, increased susceptibility to accidents, and injuries to the tendons. In preventing the effects of overexertion, it is important to determine the correct ways of lifting and carrying loads at individual workplaces and to train employees in safe lifting techniques. Efforts should be made to reduce and eliminate manual handling of loads, e.g. by using transport devices (trolleys, lifts).
A forced position of the body during work causes rapid physical fatigue, a reduction in work efficiency, and a reduction in the pace and quality of work. An unfavorable element of this nuisance is the possibility of getting used to a bad position at work, which after years may lead to permanent organic changes, e.g. permanent hunching, uneven growth of certain muscle groups, curvature of the spine. In extreme cases, a forced position at work makes it impossible to perform this work for a long time (e.g. working with raised arms). Preventing the effects of a forced body position is primarily the control of work stations and their optimization by means of technical and organizational measures, carried out with the active participation of the employees themselves.
Stress can cause fatigue and reduce mental and mental performance, reduce resistance to diseases, and reduce the efficiency of eyesight. Consequently, it leads to an increase in the number of mistakes made at work, wrong decisions, poor safety assessment and a lack of motivation to work. The causes of stress are: bad work organization, too fast and forced pace of work, especially monotonous work, too much work and bad interpersonal relations.
Measures leading to reducing stress at work include: constant improvement of work organization, inclusion of employees in the optimization of their own workplaces, shaping the attitude of commitment and positive motivation to work, teamwork skills and improving the qualifications of managers in the methods of shaping interpersonal relations.